As National Sleep In Day approaches, the day the clocks go back and we get an extra hour in bed (Sunday October 25), we got the expert low down from Lisa Artis, deputy CEO of The Sleep Charity about the importance of sleep and how the clock change affects our sleeping patterns.

Why is sleep important?

Sleep is critical to health and wellbeing. It plays a significant role in healing and repairing your heart and blood vessels. It helps us maintain a healthy weight and a good balance of hormones, as well as controlling sugar levels. In terms of mental health, a great night’s sleep makes the brain work properly. It helps us to learn, remember, solve problems and make decisions, as well as safeguarding against stress, mood swings and depression.

Yet some of us sleep well and some of us don’t.  There are lots of factors that can impact on achieving a good night’s kip from light and noise, to the bedroom environment and the bed and your own lifestyle habits.

Covid-19 has also had an impact on sleeping habits this year. Many people suffered with their sleep and it’s not surprising. Worries and anxieties over Covid-19, working from home, out of bedrooms or living areas, juggling schooling children, work/home boundaries, financial worries and health worries have made it difficult to sleep or caused restless sleep. Sleep has also been affected for those who have suffered with isolation from family, friends and/or colleagues.

Following a challenging year, National Sleep In Day is a good opportunity to reset your bedtime routine and assess your sleep quality. A regular routine and a good night’s sleep can make a huge difference to your general health and wellbeing

How does the clock change affect sleep?

As nights draw in and days turn cool, Autumn brings its own set of sleep challenges for those who struggle to snooze.

  • Shorter days can mean less exposure to sunlight. This means lower levels of vitamin D and increased feelings of fatigue – and also disruption of the circadian rhythm, which regulates feelings of wakefulness and sleepiness. Getting plenty of sun on your face in the morning can help, so be sure to open the curtains as soon as you wake up and, if possible, go for a morning walk. After sunset, do the opposite and dim indoor lights to get your body back on track.
  • While crisp, chill air can make it tempting to light the fire and crank up the heating, it’s actually best to keep the home – or at least the bedroom –between 16 and 18 degrees Celsius. Letting the bedroom get too warm can mess with sleep: too hot and the body struggles to bring its temperature back down, causing wakefulness. Too cold and the body will eventually wake you up – demanding extra layers of warmth and insulation!
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that can set in when daylight hours grow shorter, is thought to affect one in 15 people between the months of September and April in the UK each year. While the cause of SAD is still unknown, the disorder can alter melatonin levels, which play a role in the sleep/wake cycle and cause daytime sleepiness and oversleeping. To re-establish a normal sleep schedule, exercise regularly, ensure the bedroom is conducive to sleep (strictly no gadgets and gizmos) and keep bedtime/waking times consistent – even at weekends. Getting as much natural daylight as possible is key too, as it suppresses melatonin levels and boosts serotonin production.
  • Colder weather can also tempt us to eat more than we should. While it’s easy to stick to salads and lighter foods during warm Summer months, avoid the temptation to ‘comfort eat’ heavier meals as the temperatures drop – particularly close to bedtime. Overload the tum at your peril! Too much food, too close to bedtime is a sure-fire recipe for wake-up level heartburn and indigestion.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable and still supportive. Indoor furniture can be forgotten about during the lazy, hazy, outdoor furniture days of summer. With the focus firmly back on interiors, it might be time to re-appraise the piece you use more than any other in the home – and if your bed is seven years old or more, then a new one could definitely be on the cards.

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