How to Improve Your Sleep Quality and Why It’s Important
The importance of sleep is often underestimated, but it is vital for our health and wellbeing. Sleep influences are mental and physical health, it impacts our quality of life and improves our performance. While it is just as important as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, people are sleeping less and the quality of their sleep has reached an all-time low. What this then means for our riding is that we aren’t turning up at 100%. We are dragging our toes, exhausted and all of this can in turn affect how you then train your horse.
Why quality sleep is important for our wellbeing
The amount of sleep you need varies from one person to the next. However, most healthy adults require 7-9 hours of sleep each night. 1% of the population can survive on less, so you may no that one person who doesn’t get affected by lack of sleep and seems to do well on 5 hours. The majority of us need more.
When we sleep our body is working hard to help your brain function properly, and for healing and repair cells, blood vessels, and organs. Sleep is vital for growth and development, for your hormone balance and for the functioning of your immune system.
Research has found that consistent quality sleep, enhances your ability to learn and to problem solve. It helps improve your attention span, decision making and creative energy. A lack of sleep on the other hand, has been linked with depression, uncontrolled emotions, and reduced motivation.
During a good night’s, your heart and blood vessels are repaired, reducing your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, and stroke. In addition, sleep affects your body’s inflammatory response. Not getting enough sleep has been found to cause cell damage and activate undesirable markers of inflammation, which is linked to inflammatory bowel disease.
Reduced sleep has been strongly linked to an increased risk of obesity due to several factors from hormones to motivation and exercise. When you sleep, your hormones are in balance, particularly those that make you feel full (leptin) or hungry (ghrelin). If you’re sleep deprived, your levels of ghrelin rise and your leptin levels drop, making you feel hungrier and often end up eating more.
Insulin is also affected by sleep. This hormone controls you blood sugar (glucose) levels, which will rise when you are sleep deprived. High blood sugar levels will increase your risk of developing diabetes.
Your immune system requires sleep to function at it’s optimum. The immune system is vital for defending against harmful pathogens and substances foreign to the body. If you’re lacking in quality sleep, your body will struggle to fight off common infections.
So in order to be the best rider you can possibly be, putting some attention into your sleep habits is a vital part of the equation.
How to Improve Your Sleep Quality
There are several changes you can make while you’re awake and to your bedtime routine that can alleviate sleep problems and improve your overall sleep quality.
More people are spending long days sitting at a desk, and then evenings on the couch. Studies have found that physical exercise, as little as 20 minutes a day, will improve your quality of sleep dramatically. So on those days you can’t ride, be sure to move. As exercise gets your blood pumping and arouses your nervous system, it’s best to do your exercise earlier in the day rather than evening. Exercise near your bedtime and you may be too alert to get to sleep.
A healthy diet
Eating a healthy, balanced diet will have a positive impact on your ability to sleep and improve your sleep quality. A poor diet and being overweight, increases your risk of snoring and sleep apnoea. Rapid weight loss through extreme dieting, also impacts your sleep by increasing your hunger, waking you during the evening.
The amount you eat is also going to have an effect on your quality of sleep. Eating a heavy meal right before bed isn’t ideal. Eat lightly in the evening and try avoid food immediately before you sleep.
Ditch the caffeine and cigarettes
Caffeine, found in coffee, tea and energy drinks, is a stimulant and drinking it will stimulate your nervous system keeping you awake. Headache tablets, diet pills, and chocolate all contain caffeine, so by consuming these within six hours of your bedtime, you may be reducing your sleep quality.
We’re all aware smoking has a dramatic effect on your health. However, some don’t realise nicotine is a stimulate which, like caffeine, activates the nervous system making it harder for you to fall asleep.
Reduce your alcohol intake
Alcohol is a depressant and may help you get to sleep, but it won’t help you remain asleep. This is because your body exhibits withdrawal systems and causes dehydration as the alcohol is absorbed. It’s best to avoid drinking alcohol at least four hours before you go to sleep.
Reduce your stress
Often many people are woken up during the night due to stress. Perhaps you’ve struggled getting to sleep because you’re making a list of things you need to do, or worrying about problems that are unresolved.
Reducing your stress by techniques such as list making, meditation, or exercise will help you fall asleep and sleep the entire night without feeling overwhelmed.
Create the perfect sleeping environment
Your bedroom should be your sanctuary for sleep. It should be able to breath with a good circulation of fresh air. A room around 18-19 degrees is the optimum temperature.
When preparing to sleep, it’s best to be as dark as possible so the brain knows it’s time for rest. Keep noise to a minimum, and remove artificial lights from devices like phones, computers or TV’s to avoid any stimulation.
So many people suffering from chronic sleep deprivation, yet by making some simple changes like these, their quality of sleep could be improved greatly. If your feeling wearily eyed, maybe it’s time for you to focus on your own health and wellbeing and put sleep on your list of priorities. Notice when you start to feel better how much your riding begins to improve in the process.