Column: Let’s see sleep as a good thing

UGC Columnist Dr Mary Wren
UGC Columnist Dr Mary Wren
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A lot of students I see in the surgery really struggle with sleep. They live life to the full, study hard and then find it impossible to get to sleep. So why do we not sleep and does it matter?

We know that we can feel exhausted and grumpy if we don’t sleep, but our physical health can be affected too.

Regular poor sleep can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, as well as affecting our mental health.

Both depression and anxiety can be affected by poor sleep.

Our immunity is also boosted by good sleep and fertility and sex drive are also helped.

There are some really practical things that help us sleep.

Having a regular routine at night helps, maybe writing a “to do” list of all the things going round your head.

Relaxing music or relaxation CDs before sleeping, or listening to the radio can help.

Then there are all the gadgets we have – phones, tablets and computers are best switched off an hour before sleep.

Simple things to change the environment we sleep in can work too.

Having the room at a good temperature, fresh air, tidy surfaces, comfortable mattress all help.

As well as sleep, how we rest is important too. In our busy 24-hour culture rest is often not considered important.

The BBC recently reported on a study about rest. The study surveyed 18,000 people from 134 countries and the outcome was that “68 per cent of participants said they felt they needed more rest all the time.

“Younger people, higher household income, shift workers and carers reported the highest levels of exhaustion while the elderly were more rested.”

Most people said they rested more by doing things on their own such as reading a book.

This suggests that it is not just how many hours we rest but the quality of the rest and also the rhythms we have in our day, including time spent with people and time alone.

It seems that those who are able to rest have a greater sense of wellbeing.

So sometimes it is good to stop and think about how we live, especially in a full-on, society where 24-hour activity seems to be suggested as good.

For long-term good health we need both rest and sleep.

We may need to cut some things out, switch off the phone, get some space and see sleep as a good thing.