Why is sleep so important?

Can’t fall asleep.. my mind is too active! Does this sound familiar? How about ‘I woke up and I can’t go back to sleep!’… or tossing and turning all night?.. or ‘scratching my itchy skin is keeping me awake!’

Sleep is a fickle thing. Vital for recovery and recharging of our vital energy, it all too often eludes us, eroding our energy levels, adding to our stress.

Why is sleep so important?

Sleep is the time where we allow the body to rest and recover and repair itself. Sleep is essential for overall wellbeing, stress management and skin health.

Many skin conditions adversely affect sleep, this may be due to persistent itching and scratching at night, burning and hot skin, discomfort due to dry skin and pain and so on.

Stress is a big enemy of sleep, and sleep quality is often a good indication of how well stress is managed. Typically, in times of high stress, we may have difficulty in falling asleep (sleep onset insomnia) or waking in the early hours of the morning and not being able to return to sleep (sleep-maintenance insomnia).

All too often these factors lead to a vicious cycle where stress results in poor sleep, which results in skin condition flares, which exacerbates poor sleep, which results in fatigue which results in higher stress and a worsening skin condition, which leads to even worse sleep and higher stress and so on.

So how do we tackle this conundrum?

Well, first we need to look at improving whatever is interfering with our sleep. If it’s a skin issue, it’s time to work on that problem and get the itch and discomfort down. If there’s stress, work on the stress using good stress management techniques and improving nutrition so we have the nutrients to counteract the effects of stress.

If sleep is just fickle for no reason, it’s time to look at sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene

These are effective steps we can take to improve the quality of sleep.  As with all things, it is worthwhile to persist with these steps, and within a few weeks, they should be making a big difference.

  • Try to maintain regular sleep patterns, for example, go to bed at 10 and rise at 6, try not to deviate from this routine.
  • Use your bed for rest only – not eating, or watching TV, or using your phone
  • Avoid day naps as far as possible
  • Consistent night time routine – wind down before bed – switch off mobile devices an hour before bed, warm bath, dim lighting, read a book and so forth
  • Make sure the bedroom is quiet & decluttered bedroom, a calm space
  • Make sure the bed is comfortable, clothing is light and comfortable, pillows are comfortable
  • Regular exercise is important for health.  Exercise should be a few hours at least before bedtime to avoid overstimulation
  • Use relaxation techniques before bed
  • Avoid stimulants and diuretics – alcohol, drinking coffee in the afternoon, sugary snacks after dinner
  • Temperature control – keep the temperature cool in the bedroom, wear light comfortable clothing, and avoid heating/ spicy foods at dinner time.

Phillip Bayer

Senior Practitioner, Psoriasis Eczema Clinic

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