As the nights draw in, you more often have the urge to simply cosy up at home, stay warm and get a good night's sleep. But why is a good sleep so important and how can you give yourself the best chance of getting one?
How do we go to sleep?
Sleeping is a natural process that is controlled by many different mechanisms that can overlap and compensate for one another if necessary. Firstly your body clock helps to guide you to sleep in an evening through a 24 hour repeating cycle, known as a circadian rhythm (1). During the morning when it is bright and light outside, your body is triggered to be awake with the release of the hormone cortisol (2). Whereas as the darkness falls, it causes your body to release a different hormone called melatonin which helps you to feel tired and ready for bed. As well as this, a regulatory chemical builds up in your brain during the day known as adenosine. As this increases, it stimulates your mind to shift towards the need for sleep and rest. Caffeine counteracts the effects of adenosine so therefore helps you feel alert but has negative impacts on your ability to sleep. When you sleep, adenosine is broken down which resets the cycle and allows you to feel awake in a morning.
Why do we sleep?
Sleep has been studied by scientists for a long time and research is still continuing. It is thought that sleep does not just serve one purpose, but infact is essential to preserve many vital functions. Sleep helps the brain to clear waste and consolidate the most important findings of the day (3). This function is important as it has been suggested that a lack of sleep can lead to cognitive decline (4). Sleeping also modulates the immune response as well as having effects on performance, regulating blood pressure, disease prevention and development (5). Interestingly, a good night's sleep has also been linked to maintaining a healthy weight. It is thought that lack of sleep causes disrupted hormone production that helps regulate feelings of hunger (hormone ghrelin) and being full (hormone leptin) (6). As a result this imbalance can lead to people eating more than they may need and so is thought to correlate to increased weight.
How can I get the best sleep?
Seeing as sleep is so important, we need to make sure we give ourselves the best chance of having a good night's sleep. Here are some top tips (6):
The effects of caffeine can last up to 8 hours, so try not to consume caffeine later in the day (7)
Have a schedule that you stick to for sleeping by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
Get yourself a relaxing bedtime routine. We suggest a warm caffeine free WILDBOS tea, a nice shower and a good book to unwind
Avoid bright lights and technology with bright screens just before bed as this will interfere with the natural circadian rhythm we spoke about earlier
Spend some time outside everyday being active
With everyone spending an estimated third of their lives asleep, give yourself the best chance of having a restorative and beneficial snooze!
1. Potter GD, Skene DJ, Arendt J, Cade JE, Grant PJ, Hardie LJ. Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Disruption: Causes, Metabolic Consequences, and Countermeasures. Endocr Rev. 2016;37(6):584-608.
2. Hirotsu C, Tufik S, Andersen ML. Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions. Sleep Sci. 2015;8(3):143-52.
3. Rasch B, Born J. About sleep's role in memory. Physiol Rev. 2013;93(2):681-766.
4. Poe GR, Walsh CM, Bjorness TE. Cognitive neuroscience of sleep. Prog Brain Res. 2010;185:1-19.
5. Zielinski MR, McKenna JT, McCarley RW. Functions and Mechanisms of Sleep. AIMS Neurosci. 2016;3(1):67-104.
6. Beccuti G, Pannain S. Sleep and obesity. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011;14(4):402-12.
7. Panagiotou M, Meijer M, Meijer JH, Deboer T. Effects of chronic caffeine consumption on sleep and the sleep electroencephalogram in mice. J Psychopharmacol. 2019;33(1):122-31.