Why is sleep important?
Getting enough sleep is crucial for many reasons, not least because deprivation can lead to issues with mental and physical health. While you’re asleep your body is able to recover and heal, including repairing the heart and blood vessels; those who have an ongoing sleep deficiency have an increased risk of issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. In addition it can affect the immune system, meaning common infections become harder for your body to fight off.
A lack of sleep can affect how you look, too. Overnight, the skin relaxes and skin cells go into regeneration mode, replacing damaged or dead cells with new ones. Sleep is also a time when the skin repairs damage done by pollution and UV radiation, as well as any cuts or bruises made during the day. If skin doesn’t have enough time to do this, not only can you can wake up with skin that’s looks lacklustre, under-eye bags, breakouts, dullness and accelerated ageing signs can all start to appear.
Not getting enough good sleep also impacts your mental and emotional health, as well as your daily life. Sleep deficiency directly affects how well you think, learn, concentrate and react, as well as your relationships with others. Controlling emotions can feel harder, which can lead to issues such as depression and anxiety. Functioning day to day is much easier after a good night’s sleep, largely because your brain forms new pathways as you sleep to aid learning and memory.
How much sleep should we be getting?
We’ve established that sleep is important, but what constitutes a ‘good night’s sleep’? In a recent study, The National Sleep Foundation found that adults between the ages of 18 and 64 need 7-9 hours sleep a night to feel their best. Younger children require a little more (anywhere between 9-11 hours), while anyone over 64 can get away with around 7-8 hours instead. A good rest is also one with minimal night-time disruptions, so stick to a regular routine where you try and go to sleep and wake up at the same time every night.
The good sleep guide
There are a number of ways to improve your sleep routine and to aid better and longer sleep.
Avoid blue light and pick up a book instead:
Blue light from phones, iPads and laptops suppress the production of melatonin (the hormone that regulates your sleep cycle), making it counter-productive when you’re trying to wind down; your brain becomes stimulated rather than more relaxed.
Follow co-founders of Bloom and Blossom (the brains behind one of our favourite sleep-inducing pillow sprays) Julia Yule and Christina Moss, when it comes to switching off: “Leave your devices downstairs, switch off your phone, buy an alarm clock and definitely do not stimulate your brain with Instagram loveliness just before you plan to go to bed.” They encourage reading instead, noting that, “The serenity and calmness of [reading a book] enables the switch off process to begin.”
Invest in some quality bedding:
Making your bed as comfortable and enticing as possible isn’t scientifically proven to help sleep, but it certainly can’t hurt! Invest in some luxe pillowcases, quality pillows and crisp sheets, as well as ear plugs and an eye mask if noise and unwanted light bother you. Our must-have bedding addition? The Votary Soothing Silk Pillowcase, which is not only great for combatting stress before bedtime, but also improves the skin’s tone and texture as it’s less abrasive on skin overnight.
Avoid caffeine-fuelled and alcoholic drinks:
If you suffer with your sleep, try to avoid coffee and other caffeinated drinks past 3pm. Avoid alcohol as much as possible near to bedtime too; although you might think a nightcap will help send you off to sleep it usually results in a restless night.
Relax and meditate:
Deep breathing can really help in the lead-up to bedtime. You can do this without any help by simply sitting quietly and taking 10 deep breaths. Try to empty your mind of thoughts, but if you struggle there are plenty of good apps like Headspace, to help you focus.
Take a long bath:
“This can help your body reach a temperature that is ideal for rest (between 35 and 37 degrees celsius) and it is certainly one way to switch off and wind down,” say Julia and Christina. Taking a bath each night also helps to form a regular routine, which is ideal for winding down. Invest in some relaxing bath oils like the Deep Relax Bath Oil by Aromatherapy Associates, or Ren’s Moroccan Rose Otto Bath Oil.
Alternatively, if oils aren’t your thing, give the Susanne Kaufmann’s glorious Mallow Blossom Bubble Bath a go. To make your bath time extra special, finish by lighting some candles, such as Byredo’s Burning Rose or Mauli’s ultra relaxing Sundaram & Silence.
Pick up some sleep aids:
While aids such as melatonin are best discussed with a doctor, there are a few things to try first. Pillow sprays can certainly help engage the senses and become part of a pre-sleep ritual, as well as products or supplements with certain ingredients: “Frankincense encourages healing, nourishment, rejuvenation and serenity, linden blossom helps calm and relax your mood,” say Julia and Christina. “Honey murtle helps to focus and calm the mind and chamomile is known for its ultra-soothing properties.”