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Why Sleep Matters: The Importance of a Good Night's Rest

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, 7 min read

Why Sleep Matters: The Importance of a Good Night's Rest

It is recommended that we get around 7-9 hours of sleep each night, however research suggests that 1 in 5 of us don’t get enough sleep. Whether it’s waking several times, tossing and turning, unable to get comfy, watching the clock counting the hours until the alarm goes off or thinking about all the things we have to get done the next day; we’ve all been there!

While an occasional night of restless or poor sleep may only leave you feeling groggy or out of sorts the following day, chronic sleep deficiency over an extended period can have profound and detrimental impacts on our health.

In our fast-paced, modern lives, where we're constantly juggling responsibilities and facing external pressures with studies suggesting that 25% of us can’t sleep due to money worries, for example. Whilst lying awake at night consumed by worries feels unavoidable, it’s important we try to reduce the stress to help us sleep as it has a big impact on our emotional regulation. 

Getting quality sleep is essential for our health and wellbeing. It impacts a number of things including:

  • Boosting energy levels.
  • Improving cognitive function.
  • Reducing the risk of chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • Improving our mental health
  • Support weight maintenance. 
  • Supports growth and development in children.
  • Removes toxins in your brain for clear thinking the next day. 

The benefits of good sleep are immense. Together, let’s explore the importance of sleep and how you can improve your sleep quality. 

The Importance of Sleep: Why does it matter?

Sleep is not just about rest; it plays a vital role in our physical and mental health on a biological level. During sleep, our bodies undergo various restorative processes, including:

Tissue repair and growth: Sleep is crucial for the body's healing and recovery processes, as well as for the production of growth hormones. 

When we enter into a deep sleep the body releases these growth hormones which facilitate the repair and regeneration of soft tissues throughout the body. 

Failure to achieve deep, high-quality sleep deprives the body of this essential hormone, hindering its ability to heal and recover optimally from the day's physical and mental exertions.

Memory consolidation: Sleep has been proven to improve memory recall. It helps to cement and reinforce the memories and information we've learned and experienced throughout the day which supports us to  improve our cognitive function.

Research indicates a  minimum of 7 hours of daily sleep aids proper cognitive and behavioural function.

Immune function: When we think of improving or helping our immune system we usually think about diet, exercise, reducing alcohol intake or stopping smoking. However, adequate sleep is also essential for maintaining a strong immune system. 

Our immune system is the first line of defence against illness. Research shows that people who experience chronic sleep deprivation or disrupted sleep patterns are more susceptible to contracting illnesses like the common cold. 

Additionally, lacking in good, restorative sleep can prolong the recovery process, hindering the body's ability to fight off infections.

Emotional regulation: The impact of sleep extends to our emotional wellbeing. Lack of sleep can significantly influence our mood, leading to irritability, anxiety, and even depression. 

Sleep and mental health are inextricably intertwined, with each influencing the other. The presence of mental health issues can disrupt the quality and duration of sleep, while inadequate sleep can exacerbate existing mental health conditions, creating a vicious cycle that demands attention and intervention. 

Prioritising a good night's sleep becomes an integral component of maintaining emotional balance and mental health.

Tips & Strategies for Better Sleep Quality

On average, most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Here are some tips and strategies to help improve and promote better sleep quality:

  • Be consistent: A consistent sleep schedule is key for better sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including weekends, helps regulate our body's internal clock. This makes falling asleep and waking up easier, without struggling to sleep or feeling groggy in the morning.
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment: Studies have shown that we sleep better when our environment is optimised for noise, light, temperature and comfort. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in comfortable bedding, blackout curtains, or an eye mask to block out light and noise.
  • Limit exposure to blue light: The blue light emitted by electronic devices like smartphones, TVs, and computers can suppress melatonin production and disrupt your sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin, a hormone secreted in response to darkness, plays a pivotal role in regulating the circadian rhythm and helping to manage your sleep-wake cycle. We recommend limiting the use of these devices for at least an hour before bedtime to encourage sleep. .
  • Relax before bed: Engage in calming activities such as taking a warm bath, reading a book, or practising gentle stretches or meditation. This can help signal to your body that it's time to wind down.
  • Avoid stimulants: Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can interfere with sleep quality. Did you know it can take anywhere from 8 to 14 hours for caffeine to be fully eliminated from your system depending on your metabolism and other factors? That’s why it’s important to avoid consuming them several hours before your desired bedtime to ensure you are ready to rest.
  • Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can promote better sleep by reducing stress and anxiety levels. However, try to avoid strenuous exercise too close to bedtime as this will make you feel more awake. We recommend trying gentle activities such as yoga before bed to support yourself in feeling calm and relaxed.

Whilst these practices are important in supporting your sleep schedule, we must also consider the importance of getting outside during the day to support your sleep cycle. Together, let’s explore the importance of natural light exposure and how you can include this in your day. 

The Benefits of Getting Outside and Natural Light Exposure

Exposure to natural sunlight during the day is a powerful regulator of the body's circadian rhythm, our internal "body clock" that influences the sleep-wake cycle. 

Sunlight exposure supports the production of several hormones:

  • Cortisol: Sunlight exposure, particularly in the morning, helps signal to the brain that it is daytime, promoting alertness and regulating the release of hormones like cortisol
  • Melatonin: Getting exposure to natural light during the day is also essential for the synthesis of Melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycles. Exposure to sunlight, especially in the morning, helps set the body's internal clock and enhances the production of melatonin in the evening in response to darkness. This natural rise and fall of melatonin contributes to a consistent sleep-wake cycle.
  • Serotonin: Exposure to sunlight is not only crucial for sleep but also for daytime alertness and improving our mood. Natural light exposure helps regulate the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood and wakefulness. This can positively impact energy levels and cognitive function during waking hours, leading to a more positive mindset and relieving feelings of low mood and depression. 

In order to support the production of these beneficial hormones, we advise aiming for at least 30 minutes of sunlight exposure in the morning, preferably within the first hour of waking. This doesn’t mean you need to drag yourself out of bed and get walking, why not sit outside with a cup of tea and embrace the sun? 

Additionally, during the day, you should try to work near windows or take short breaks outside to maximise exposure to natural light during the day. Maybe you could take a short trip outside during your lunch break, and pop outside mid-afternoon instead of scrolling mindlessly through your phone.

Quality sleep is not a luxury but a fundamental necessity for our health and wellbeing, influencing our physical and cognitive performance, emotional well-being, and overall quality of life. By prioritising effective sleep practices and adopting strategies to enhance our sleep, we can improve our health, increase our productivity, and enhance our overall quality of life.

If you are struggling with improving your sleep quality, you can book an appointment with our Mental Health Practitioners to explore causes of your sleep problems and suggestions that may improve your sleep. If appropriate they may be able to refer you to specialist sleep clinics or give you signposting advice for free local services or Health & Wellbeing coaching. 

Read more: Supercharge your sleep: how to sleep better sooner



The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.

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