Could too much sleep be harming your health? We called in the experts to find out
We’re inundated with the facts and figures of the effect a poor night’s sleep can have on your body and mind (as proof of this, a new study has just been released revealing that 72 percent of us women say that a lack of snooze time has a noticeable impact on their overall happiness) but what about the opposite? Is there such a thing as too much sleep? It seems so, as new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that people who sleep for more than eight hours a night have a 47 percent higher risk of heart disease and strokes compared to those who sleep for less than seven hours. With this in mind, we asked the sleep gurus for their ultimate bedtime routines to ensure you have the best night’s sleep ever.
If you’re anxious that your occasional Sunday morning spent in bed has had an effect on your health, don’t panic. “The odd liein does little harm, although it can leave you feeling a bit groggy rather than refreshed,” says Lisa Artis, sleep advisor for the Sleep Council (sleepcouncil.org.uk). “However, regular oversleeping can affect our circadian rhythm, the 24-hour cycle driven by our biological clocks. This can result in behavioural changes, plus it can affect mental and physical wellbeing because sleeping for longer than normal throws our regular rhythm out of sync.” So, what causes the problem? “Often, there’s a medical reason for regular oversleeping, such as sleep apneoa due to interrupted sleep, or hypersomnia, and medical advice should be sought,” explains Lisa.
Wait a minute, if too little or too much sleep are both bad for you how can you work out how much is the right amount? Luckily, there’s a simple answer. “As a rough guide, adults need between seven and nine hours each night, although your own requirements can change as you get older,” says Lisa. “The best indication is listening to your body and how you feel – if you regularly feel lethargic and irritable, it’s likely you’re not getting enough sleep (or too much).” However, it’s the quality of your snoozing, rather than the quantity, that’s most important. “A night’s sleep consists of five or six cycles, each lasting around one and a half hours,” Lisa explains. “In order to feel fully rested and refreshed when we wake up, we must go through four stages in those cycles – three stages of non-rapid eye movement sleep, which become progressively deeper, followed by a stage of rapid eye movement sleep (this is when we dream). A disturbed, restless night consists of fewer cycles and shorter or few stages in each cycle.”
Still struggling to get quality rest? Here are five herbs Katie Pande, medical herbalist at Pukka Herbs (pukkaherbs.com), recommends to help support healthy sleeping patterns.
Lavender is renowned for settling frazzled nerves. The aromatic essential oils in this plant can help reduce difficulty falling asleep and prevent nighttime wakening.
A traditional remedy for nightmares and bad dreams, limeflower’s calming effect on the nervous system also make it effective in treating a nervous digestion. It’s a perfect, gentle remedy for children.
Valerian promotes relaxation of the nervous system and encourages healthy sleeping patterns, ensuring you wake feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead.
This traditional ayurvedic remedy has been shown to improve sleep quality by up to 66 percent. It tackles core energy levels, enabling the body to adapt and respond to stress in a more energy-efficient way.
Oats are a natural source of tryptophan, which helps to regulate our body’s natural circadian rhythms. Melatonin, a hormone which makes you feel sleepy, is synthesised from tryptophan.
We asked Anandi, the Sleep Guru (thesleepguru.co.uk), to reveal her top tips for a restful night
Consider cutting out coffee (as well as caffeinated drinks like Coca- Cola, too, if that’s your poison) altogether if possible. If you can’t bear the thought of that, at least give yourself an early afternoon cut-off point to stop drinking it and move over to water instead. Your body will thank you.
You wouldn’t swim on a full stomach, so why would you sleep on it? In the run up to bedtime, opt for something less heavy. Otherwise, your body will be far too busy digesting the food, which is not a good state for relaxing and sleeping.
When you become disconnected from yourself, you become stressed. Switch off your television at least one and a half hours before bedtime (or, if you have it in your bedroom, remove it entirely) and spend that time reading and relaxing instead. Remember to put your phone down by about 8pm and turn it on to aeroplane mode to ensure minimal distractions. Your mind needs to quieten down in order for your body to do the same.
It may sound a bit indulgent but massaging your feet can be a brilliant way to soothe your nervous system and encourage a peaceful night of sleep. Use oils – but be careful not to walk on tiled floors afterwards. The best time to do this is when you finally make it to your bed.
Reading is a great way to relax your mind and help with the onset of sleep. Be careful it’s not a thriller though – that may have the opposite effect!
The breath, heart and mind are linked. When you start taking longer, deeper breaths, your heart rate comes down, your mind settles and you are therefore more likely to fall asleep. Just put your hands on your belly and allow the breath to deepen. Do this for 15 minutes when you turn the lights out.
This practice is part of my evening wind-down ritual. It will help repair your strength, calm you down and ultimately, help you sleep. According to Ayurveda, the left nostril is connected to the quiet lunar energy and the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of your nervous system that quietens you down). Inhale through your left nostril and exhale through your right nostril, making sure the inhale is shorter than the exhale by counting. By breathing in through your left nostril and extending the exhale, your nervous system will settle and your brain will start to relax.