You know how it goes—nights of bad sleeps lead to snapping at a co-worker/yelling-at-kids/nit-picking-at-partner/this-day-just-sucks kind of days. Further proving this is research from the UK-based Mental Health Foundation, which published a report, Sleep Matters, examining the link between poor sleep and our general health and happiness.
Some key findings? Well for one, that people with insomnia are three times as likely to experience a bad mood, not to mention are more likely to have relationship problems and suffer from a lack of concentration as well. That’s no surprise to Dr. Helen Driver, a researcher with Kingston General Hospital‘s Sleep Disorders Laboratory, who points out that the tie between sleep and mood is U-shaped, namely that the lowest health risks are linked to people who get an average of seven to eight hours of snooze time per night—no longer, no shorter. “Optimal sleep is in those middle seven to eight hours with your mood being worse with too little or too much sleep,” says Driver. “Although it’s often impossible to determine which comes first—sleep or mood changes because they’re so interlinked and can have an affect on hormone rhythms and behaviour.”
So how can we ensure a good night’s sleep that can help lead to a happier day? Here’s what Dr. Driver recommends:
Avoid napping. Daytime naps can steal from your much-needed eight hours of sleep at night.
Prepare your bedroom. Make sure your room is an ideal environment for snoozing—namely dark, quiet and cool.
Establish a regular sleep routine. This means keeping roughly the same sleep hours seven days a week, maybe varying it by an hour or so on the weekends. Sleep-ins until noon feel great, but can throw your entire system out of whack.
Avoid the clock. How many times have you had trouble sleeping and rolled over only to realize how late it is and how many hours left you have to sleep if you get to sleep right now? Skip the time pressure and throw a towel over the clock or just turn it away.
Save your bed…for sleep and sex only. So keep the laptop in the living room and put The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo down. That way you link your bed mentally with sleep and sex only.
At the same time, says Driver, we need to recognize that like anything—exercise preferences, how much food we can eat and more—sleep needs are highly individual. “Just remember it is important to make time for sleep because there are negative consequences to not getting our required amount, such as affecting mood, our cardiovascular health and the onset of obesity.”
Now if I can only stop staying up late and watching The Wire on DVD…