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““The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.”

Matthew Walker

Looking for strategies to sleep soundly? You’re not alone if you’ve gone through waves of feeling “wired and tired”.

BBC News Africa contacted me to discuss sleep and the role it plays in the pandemic. In a live interview, together with Dr. Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri, a leading voice in Nigeria on mental health and wellness, we unpack strategies to sleep soundly.

We’re living in a modern world with technology at our fingertips and a society that says “sleep when you’re dead”.

Taking steps to prioritise your sleep is one of the best strategies for health. Sleep is vitally important for both healing and disease prevention. In this article, I unpack why it’s important and share the BBC clip where we discuss strategies to help you sleep soundly.

What happens when we experience sleep loss?

Chronic sleep deprivation can have devastating effects on your brain and body.  It is associated with depression, poor immune function, metabolic conditions such as diabetes, memory loss and heart disease. 

I’m going to focus on just two of these in a little bit more detail because they’re related to current health problems: lifestyle disease and our immune function. 

The link between lifestyle disease and sleep:

I have conversations with people who want to lose weight or are on medication to manage their lifestyle disease, such as diabetes. Diet, and exercise play a huge role in transforming health and moving towards remission from lifestyle disease, and so does sleep. For example, sleep deprivation is linked to insulin resistance, which leads to weight gain and Type II diabetes. 

The research is there – a 2013 randomized control trial has shown that sleep restriction for a period of just five nights led to increased calorie intake and weight gain.

Why strategies to sleep soundly boost your immune function:

Secondly, and I’m touching on this especially because we’re living in a pandemic: sleep deprivation is also associated with immune system dysfunction.

In 2019 a study was published that showed that getting less sleep can substantially increase the chances of catching a cold. Participants with less than 7 hours of sleep were nearly 3 times more likely to develop a cold than those with 8 hours or more of sleep. 

Sleep deprivation does not just cause long-term health issues. There are almost immediate, short-term negative effects as well. After just one night of poor sleep, your:

  • Tolerance to stress decreases 
  • Threshold for pain is lowered, and the intensity of your pain experience is increased. 
  • Memory is negatively impacted

The bottom line is sleep is absolutely crucial for good health and mental wellbeing.

Recorded Live from BBC Africa

We unpack the following questions:

  1. Tips to improve your sleep while working from home
  2. Why natural light plays a big part in optimizing your sleep
  3. The role of exercise to prime your body for sleep
  4. Dealing with anxiety and depression during the pandemic
  5. When to reach out for help

Take one small step to sleep soundly

What is one small thing you can change to support your sleep during this pandemic?

What’s more, If you’re looking to explore more strategies to manage your sleep, take a look at this article: Seven Steps to Significant Sleep. Often it requires a change in habits, and we know that habits are hard to change.

Remember, help is always a click away. If you’ve tried strategies, and you feel like you’re in sinking sand, reach out for support.