Better health ... just by sleeping

Few things beat a good night’s rest.


Sounds easy, right?


Health and wellbeing research continues to show that getting good sleep, every night, helps your body to perform how it should – restoring your energy, repairing muscle tissue and helping your metabolic and immune systems to function at their best.


But, for many, restorative sleep isn’t as easy as just closing your eyes and drifting off to dreamland.


“About half of us are kept awake by stress and 1 in 3 people experience insomnia,” says Christine Brophy, our VP of Behavior Change at Vitality Group. “Seven to nine hours of sleep a night is recommended for optimal health but this isn’t always easy to achieve – with work being the number-one reason people cut back on sleep. Without question, this takes its toll on both our physical and mental abilities.”


Quantity and quality

– yes, both matter


Sleep quality refers to how well you sleep. The National Sleep Foundation says that for adults this means falling asleep within 30 minutes, sleeping soundly through the night and waking up no more than once each night.


Overall, good sleep quality means you are asleep for the majority of the time you’re in bed.


Sleep quantity is how many hours of sleep you need each night. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and American Psychiatric Association point out that this differs depending on age but for adults, this averages between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night.


And while we don’t always see sleep as a habit; it is. Good sleep hygiene habits are the result of your behaviour, your sleep environment, your nutrition and your physical activity. And the good news is that much of this is in your control.


Sleep habits that stick


At the recent Global Vitality Conference, Vitality published the Vitality Habit Index – new research done in partnership with the London School of Economics. The Index gives insights on the topic of habits and how crucial it is to build and sustain healthier habits for a longer, healthier life.


As part of the report, researchers suggest that we can make our habits stick – like habits for better sleep – through a process called ‘habit laddering’:


✓ Set a goal or target: check where you are at currently with your sleeping patterns and understand the health benefits to achieving a better-sleep goal.

✓ Start small: choose an activity that is easy and practical to do, often.

✓ Repeat this, and then intensify: keep up the activity and only increase the intensity once the action has been repeated for between 4 and 6 weeks.


Top 8 tips to get in your ZZZs


Did you know that healthy sleep patterns are just as important to your overall health as good nutrition and regular exercise? Here are some ways to get better sleep:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule: Ensure you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  2. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week: That’s 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days per week – completely doable and vital in promoting healthy sleeping patterns.
  3. Avoid taking naps after 3pm: Napping late in the day can affect sleep patterns and overall sleep quality.
  4. Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed: Alcohol causes fragmented sleep, while also being one of the most powerful suppressors of REM sleep.
  5. A dark, cool, gadget-free bedroom is essential: Ensure you switch your electronics and strong overhead lights off at least 30 minutes before bed.
  6. Try to get at least 30 minutes of sunlight everyday: Sunlight aids in the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.
  7. Create a bedtime routine: Include relaxing activities like reading or listening to music to wind down brain activity.
  8. Don’t lie in bed awake: If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, try a relaxing activity until you feel drowsy.


Explore more


To read the full Vitality Habit Index, download it here .


Happy sleeping!

Related insights