December 5th 2021

Wellbeing and Sleep

Dictionary Definition:

“The resting state in which the body is not active and the mind is

Circadian rhythms – what are they?

Our circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of our brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It's also known as our sleep/wake cycle.

Why is sleep important?

Sleeping helps us to recover from mental as well as physical exertion. Sleep and health are strongly related - poor sleep can increase the risk of having poor health, and poor health can make it harder to sleep. Sleep disturbances can be one of the first signs of distress.

Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours sleep a night, but it’s an individual thing. The best guide to the sleep you need is to listen to and be aware of your body. If you feel rested, you’re likely getting enough sleep, if you are tired and lethargic, you’re likely not.


What can interrupt our sleep?

  • Poor mental health e.g. anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders
  • Stress that is longer term and where we feel overwhelmed
  • Nightshift working
  • Ageing where our circadian rhythms change
  • Menopause symptoms like hot flashes and the overall decrease in stabilising hormones
  • Underlying medical conditions e.g. diabetes, heart conditions, sleep disorders, chronic pain
  • Medications for some of the above conditions
  • A snoring partner
  • A sleeping space that’s too hot, too cold or uncomfortable
  • Drinking alcohol, eating heavy meals, having too much caffeine
  • Exercising later in the evening
  • Having a long nap during the day

How can we restore balance and prepare ourselves for sleep?

A powerful way to do this is to stimulate the parasympathetic part of our nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is also referred to as the ‘rest and digest’ system as it functions to conserves the body’s natural activity and relaxes us once an emergency has passed. Relaxation techniques like meditation, mindfulness, gentle stretching, and deep breathing exercise can help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, sending messages to brains that our bodies are in a relaxed state and preparing for the restoration and repair that sleep brings.

Top tips for sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other stimulants
  • Create a sleep-inducing space and routine
  • Try to maintain consistency for your internal body-clock settings
  • Avoid heavy meals before sleep especially high fat/high sugar content
  • Be hydrated but balanced in what you drink
  • Include exercise as part of your day
  • Incorporate relaxation techniques into your sleep plan

Useful links:

Catherine Murnin

The Wellbeing Pathway Founder