Home Columnists Andrew McDonald: The importance of sleep

Andrew McDonald: The importance of sleep

There’s no doubt about it, the stress of lockdown and lifestyle changes it has forced upon us have had a massive effect on wellness.

Common sense tells us that to live well we need a few things. Eating healthily, ensuring we drink enough liquids and getting exercise are all key parts of keeping ourselves feeling good. One thing which we all too often fail to pay enough attention to however is sleep.

Obviously we all get some shut eye. We wouldn’t last very long if we didn’t. How many of us stop to question the quality of our rest periods though?

The easiest and most obvious way of testing how well we sleep is by asking ourselves how long we spend dozing on average? It is reckoned by health experts that the average adult needs between 7 to 9 hours in a 24 hour period.

There are exceptions of course, but that is taken as a good guideline. So the first question to ask yourself is whether you meet this recommendation.

If you don’t, and the reason is simply that you don’t make enough time to sleep for this length, ask yourself what you can change so you can spend this time in bed?

What if you do make the time though but you simply can’t sleep? Perhaps you toss and turn for hours trying to travel to the land of nod. Maybe you suffer from broken sleep.

Possibly you wake up early and no matter what you do, you remain wide awake. Stress, which is undoubtedly elevated in many of us during these difficult times, is a major culprit for each of these three situations.

What many people don’t know is the connection between magnesium and sleep. When you are stressed, you use up more magnesium. With depleted resources of magnesium, your nervous system finds it very difficult to relax. Without sufficiently relaxing, it’s extremely difficult to get to sleep.

You can easily see the vicious cycle this creates. You’re stressed ➤ your body uses up magnesium ➤ your body then can’t relax properly ➤ you can’t sleep ➤ you become even more stressed because you can’t sleep.

There are a wide range of things you can do to help you improve your sleeping pattern; meditation, mindfulness, hypnotherapy, creating better bedroom habits, consuming less alcohol and caffeine, going to bed earlier but you should also definitely consider upping your magnesium intake which can often be a very simple, quick and effective solution.

You could, of course, take a magnesium supplement but you can also increase your intake by eating more foods rich in this essential mineral.

These include dark chocolate, avocado, nuts particularly cashews and Brazil nuts, legumes, tofu, seeds including almonds and pumpkin seeds, whole grains, some fish for example salmon, mackerel and halibut, bananas and leafy greens.

SEE ALSO – You can check out all of Andrew’s columns here