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Get better sleep in 2023

by | Lifestyle, Print Articles, Summer 2022

Sleep is incredibly important for maintaining optimal health and wellbeing, yet most South Africans are getting insufficient sleep. In fact, according to the sleep tracking app, Sleep Cycle, South Africans are getting fewer sleeping hours than almost any other nation, resulting in a sleep-deprived population facing several health risks.

“When it comes to human physical and mental health, sleep is as vital as regular exercise and eating a balanced diet,” explained Tetley tea partner dietician, Mbali Mapholi. “When we don’t get enough sleep, it doesn’t just affect our mood, it impacts every aspect of daily life and poses significant health risks, including impaired brain activity, depression, diabetes and heart disease. That’s why we believe it’s important for us to share practical guidelines on getting quality sleep every day.”

How much sleep is enough?

Getting enough sleep is essential, but the definition of good sleep differs from person to person. Scientifically, the number of hours of sleep for young people is more than for adults. For adults aged 18 to 60 years, seven hours or more is required a night; however, adults aged over 60 years need at least eight hours of sleep.

Beyond sleep quantity, the quality of sleep is also important. Signs of poor-quality sleep include waking up multiple times during the night, or waking up tired or sleepy even after the recommended number of hours of sleep.

What are the benefits of sleep?

  • Sleep supports brain and mind function by improving concentration, cognitive function, performance and mental health stability.
  • Sleep is a direct and indirect contributor to healthy body weight management. People who sleep well are more inclined to exercise, eat well, drink more water and less alcohol and lead an active lifestyle.
  • Sleep reduces risk of heart-related diseases as it helps the body regulate blood pressure naturally.
  • Sleep reduces mental health issues such as depression.
  • Sleep supports a healthy immune system, although more research is needed in this area. For now, it’s understood that the body repairs, recovers and regenerates during sleep.

Five tips for improving sleep

  1. Keep a regular sleep routine

Going to sleep at the same time each night – even at weekends – helps the body recognise rest times. Being consistent reinforces the body’s sleep-wake cycle.

Dietitian tip: If you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, leave the bedroom and do something relaxing such as reading a book. Do not scroll your phone or watch TV.

  1. Hydrate well in the evening

Although drinking lots of liquids right before bed is probably not a great idea as it could result in frequent trips to the bathroom during the night, it’s important to get sufficient hydration in the evening in order to get a good night’s sleep.

Drinks that are free from caffeine and sugar are preferable. Chamomile tea, which is made from the chamomile flower and is naturally caffeine-free, is a great option as it has been used to promote sleep and relaxation for generations. Research has shown that chamomile may be used to treat insomnia successfully and induce sedation (calming effects).

Dietitian tip: Try chamomile as part of your evening wind down, it is naturally caffeine-free.

  1. Engage in daily physical activities

Keeping active during the day is important as it improves sleep quality. However, it’s best not to be active too close to bedtime as this can have the opposite effect.

Dietitian tip: Find physical activities that you actually enjoy and make them part of your daily routine. Rather than exercising late at night, go to bed earlier and wake up in the morning for an early morning workout before the day’s routine starts.

  1. Adopt a good bedtime routine

Adults need to establish a good bedtime routine just like children. Research shows that those who follow bedtime routines are more likely to go to sleep earlier, take less time falling asleep, sleep longer, and wake up less during the night.

Dietitian tip: Identify your bedtime routine and try to stick with it. Have a shower or bath, have a cup of chamomile tea while journaling or listening to music, or read.

  1. Limit daytime naps

A short nap in the mid-afternoon can boost memory, improve production and brain performance, lift one’s mood, improve alertness and ease stress. But if these naps go on too long or happen too often in the day, they can impact sleep at night.

Dietitian tip: Set an alarm during daytime naps to help you stick to the planned nap time.

Candice Sessions, Tetley Marketing Manager, noted: “Our focus is on developing products and tools that make it easier for people to live their best lives and take proper care of themselves. The role that sleep plays in overall wellbeing is often underrated, and we are excited to launch Tetley Pure Chamomile tea to play a role in helping South Africans improve their sleep.”

Visit www.joekels.co.za and @TetleyTeaSA or @urbandietitian on social media for more health tips and advice from Mbali Mapholi, as well as healthy recipes and ideas for the whole family.

Dietician, Mbali Mapholi