We’re currently in the midst of National Heart Month, which serves to raise awareness about heart disease and make sure we are all looking after ourselves better as a nation.
While there is endless literature about what we can do to look after our health, from getting more exercise to making changes to our diet, there is one factor we often overlook when it comes to heart health: sleep.
The benefits of sleep are wider-ranged than we might think, and in the aforementioned case, it seems that getting a better night’s sleep can even help us to prevent heart disease. Studies have shown that heart attacks are most common in the morning because that is when our cortisol levels are at their highest. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and the less sleep we have, the more we produce.
With this in mind, scientists at the Sleep Council have conducted the first National Sleep Survey in Britain – and the results were very interesting indeed.
More than 5,000 participants across the nation were interviewed about their sleeping habits, with questions ranging from how many hours’ sleep per night they were getting to how they managed to send themselves off to sleep.
The results presented many interesting issues. For example, factors such as how often to change our mattresses or using alcohol to help us get to sleep both came up in the survey. It was revealed, for instance, that 16 per cent of the population – a huge 7.9 million – relies on alcohol to get them to sleep.
But how did results fare in Northern Ireland specifically? The survey revealed that the average amount of hours slept in the region was six hours and 19 minutes.
Residents in Northern Ireland were well above average however when it came to using alcohol to aid sleep – approximately 26 per cent of us admitted to having a cheeky beverage to help us nod off.
It’s no wonder when we consider just how stressed Northern Ireland’s citizens are – approximately 46 per cent of participants admitted that worries kept them awake at night.
It could be the reason that we’re getting so little sleep too – 14 per cent of us admitted to getting fewer than five hours each night.
So now that the results are in, what can we do to make sure we are all getting better sleep in Belfast?
Now that we have addressed the issues, from alcohol keeping us awake to stress, we can look to making important lifestyle changes to help us become a healthier nation.