The Importance of Sleep and How to Improve Your Shuteye

Michelle Velan, Founder of Wondersource

Happy Sleep Awareness Week. If you’ve ever struggled with sleep, you probably have first hand experience of the negative side effects that pop up when you’re lacking sleep. Increased stress, negative self-talk, business as usual feels overwhelming and we often interpret normal daily interactions in unhelpful ways. All of which may have you aching to crawl back under the covers.

Studies show that sleep is critical to physical health (muscle formation and repair) and a key promoter of emotional wellness (motivation and mood) and mental health. ⁠In fact, sleep deprivation is a proven risk factor for Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, heart attack/ failure, stroke, diabetes, depression, anxiety and obesity. According to Allison Harvey, Professor of Clinical Psychology, UC Berkeley, sleep plays a critical role in a wide range of cognitive functions including problem solving, attention, memory and creativity.

So why is it we cannot sleep? Common causes of insomnia include life stress, hormone imbalances, depression, anxiety, chronic illness, physical discomfort, environmental factors like noise, light, jet lag and more. While it might feel like an uphill battle, sleep is a key to our health and wellbeing. 

Even if we’re fighting against all these factors, there are steps you can take to improve things.⁠⁠ These are some guidelines derived from science to enable and encourage you to optimise your sleep:⁠

  • Increase natural light exposure during the day, ideally first thing in the morning
  • Start a meditation or mindfulness ⁠practice to calm your stress response
  • Cut out sugar, reduce processed foods and eat an anti-inflammatory diet
  • Adjust your schedule in order to be consistent with the time you wake up and go to bed⁠
  • Commit to relaxing and reducing your stress levels by moving your body with walks in nature, yoga, breath-work and exercise
  • Reduce blue light exposure at night by turning off all digital devices two hours before bed or wear glasses that block the light
  • Check your hormone levels
  • Cut out (or limit) alcohol and eliminate caffeine consumption after 2pm⁠ 
  • Optimise your bedroom environment by cutting out light and external noise (white noise machines can help here)
  • Journal before bed to get any swirling or ruminating thoughts out of your head or write a list of what you’re grateful for and all the things that are going well
  • Don’t go to sleep angry as anger turns on the stress response and triggers cortisol release, instead see Journaling

Throughout the years we’ve learned how our lifestyle impacts our sleep, but we’ve also seen how a lack of sleep can impact our lifestyle. Have you used other sleep techniques to perfect your best night’s sleep? We’d love to hear more at

Image via @mignonnettetakespictures

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