The abc of zeds

Positive Steps
Sadhbh Dunne

A good night’s sleep is so important for our health – both physical and mental. It’s an essential function that gives the body and mind time to recharge, so that we can step into each day refreshed. Unfortunately, the modern world does not necessarily recognise this in an active and encouraging way. It is up to us all, individually, to make the time for good restful sleep.

As someone who seems to constantly declare how tired I am, I’m keen to find a way to enjoy better sleep. If you are similar, and you’re wondering why sleep is crucial and how to improve yours, read on. It will hopefully be a good place to start.

Although the exact reasons why sleep is necessary remain known, experts recommend that the majority of adults need between seven and nine hours of it every night for healthy cognitive and behavioural functions.

However, it’s important to note that healthy sleeping is not only about the number of hours. It is also extremely important that the sleep we get is regularly of good quality. This ensures we feel well rested and newly energised as we face into the day ahead. Our mood is better, and a good night’s sleep helps us avoid the stressors that sleep deprivation brings. Quality sleep can also help us cope with other mental health concerns, such as depression and anxiety.

Risky business

Despite the oft-cited gold standard of seven to nine hours, a significant proportion of adults worldwide don’t make it to this threshold. And for those who don’t, there are consequences for the brain and its ability to function properly.

Sleep deprivation can be a real risk, and for this reason we should make a real effort to prioritise our sleep as much as we do other things in our lives.

A shortage of sleep has been linked to a higher risk of developing health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease and poor mental health.

Also, when we’re tired, both our ability to focus on tasks and our reaction times are reduced. The knock on potential increase in workplace errors and injuries confirms that sufficient sleep is an important element in everybody’s safety, and it should be recognised as such.

Positive steps

If you are hoping to improve your quality and length of sleep, there are some positive steps you can try to take. Try to include even one of these a week and notice whether it has an impact on you daily and how much of a difference it makes.

  • Exercising during the day uses up your energy and can be a good way to help you wind down in preparation for sleep.
  • A ‘screen ban’ on televisions, laptops, phones and other electronic devices eliminates the temptation to scroll and overload your brain with distractions.
  • If you drink caffeine or alcohol, it is advised to do so earlier in the day rather than in the hours leading to bedtime.
  • Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to establish a realistic bedtime and try your best to stick to it, even on weekends.

Reflecting on all of this it almost seems bizarre that we wouldn’t focus on our sleep. But as a long time night owl I know all too well the struggle in finding the balance. I look to those who love to sleep with feelings of envy and admiration. For some reason I have always fought sleep, and I pay the price for this regularly – with the dark under-eye circles to show for it!

As I let out a yawn while sitting here finishing this piece, I wonder will sharing this advice finally be the catalyst I need myself to begin to enjoy nine hours of sleep? One can dream…!

Sadhbh Dunne is a qualified life coach based in Westport. She is the founder of Ember Coaching ( and can be reached at

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