Sleep is an integral part of life. It is as important to our health as eating and drinking or even breathing. It offers our bodies the time to repair itself and our brains the time to process the information from the day. Sleep difficulties are a common feature in most physical and mental health problems, such as a weakened immune system or mental health diagnoses like anxiety and depression.
Sleep deprivation is common nowadays with adults getting an average of six or seven hours a night when the recommended is between seven and nine. There is an internal body clock that regulates how and when we sleep dependent on the external lights around us. The setting sun triggers a release of hormones that make us sleepy in the morning the opposite happens the hormone is suppressed, and we are awake.
The brain moves through cycles during sleep. It isn’t a static state. The two broader categories are rapid eye movement or REM and non-rapid eye movement or NREM. REM is the type of sleep that produces dreams. It occurs regularly once every hour and a half to two hours. The sleeper’s eyes tend to dart around under the eyelids – hence the name. NREM is the deeper level of sleep, this stage produces physiological changes that help to boost the immune system functioning. Composed of four stages in increasing depth beginning with dozing and ending in ‘delta sleep’ – which is when growth and repair processes are thought to occur.
Sleep can vastly improve both our physical and mental wellbeing. There is evidence that sleep can either decrease or increase aches and pains, if you are well rested the pain goes but if we haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a few days we can feel riddled. If you don’t get enough sleep the brain cannot complete critical processes, which can then impact your functionality for the next day. Sleep has also been linked to the robustness of the immune system. Not getting enough sleep can open you up to a myriad of conditions and ailments.
Trying to sleep often doesn’t work and you end up more awake than ever. Here are some common distractions and disruptions to avoid: phones and the tv, the lights from these devices stimulate the brain making it harder to sleep after using them. You should steer clear of them just before bed.
It is important to try and implement a routine, so try going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. This promotes better quality sleep over time and encourages your body to get tired at a similar time each day ensuring the routine is continued.
What you are sleeping on can make a huge difference in your quality of sleep. If your mattress is old or worn out, you won’t be comfortable on it and therefore less likely to fall asleep. Specialist mattresses could be a worthwhile investment if you have particular needs for example if you sleep on your side look into the best mattress for side sleepers.
Try to limit the activities done in your bedroom. It is important to forge associations in the brain, if your bedroom becomes associated with watching TV or working on your laptop it becomes harder to relax and fall asleep in there. You should also try to not spend too much time lounging in your bed either trying to fall asleep or trying to will yourself to get up. If you are not asleep within twenty minutes of getting into bed, get back up and go to another room and try to unwind before returning. In time this will allow you to fall asleep more quickly. Try not to linger when waking in the morning this can lead to lasting tiredness throughout the day. If you struggle with feeling tired, try to spend more time expending energy during the day is likely to lead to better sleep at night.
Avoid caffeine before bed preferably you should abstain for at least four hours before bed. Avoid napping during the day if possible. If not keep naps short – thirty minutes or less and always before 4 pm so that you can tire out again before bedtime.
Sleep is as important as oxygen and it nourishes us as much as food does. It shouldn’t be taken for granted. Following the above tips can dramatically overhaul your bedtime routine for the better and improve your overall well being. Your mental and physical health will both benefit from more sleep, there will be fewer aches and pains, your body will be able to fight off more bacteria and you’ll be able to think more clearly as a whole.