Understanding sleep, the power of it and how to get as much high-quality sleep as possible is one of the healthiest things we can do. Sleep is a naturally recurring state characterized by reduced or absent consciousness, and the inactivity of nearly all voluntary muscles. Sleep timing is controlled by the circadian clock, and in humans, to some extent by willed behaviour. Sleep is restorative, and without it we are not able to work, learn, create and communicate at our highest level. With time, lack of sleep can lead to mental and physical breakdown. Sleep has also been shown to be linked to the immune system. Sleep loss can impair our immune function. When we sleep, our metabolic rates reduce and free radical production is decreased, allowing restorative processes to take over. Sleep supports higher-level cognition functions such as decision-making, reasoning and memory.
Effects of sleep depravation
Everyone experiences trouble sleeping from time to time but problems may occur when regular disturbances happen frequently and these can begin to affect your daily life. Disturbed sleep can lead to some of the following:
How much sleep do we need?
There is no protocol to how many hours of sleep we should get; the best way to evaluate it is to monitor how we feel throughout the day. If energy is low, memory is poor and we don’t feel alert, then chances are we need more sleep. But….. it appears that somewhere between 7.5 – 9 hours sleep per night for an adult is about right.
So, how to sleep better? Here are my top three tips
- Improve nutrition and exercise. Good nutrition habits can drastically improve sleep quality, particularly in the last hours before bed. Consider the following:
- Avoid eating large meals before bed
- Avoid drinking too much liquid before bed
- Avoid caffeine in the latter part of the day
- Avoid alcohol before bed
- Exercise daily – even a 15 minute walk in the fresh air will help
- Get out in the morning sunshine for 15 minutes (if there is any!)
- Reduce stress and relax. Managing stressors and using pre-bed relaxation techniques can be effective in aiding a better nights sleep. Try these techniques:
- Write down any problems or issues on paper – perhaps try journaling.
- Conduct some deep breathing techniques such as 3-4-5, 4-7-8 or 4-4-4-4.
- Use mediation and relaxation techniques
- Avoid stressing tasks or thoughts before bed
- Turn off all electronic devices at least an hour before bed and if this is impossible, try blue light glasses
- Keep the bedroom clean and tidy
- Have a hot shower or bath
- Do something relaxing that you enjoy before bed such as reading, listening to relaxing music
- Keep the bedroom for sleep. Ensuring the bedroom is optimized for relaxing, unwinding and sleeping is essential. Get your bedroom ready:
- Eliminate noises that may disturb your sleep
- Keep bedroom at the right temperature (18-22C)
- Remove all electronic devices – buy an old fashioned alarm clock
- Ensure the room is dark enough
- Ensure your bed is comfortable enough
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