Are you getting enough sleep? According to research, one in three of us isn’t, and this is affecting our productivity and health — both mental and physical.
Sleep is vital for our bodies. You see, during the day, our brains take on a lot of information, and when we sleep, our minds go to work storing this information. Our bodies are also busy growing muscle, repairing tissue, and regenerating cells. We basically go through a whole system refresh overnight.
That’s why having a healthy sleep routine is essential. Particularly in children who are learning a lot during the day and need more sleep than adults to retain all the information and refresh the energy and cells used by their bodies. It’s suggested that adults should get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night and that young children should sleep between 9 and 11 to support growth and learning.
Regardless of your age, a consistent sleep routine means sticking to bedtimes and prioritizing your sleep health. If you miss a few nights of good sleep, it’s not as simple as having a long lie-in to catch up. The quality of our sleep changes depending on the hour of the day.
Sleep also affects your immune system. If you regularly miss a quality night’s rest, you will find you are more susceptible to colds and flu. So skipping a few hours to stay up late and binge-watch your favorite series, could be making you sick!
Tracking Sleep Quantity and Quality
There are lots of ways we can improve our sleep, but the first way is to have a regular and consistent routine. This helps our body to understand when it is rest time and when it is time to work. Getting into bed at 10 pm and waking up at 6 or 7 am is a steady routine which helps our body get the right type of sleep. Our sleep cycle is built into our bodies. It is affected by light, lifestyle and internal conditions, including our brain waves and our genetics. There are two states to the way we sleep. Rapid eye movement and non rapid eye-movement. During the night, our body will change between these states multiple times. Roughly every 90 minutes. Over the evening these cycles change, so the earlier you go to bed, the more time you will have in the REM periods and the lighter the NREM will be. To get the best night’s sleep, your body needs to run through these cycles up to five times a night. You also need to wake up when your rest is the lightest; this will help you feel more rested and productive throughout the day.
Your biology will affect how much sleep you need and how many cycles your body needs to go through. So it’s essential to make a diary of how you feel in the morning and use that information to work out the best time for your body to wake up. If your alarm goes off when you are in the REM stage of a cycle, then you might feel sluggish and unrested when you rise.
What’s Affecting Your Sleep?
There are lots of things that can affect how we sleep. One factor that’s been getting a lot of press lately is electro-stress, which is emitted by the wireless electronic devices in our homes. The belief here is that while many homes have smart devices in the bedroom, this could be causing us to have poor quality sleep. Expert opinions on this vary. While some encourage cleanses such as Orgone energy to help reduce electro-stress, others recommend turning devices to airplane mode before bedtime. No matter where you fall, limiting screen time in the bedroom, especially around bedtime, is always a good idea.
Why? Because light is an essential factor too. Our bodies are set to start winding down as the sun sets, then they spring back into life as the sun rises. Our evenings should reflect this cycle, so instead of staying up late and being stimulated by a bunch of screens, try taking an hour before you go to bed to be calm and relaxed. This could involve reading a book or taking a bath, supporting your body as it slowly prepares to have a quality rest.
Increasing your daily exercise will also help you to slip into a deeper and more productive sleep, so it is vital to get outside and do something active. This doesn’t mean you need head to the gym every day; taking a simple walk is enough to keep our body’s sleep system happy. You should also be mindful of taking exercise too late at night as this can be counterintuitive to a good night’s sleep. In the evening, your body releases melatonin to help you prepare for the rest ahead, whereas exercise releases endorphins which give you more energy and awaken your senses. Try to take your exercise before 5 pm.
What we eat can affect our sleep too, so be mindful of eating fatty, sugary foods too late in the evening. Research suggests we should eat our last meal before 6 pm – although this isn’t always possible in the world we live in. If you do need to eat later, then try to make your dinner light and easy to digest so your body can work on other processes when you are asleep. Hydration is essential too. You should avoid alcohol, which acts as a stimulant. While we might feel sleepy after a glass of wine, the quality of our sleep is poor. This means you don’t have enough time to regenerate, process information from the day or feel refreshed.
Our bodies need rest so that we can perform our best throughout the day, so take time to work on your sleep routine and see if you can feel the difference in the day. Our mental and physical health is so important, and we should do everything we can to give our bodies the best chance of regeneration.
So, put your feet up, relax and get to bed!