The Importance of Sleep (P1)
Sleep is an essential part of our life and a key asset in maintaining overall wellbeing. We spend about one-third of our lives sleeping, and for good reasons. Sleep is the link between good physical and mental health. According to the Mental Health Foundation, common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression often underpin sleep problems. Sleep is pivotal in enabling your mind and body to recharge each night, so you can feel refreshed and alert when you wake.
The science of sleep
According to the Sleep Foundation, we all have an internal body clock that regulates our sleep cycle, controlling when we feel tired and ready for bed or refreshed and alert. This clock operates on a 24-hour cycle known as the circadian rhythm. Different body systems follow circadian rhythms synchronised with a master clock in the brain directly influenced by environmental cues, especially light because circadian rhythms are tied to the cycle of day and night.
As natural light disappears in the evening, the body will release melatonin, a hormone that induces drowsiness. When the sun rises in the morning, the body will release the hormone known as cortisol that promotes energy and alertness.
How to improve sleep
Sleep is just as important as the food you eat and the fluids you drink. Without adequate sleep, our health and wellbeing will suffer. Here are three tips that you can use to help you improve sleep:
Know your bedtime
Are you aware of your natural bedtime? Are you tuned to when your body tells you it's time to hit the sake? Your circadian rhythm is essential to maintaining your health and wellbeing, so you must set
your bedtime routine and stick to one sleep schedule. When sleep has a regular rhythm, your biological clock will be in sync, and you will reap the benefits of your consistency.
“There is renewal in rest.” – Lailah Gifty Akita
Try to eliminate stimulants after 2 pm. Stimulants help increase alertness, attention, and energy by raising the levels of essential chemicals in the brain and other parts of the body. When taking stimulants, including caffeine, can impact your circadian rhythm. Caffeine has a half-life of up to 8 hours and can prevent falling asleep because caffeine blocks the adenosine receptor to keep you from feeling sleepy. Caffeine begins to affect your body very quickly and reaches a peak level in your blood within 30 to 60 minutes.
“Sleep is the best meditation” – Dalai Lama
No alcohol up to 3 hours before bed
Alcohol is a depressant that can also disrupt your sleep pattern. Therefore, it is good to avoid having any alcohol up to 3 hours before bed. If you drink alcohol before going to sleep, the sedative effect of the alcohol causes you to skip over or miss out on the first stage of the four sleep cycles. The first sleep cycle is the light sleep or Non-Rapid Eye Movement cycle of sleep. As a result, you go straight on to the deep sleep cycle. This is usually the second stage of our sleep pattern, the longest of the four sleep cycle stages.
Our sleep cycles have a natural order that is important for someone to experience restful sleep. While in a deep sleep, the body will continue to process or metabolise the alcohol that you had before falling asleep. As your liver enzymes metabolise the alcohol during the night and the blood alcohol level decreases, you are more likely to experience sleep disruptions and reductions in sleep quality. Once this is done, the body will return to the Rapid Eye Movement sleep cycle (the first cycle), which was missed.
Being in this lighter sleep cycle causes someone to wake up even after only four or five hours of sleep. It is also responsible for people who have been drinking not being able to fall asleep again after they have woken up. To be refreshed after a good night's sleep, we need to experience a regular sleep cycle which consists of four different stages: three non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stages and one rapid eye movement (REM) stage. We need to move between the two states of sleep six or seven times to feel refreshed from sleep.
After drinking, you may get only one or two sleep cycles, so you feel like you may not have had any sleep. Alcohol stops you from reaching deep sleep; it dehydrates you and can wake you up in the middle of the night to go toilet. Bottom line, don't drink alcohol for up to three hours before going to bed!
“Eat well and sleep well. That will feed your nervous system and your psyche. As you get older, you look how you feel.” – Francesca Annis
It would help if you took getting a good night's sleep each night seriously. According to the NHS website, regular poor sleep puts you at risk of severe medical conditions, including obesity, coronary heart disease and diabetes, shortening your life expectancy. Most of us need around 7 hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly – but some need more and some less. It is essential that you engage in practices that help you get the amount and quality of sleep your mind and body needs.
I hope you found this blog helpful. Leave a comment below and let me know one thing you will take away.
Ezra AKA Voice of Reason