Sleep Well – Improve The Quality of Your Sleep
What could possibly be the importance of getting to sleep well? Nothing, it would seem. Just a few accidental deaths, a nuclear plant meltdown, a wrong medical prescription, an air crash… Indeed, lack of sleep is known to have played a role in all of these scenarios.
Sleep deficiency is among the important factors affecting physical, mental and emotional health. This could mean you aren’t sleeping enough; you’re sleeping at the wrong times; or you have a sleep disorder which prevents proper sleep.
Sleep is known to occur in two different forms, called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM, Stages 1–4) sleep. Stages 3 and 4 NREM comprise slow-wave sleep (SWS), which is the refreshing phase, occurring in the first third of the sleep cycle.
REM sleep becomes longer with the total duration of sleep. Both REM and NREM sleep have dramatic impact on numerous body processes, such as the heart rate and blood pressure, sympathetic activity, muscle and blood vessel tone, breathing, kidney function and body temperature.
Why Is It Important That You Sleep Well?
When you suffer from sleep deficiency, you are at risk of developing a variety of health issues.
- Lack of sleep allows damage to the heart and blood vessels to build up, leading to a higher risk of hypertension, stroke and heart disease.
- Disorders like obesity, diabetes mellitus, and kidney disease can be traced to hormonal abnormalities resulting from sleep deficiency. Ghrelin and leptin are hormones that are linked to energy metabolism in the body, and their levels vary significantly with sleep deprivation.
- Poor immunity results from constantly going without sleep.
- Delayed growth and development: Growth hormone is secreted during periods of deep sleep in childhood and puberty. Failure to sleep well could thus impair growth and normal puberty.
- Accidents: Microsleeps are very brief sleeps that interrupt normal wakefulness, as a result of a large sleep debt, and these can be disastrous in many lines of work.
An ongoing sleep deficiency also affects mental functioning by causing:
- Poor productivity and lowered performance levels
- Slow reaction and poor judgment
- Making more mistakes
- Learning difficulties
- Reduced creativity
- Increased impulsivity and risk-taking
- Lack of motivation
- Poor relationships
- Lack of emotional control
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
The amount of sleep a person needs is different at various ages, and also between different people. The following table shows the recommended sleep duration at different ages:
|Age||Nightly sleep duration|
|Babies under one year||12 – 16 hours|
|Toddlers (1 – 2 years)||11 – 14 hours|
|Under 5 years||10 – 13 hours|
|6 – 12 years||9 – 12 hours|
|Teenagers||8 – 10 hours|
|Adults||7 – 8 hours|
Table 1. Average duration of sleep required at different ages.
Is Night Sleep Better Day Sleep?
Yes. The human body is designed for night sleep.
Light stimuli from the retina go to the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a region in the brain that sends stimuli to the pineal gland in your brain. This responds to the waning of daylight by releasing a hormone called melatonin that signals the onset of the sleep cycle.
The melatonin levels are highest towards late evening. This enables the body rhythms of normal function and behavior (the circadian rhythms) to synchronize with the environmental day and night cycle. Being exposed to bright light at the wrong time disturbs this biological clock. This is commonly seen in shift workers and in jet lag.
If you routinely choose to skip sleeping or cut down on your hours of sleep, you incur what is called a sleep debt. This is simply the total duration of lost sleep. A nap can make you feel alert for some time but it cannot compensate for the lack of night-time sleep. Neither does it help to sleep in on holidays and days off. In fact, this upsets your body rhythms even more.
Why Can’t I Sleep Well?
Many factors interact to cause poor sleep, such as:
- Pain, stress or worry
- Certain stimulant drugs or medications like caffeine
- Drinking alcohol shortly before bedtime
- Sleep disorders which haven’t been treated like sleep apnea
- Strenuous exercise too soon before bedtime
- Exposure to bright light and electronic device screens before bedtime
- Too large a meal before bedtime
- Worry and anxiety
How Can I sleep Well?
Firstly, you need to consider whether poor habits like those mentioned above are the result or cause of your insomnia. If they are the cause, train yourself to observe good sleep hygiene, and consider seeking help with managing your anxiety or your sleep disorder.
This comprises a set of recommendations that can help you sleep well, such as:
Shake up your routine:
- Exercise regularly during the day; avoid heavy workouts at night because they’ll cause an adrenaline rush
- Spend some time outdoors daily
- Avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol if you have problems sleeping well at night
- Avoid excessive drinking (less than one (for women) or two drinks (for men) a day), and don’t drink within three hours of bedtime.
- Don’t nap for more than 20 minutes during the day
- Have dinner early
- Have set hours for bedtime and waking up – your body loves routine!
- Establish an evening routine for the last 30 minutes before bed
Let your bedroom invite sleep:
- Make your bed every day
- Ensure the bedroom is a cool temperature
- Keep out light for at least half an hour before bedtime, including television and electronic devices,
- Exclude noise; or use white noise machines or earplugs
- Don’t eat, read or game in bed; it’s for sleeping
- Don’t stay in bed if you can’t sleep; get up after 20 minutes and read till you can
If you feel you’re not sleeping well, a sleep diary will help you trace your sleep patterns, how many hours you sleep and when, and how you feel in the morning and during the day. This can help you recognize your sleep issues.
Stewing in bed isn’t an effective way to deal with your anxieties. Find people who can support and help you, learn better methods to cope, and ask for help. Spiritual and emotional support is important in resolving internal struggles and making your life happier and more peaceful, which will reflect in the way you sleep as well.
Breathwork has been proven to reduce stress levels in those who regularly take part, especially SOMA Breath. Even if breathwork is not for you, a daily meditation practice can work wonders on your stress levels, clearing your mind, and helping you sleep well.
Food and Supplements
Over-the-counter melatonin supplements may help you sleep well if you’re always exposed to bright lights at night. Kiwifruit and tart cherries are also good at inducing better sleep quality.
Regular and healthy eating is also linked to sleeping well. Eat more complex carbohydrate and fiber, and less fat.
There are a lot of natural herbal products as well claiming to promote sleep. Some which may be helpful include extracts of rosemary, ginseng, green tea, chrysanthemum, magnolia, valerian and several Chinese herbs such as sour date, Korean angelica. Barley grass powder, whole grains, cherry, Lingzhi, kiwifruits, panax, walnut, lettuce, schisandra wine, maca, milk, and asparagus powder are other nutritional agents that promote better sleep.
CBD oil can be used to improve the quality of your sleep, too. We recommend SOL CBD products for their high quality guarantee and because they can help you make sure you are purchasing the right product for you.
Signs That You Don’t Sleep Well
If you follow these tips but still have any of the following symptoms, you should probably meet a doctor:
- Interrupted sleep, with loud snoring and arrested breathing followed by snoring again.
- Abnormal sleepiness in the morning.
- Falling asleep quickly when you have to sit quietly for more than a few minutes.
- Pain or itchiness in the limbs that resolves with movement.
Take your sleep diary with you.
A more formal tool which may be used by your doctor is a sleep study. You may also be advised to get tested for a sleep disorder at a specialized sleep laboratory.