While most of us are stuck at home with lockdown and facing undue stress due to an overload of information, good sleep has become more important than ever. Sleep plays a vital role in maintaining good health and well-being in our lives, yet, as we grow older it seems to gradually dip lower and lower down our list of priorities.
It’s surreal to imagine that the average person spends around 26 years of their lives sleeping, and surprisingly almost seven years simply in the pursuit of trying to fall asleep.
Sleep, therefore, is something we consistently take for granted, forgetting that a quality night of rest is not just important but essential to protecting our mental and physical well-being, and maintaining a high quality of life.
Consistent tossing and turning in bed can result in a backlash of serious physical, emotional, and mental problems including; weight gain, anxiety, brain fog and even memory loss. It can also make people more prone to illnesses such as weakened immunity, high blood pressure, and a higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular issues.
A few common malefactors connected to disrupted sleep include: stress, illness, or even a change of location. Unfortunately, if these conditions last for an extended period, it can often lead to longer lasting sleeping disorders such as insomnia.
It’s not the quantity but the quality that matters
While the quantity of sleep needed for each person may differ, it is the quality of sleep that is important. During deep sleep, your body is working behind the scenes to support healthy brain function, repair muscles, build immunity and maintain overall physical health. Moreover, in children and teens, sleep plays an essential role in growth and development.
In a study done by LiveScience, researchers found that lack of sleep makes it difficult for brain cells to communicate in an effective way which could potentially lead to temporary mental lapses that may affect our memory and visual perception as well.
Fixes that work
Trying to fix your sleeping habits and schedule can often be difficult, however, here are a few simple hacks that can help you establish better sleep etiquette.
- Commit to a fixed bedtime. This will allow the body to build a habit of sleeping at the same time every night helping to regulate your circadian rhythm.
- Prime time sleep: Between 8 pm and 12 am is the perfect opportunity for our brain and body to get all the non-REM and REM sleep it needs to function perfectly. Choosing to head to bed during these prime hours can highly impact the quality of your sleep.
- Bedtime routines: Look forward to sleeping by indulging in a relaxing bedtime routine. This may include listening to a meditation, a hot shower or soak or some light reading before lights out.
- Caffeine free: It’s best to avoid caffeine a minimum of six hours before bed time so as not to play with our natural circadian clock. Perhaps swap it out for an indulgent non-caffeinated hot beverage or a decaffeinated version of your favourite drink.
- Reduce screen time: Phones and gadgets are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to hindering sleep, be sure to tuck your phone away at least 20 minutes before bedtime to avoid mental stimulation to your brain right before bed time. Consider switching your phone to flight mode or turning to night mode to avoid bright screens and unnecessary disturbances while you sleep.
- Increase physical activity: Regular exercise can release pent up energy within the body and tire you out which can in turn improve sleep quality and increase sleep duration. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise such as walking or cycling is known to bolster sleep as well as reduce stress.
Making a good night’s sleep a priority again will change your everyday life. It will help you regain your memory and ability to focus. It will even ultimately help protect you from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s when you grow older.