All you need to know about sleeping better

All you need to know about sleeping better

Have you been sleeping okay? Do you have a very irrational sleep pattern? Do you have problems sleeping at night because of various reasons? Have you been facing any of these issues? Then you need to read ahead. 

The truth is sleep is one of the essentials to overall well-being. The quality of your sleep leads to better physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health (funny how these are responsible for how well you sleep). To understand the importance of sleep, you need to understand how and why you sleep.

Is there a “science” behind why we sleep? 

Your body has an internal clock that operates on a 24-hour cycle called the circadian rhythm. It is a cyclic process that runs in your body in the background to carry out essential functions of your body. One of the most important circadian rhythms is the sleep-wake cycle. 

Your sleep-wake cycle determines when your body will release hormones and chemical compounds that either keep you alert and awake or make you tired and sleepy. This cycle is linked to an organic compound called adenosine, which is released in your body in increasing proportions throughout the day. This is responsible for making you tired towards the evening. Adenosine breaks down when you sleep at night, and the reason you wake up feeling fresh and lively. 

Not getting too deep into the science behind sleep, let’s just say that some factors influence your circadian rhythm including light (yep, that is exactly why “blue light” is bad for you at night), your eating habits, lifestyle, and sleeping environment. As natural or artificial light disappears towards the evening your brain produces melatonin, a hormone that induces drowsiness. 

Now that you know why you feel tired and sleepy, let’s talk about the different stages of sleep. Yep, that’s right, you sleep in stages. There are four stages, the first three are non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and the last stage is called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. 

  • Stage 1 NREM: This stage is a transition between wakefulness and sleep. It is the light sleep you experience as soon as you hit the bed. During this stage, your muscles relax, and your breathing, eye movement, and heart rate slow down. Your brain waves are calmer in this state as compared to when you are active.
  • Stage 2 NREM: During this stage, your body temperature decreases substantially, and your eye movement completely stops. Your heart rate and breathing slow down even further, and you drive into a state of deeper sleep. Your brain waves are calmer through this state, and there are a few brief moments of high-frequency electric activity. Stage 2 is known to be the longest stage.
  • Stage 3 NREM: This stage is where your heart rate, breathing, and brain wave activity are at the lowest levels, and your muscles are relaxed to the fullest extent. This stage is responsible for making you feel refreshed and alert the next day. This stage is longer in the beginning and depletes as the night progresses.
  • REM stage: There are multiple REM stages throughout the night. You enter into the first REM cycle within 90 minutes of falling asleep. During this stage, there are several things happening in your brain. There is rapid back and forth movement of your eye under your eyelids. Your breathing, heart rate, and blood rate increase during this state. Everything magical about sleep occurs in this stage. This is the state where you mostly will dream. Several studies show the correlation of REM sleep to memory consolidation. This state is responsible for converting learned experiences into long-term memory. 

These stages repeatedly occur throughout the night. Your sleep constitutes 75% to 80 % of NREM sleep. The older you get, the lesser your REM stages are (which is the essential part of deep sleep).

Okay, so why do you have to learn all of this? This is to understand how and why you sleep. Understanding this makes it simpler to explain how you can sleep better.

How can you sleep better? 

Here are some proven tips you can follow which might help you sleep better:

  • Follow a disciplined sleep routine. Here are some things you should do to maintain a healthy sleep routine:

    A) Set a specific time you wake up and go to sleep. Different people have different routines that work best for them. You need to figure out what works perfectly for you.

    B) Sleep in a dark room with a lower temperature.

    C) Avoid eating anything 3 hours before going to bed.

    D) Avoid anything work-related 2 hours before sleeping.

    E) Completely cut-off screen time an hour before bed.
  • Limit your daytime naps. Naps taken later in the evening can disrupt your sleeping patterns.

  • Avoid consuming too much caffeine. Do not at any cost consume caffeine after 2 PM (unless you’re trying to pull an all-nighter).

  • Include physical activity and exercises in your daily routine, and make sure you eat healthy food.

  • Manage your stress. Stress is the primary cause of insomnia. Mental stress and anxiety can be because of a lot of things in your life. Managing stress is the best way to make sure you sleep better. Studies show that stress can reduce your REM sleep and deep sleep, which affects your mental and physical health.

  • Avoid the consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, and recreational drugs in order to have a healthy mind.

  • Some nutrients you need to sleep better are melatonin, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, Magnesium, and Iron.

How much sleep do you really need? 

The amount of sleep you need depends on your lifestyle, your age, and your level of physical and mental activity, so you need to do what works best for you, and lets you function in the most efficient manner. The standard recommendation that is based on your age: 

AGE GROUP

RECOMMENDED SLEEP

0-3 months

14-17 hours

4-11 months

12-15 hours

1-2 years

11-14 hours

3-5 years

10-13 hours

6-13 years

9-11 hours

14-17 years

8-10 hours

18-25 years

7-9 hours

26-64 years

7-9 hours

65 and over

7-8 hours

 

Closing thoughts

Sleep is responsible for powering up your mind, healing and recovering your body, and making you feel emotionally stable. You need to make sure you are well rested to function at your best (just don’t try sleeping your problems away). You can follow this article to educate yourself, but it is always better to consult a specialist in case you have been facing chronic problems.  

 

References:

https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.

htmlhttps://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322994#stress-and-sleep

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22652369/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23339991

https://examine.com/members/deep-dives/article/can-supplemental-vitamin-d-improve-sleep/

https://examine.com/nutrition/how-important-is-sleep/

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