Do you have trouble dozing off?
Do you sleep for hours yet never feel rested?
Here we take a closer look at what it means to get a quality night’s sleep and how to stop waking up on the wrong side of the bed. There’s more to a good night sleep than simply getting your recommended 7-9 hours, your sleep is comprised of two parts: REM sleep and non-REM sleep cycles.
The distinct parts of your slumber have different functions and the amount of time you spend in each cycle has an implication for the way you feel and function. Your non-REM sleep is split into three cycles.
- Stage 1 occurs as you fall asleep as your body relaxes and body and brain activity start to decrease.
- Stage 2 the body relaxes further until it enters stage 3 which is critical to feeling refreshed.
- You then enter the REM sleep cycle which makes up around 25% of sleep in adults. During REM sleep, brain activity picks up which is important for cognition, reinforcing memory, learning and creativity.
Why is quality sleep so important?
Sufficient sleep is essential for a person’s health and wellbeing.
The body needs to spend enough time in each sleep cycle to facilitate thorough rest and repair. A continuous lack of sleep can take a significant toll on your emotional and physical health; it can impact everything from productivity at work, to the food you put on your plate. In some cases, sleep deprivation can increase the risk of heart disease, weaken the immune system, slow cognition and even make a person 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
The release of important hormones that regulate bodily functions occur while you are asleep and require adequate sleep to stay in balance. While you rest, new pathways are formed in the brain that aid memory and learning.
In short, your body needs enough sleep in the same way it needs exercise and a healthy diet, yet many of us neglect its importance. Modern life does not lend itself to optimal sleep quality with its excessive screen time, sedentary lifestyle, late nights, and early mornings.
If you find yourself ceaselessly tossing and turning, there are several ways you can give yourself the best chance at a restful night.
- Get outside more. Exposure to natural, bright light helps to regulate your circadian rhythm, your body’s inner clock. This helps your body to understand when it needs to be awake, and when it is time to wind down.
- Reduce blue light exposure. Chances are your phone is the first thing you see in the morning, and the last thing you see at night. The light from our devices mess with our circadian rhythm and impacts the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Wearing blue light glasses can help if you can’t put the screen down!
- Don’t snooze your alarm. Falling back to sleep for even a few minutes after you’re first awake can leave you feeling groggy; your body thinks you’re entering a new sleep cycle, which is then disrupted when you’re woken again.
- Keep your bedroom as a relaxing space. Don’t reply to work emails in bed, instead keep the bedroom as a place of sanctuary, one which you do not associate with stress. It may also help to keep it free from mess, clutter or anything anxiety inducing.
- Make a pre sleep routine. We are creatures of habit! Build a ritual that helps you wind down and repeat it every day, whether that is taking a bath, reading a book or meditating before bed.
- Exercise during the day. Exercise can relieve stress, which keeps many people lying awake at night, but it also regulates our hormones and improves sleep quality.
- Avoid long naps. There’s nothing like a power nap, but it should be kept under an hour to avoid impacting your nights sleep.
- Manage your stress. If you struggle to switch off at night, try to clear your mind before you get into bed. This can be done through meditation, journaling or making a to-do list for the next day.