There’s not a person alive who hasn’t felt the adverse affects from a poor night’s sleep at one time or another. Maybe you got home late or sat up watching the end of a movie. Perhaps you went to bed at the right time but tossed and turned due to stress or caffeine. Either way, the next day is no fun at all. You feel grumpy, emotional, your concentration is lacking you even feel hungrier and are likely to overeat due to the way it affects your hunger hormones. In the short-term lack of sleep is bad enough but over a more extended period, it can be particularly dangerous. This kind of exhaustion is linked to high blood pressure, increased risk of obesity, diabetes, even accidental death. So it’s something that’s worth addressing if you know you’re not sleeping as well as you should. Here are a few things to bear in mind.
Understanding The Types and Stages of Sleep
Not all sleep is created equal, there’s much more that goes into it than your brain merely switching off for the night. During the average night, your brain will cycle through different stages of sleep which each have a different effect on cognition and the body. The majority of sleep in the evening is classed as ‘light sleep’ however this doesn’t mean restlessness.
On a cognitive level, this stage is mainly responsible for processing and ordering memories and dealing with emotion. Its effects on the body are that metabolism regulates too which. The next stage is deep sleep. Deep sleep is mainly responsible for repairing the body – you don’t dream here, and your heart rate drops. You secrete growth hormone, rebuild your body’s cells, and the strengthen the immune system. Most deep sleep is accrued at the beginning of the night.
Finally, there’s rapid eye movement or REM sleep. This is where your brain is most active, your heart rate speeds up and your eyes can dart from side to side under your eyelids much like they would if you were awake and looking around. While deep sleep is all about the body, REM sleep is very much about the mind and cognition. This is the stage of sleep where you will generate vivid, story-like dreams if you wake up at the right time. Most REM sleep occurs towards the end of the night into the morning so it’s important not to be cutting off that extra hour of sleep and aim for seven to eight hours. It also explains why nightmares are more likely to occur and be remembered close to the morning, since this is when most dreaming in general occurs.
Why is a Sleep Schedule So Important?
Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule is one of the best things you can do when it comes to your sleep. Going to bed at the same time each night is easier said than done, but if you’re serious about your health, it’s essential that you try. Waking up early will generally mean you’re tired early and by the time your head hits the pillow, you’re ready to doze off and aren’t lying there wide awake. A fitness tracker is useful for this – as well as tracking your exercise it will also track your sleep and allow you to see the times you were asleep by amongst other things. You can use this to accurately work out your best bedtime.
Create a routine before bed so that your mind knows it’s time to wind down. Take a hot bath, apply some pampering products and give yourself twenty minutes to read a book. Avoid kindles that light up and tablets since the glow emitted can actually affect your sleep cycle. Light is a strong message to the brain saying ‘wake up’- so even the glow from your phone can do this and prevent the hormones needed for sleep being released. Wear earplugs to bed to block out noise – you can check out an earplugs guide online. And install blackout blinds and curtains to stop the morning light waking you up and cutting your sleep short.
What You Can Do About Your Comfort and Sleeping Position
If you’re sleeping on an uncomfortable bed, it will cause you all kinds of issues from neck, back, shoulder and hip pain. Tossing, and turning all night can cause you to wake and disrupt your sleep cycles so don’t overlook your mattress.