The quality of your sleep affects your quality of life. Period. Sleep isn’t a luxury or a guilty pleasure. Your body, mind and soul require rest to be healthy and for you to be at your best.
We spend up to a third of our life sleeping. During sleep, our brain is hard at work restoring and maintaining critical systems. Here’s more information on this amazing process called sleep and how it impacts on our well-being.
During sleep, your brain cycles between two stages: (rapid-eye movement) REM and non-REM. Each lasts about 90 minutes.
The first part of the sleep cycle is non-REM, which has three phases:
Phase 1 is when you’re just falling asleep.
Phase 2 is light sleep. Body temperature drops and heart rate slows.
Phase 3 is deep, restorative sleep when your heartbeat slows the most.
Following the non-rem stage of sleep is, you guessed it, the REM (rapid eye movement) stage. This is when brain activity is most active; the eyes dart quickly from side to side. Most of your dreams happen during this stage; heart rate increases, and breathing is quicker.
Did you know that during REM sleep your arms and legs are temporarily paralyzed? Sleep experts say it’s your brain’s way of protecting you in case your body tries to act out your dreams.
Deep sleep is essential to memory consolidation and increasing cognitive functions.
WHY IS SLEEP SO IMPORTANT?
It’s amazing what your brain and body do during sleep. They sort through everything you went through during the day to toss away what you don’t need and file away any important information you might need later on.
When you don’t get the sleep your body and brain require, you affect your ability to pay attention and focus because of the detrimental impact to your frontal lobe.
Plus, not getting your sleep affects other physiological and metabolic processes, one of which is increasing risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, to name just a couple. And according to research, a lack of sleep is associated with weight gain because of an imbalance between the hormones that make you feel hungry and full.
Here are some of the other benefits you’ll gain from getting quality rest:
- Reduced risk of certain chronic diseases
- Improved emotional health
- Improved cognitive function and sharper mental focus
- Improved energy and feeling refreshed
WAYS TO SLEEP BETTER
First of all, sleep experts recommend that adults should get seven to nine hours of quality sleep daily. A great resource for learning more about sleep is the National Sleep Foundation.
Sleep experts recommend the following tips to sleep better:
- Dim the lights 30 minutes before going to bed
- Make the room temperature comfortable (cooler is better)
- Your mattress, sheets and blankets should be cozy
- Aim for a regular sleep/wake schedule to fall asleep faster and awaken refreshed
- Consider a sleep routine, whether a warm shower before going to bed or light reading
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants 4-6 hours before bedtime
- Avoid big meals in the evening to give your digestive system a break, making it easier to fall asleep
- Make putting cell phones and smart devices away a part of your sleep routine because the light from their screens disrupts sleep by tricking the brain into thinking their light is sunlight, resulting in melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy, not being released into your system.
At the end of the day we need to remember why we sleep. It isn’t about not feeling groggy, foggy, or exhausted. It’s about maintaining our health and well-being. Why? So we can unlock our best life and enjoy many more quality of years of life with those whom we love, serve and cherish.
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash