The Secret To A Good Night’s Sleep
With a 1/3 of the UK population getting by on just 5-6 hours of sleep per night, it’s clear that we need to rekindle our relationship with sleep. In celebration of World Sleep Day, here are some sleeping tips and tattles to help you engage with your inner hibernator.
What happens when we sleep?
The amount of sleep that we require each night is entirely dependent on our age. We might not be lucky enough to enjoy the fifteen hours we once needed as a newborn but, as adults, we should still be getting a minimum of 8 hours sleep every night.
Why is sleep so important, and what happens when we don’t meet our recommended nightly quota?
Sleep is essential to maintaining a healthy body and mind. During the nightly snooze, our bodies undergo a vital process of restoration and repair. Our memories are consolidated, hormones are released, and cells and tissue are repaired. All this and more occurs during what is known as our sleep cycle – a sequence made of four parts, each lasting around 1.5 hours. To achieve what is considered a ‘good night’s sleep’, we need to experience 5-6 stages each night.
At the bare minimum, these four steps are essential to waking up refreshed:
NREM I & II
(Also as ‘non-rapid eye movement’)
These first two stages of the cycle are the lightest and we can be easily roused if woken. Our blood-pressure drops, and our heart-rate decreases.
During the third stage of sleep, our bodies progress into a much deeper state. This is when our body actively replenishes energy and, if woken, you’ll likely feel disoriented.
REM (Also known as ‘Rapid Eye Movement’)
During this final stage of sleep our muscles are paralysed (don’t panic) but, the brain reaches a state of heightened activity. This is when we experience dreams and our eyes quite literally dart back and forth (hence the name!). Unlike NREM sleep, our breathing and heart rate increase to assist the brains oxygen consumption. At times, this can be higher than what we require when awake!
We all know that a bad night’s sleep can make us feel irritable and groggy, but it’s not often discussed that, over a prolonged period, sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and in some cases, diabetes. In the name of health and happy wake-up calls, it’s imperative you prioritise those 8 hours every night.
In the digital age, most of our daily routines involve some form of interaction with technology. A study conducted in 2017 found that, on average, adults spend more than 11 hours each day using electronic devices including TV, phones and laptops. Unfortunately, all that screen time has a detrimental effect on our sleeping patterns, especially when used in the lead up to bedtime. The blue lights emitted from our screens confuse the body’s circadian rhythm – an internal clock that works on a 24-hour system, telling us when to sleep and when to wake. This confusion prevents the body’s nighttime preparation, leading to sleep deprivation and insomnia.
How can I reduce my screen time before bed?
It’s important to actively acknowledge just how frequently you reach for the phone or tablet – more than likely you’re doing it out of habit rather than need. Limiting your screen time after 6pm will help your body prepare for a good slumber.
When screen time is essential, make sure you turn down the brightness on your device. Your body clock will thank you, and so will your eyes.
What to do when sleep doesn’t come easy
Whether it’s the city traffic or an anxious mind keeping you awake, these tips can help you get the good night’s sleep that you’ve been craving:
White Noise - It may seem odd, but sometimes the best way to tackle the noise in our heads is with more noise – white noise, to be precise. Proven to aid sleep disorders and reduce noise pollution, white noise machines are a perfect accompaniment to those looking to have a restorative night’s sleep.
Want to know more? You can read all about the white noise here!
If you’re thinking of incorporating a white noise machine into your nightly routine, take a look at the HoMedics sleep therapy range – these ones are portable so, perfect for use at the office or at home.
Too stressed to rest - It goes without saying, but stress remains one of the key contributors to a bad night’s sleep. Placing our minds in a state of hyperarousal, stress interrupts the circadian rhythm, leaving our heads jumbled and unsettled. Stress and sleep disorders don’t automatically go hand in hand but, it is important to note that correlations are frequently and increasingly made between the two.
How can we destress to make sure our minds and bodies can rest? Meditation is an excellent way of relieving the mind and body of tension, treating and destressing your body all in one go.
Not a practising yogi? Listening to relaxing music is a highly effective stress-management tool. Dim the lights and play some music to ease the pressure and soothe your mind.
The best sleeping position
Looking to shake up your slumber with a new sleeping position? Whether you prefer to snooze on your back or in the foetal position, here’s the low-down on your sleep style.
Stomach Sleepers - This might be a saviour for the snorers but sleeping on your stomach doesn’t come without its cons. Flattening the natural curve of the spine, this position can place excess pressure on the stomach, leading to muscle aches and back pain. If this is your go-to sleeping position, try placing a pillow underneath your hips to ease any excess pressure on the lower spine.
Back Sleepers - Also known as the ‘Savasana pose’ or the ‘Supine position’. Sleeping on your back lets the body align, allowing your organs and respiratory system to work effectively. If you’re prone to sleep Apnea or snoring, however, you may want to give this one a miss as gravity can take its toll.
Side Sleepers - Sleeping on your side is a great option for those looking to provide relief from heartburn or acid reflux. Also referred to as the ‘foetal position’ if you draw the knees up, this position is favoured by many who want to sleep like a baby, literally!
So, there you have it, tips and tricks on the art of sleep. Now all that’s left to do is have a restorative and restful night’s sleep… it is World Sleep Day, after all.