So what happens during sleep?
Sleeping is chance for the body and mind to rest, re-energize and reinvigorate. You first become unconscious and unaware of your environment. There are two main stages of sleep;
REM (Rapid Eye Movement Sleep)
This stage of sleep makes approximately a 1/5 of an individual’s sleep. During this stage, the brain is still awake and extremely active and eyes moves quickly from side to side. On the other hand the muscles remain completely relaxed.
Non REM (Rapid Eye Movement Sleep)
During this stage of sleep the brain remains very quiet and a person still remains unconscious, however; the body moves around more than during REM. This is the most important stage of sleep because beneficial hormones that help the body self-repair after wear and tear of daily activities are released into the bloodstream.
The aim of good sleeping habits is to ensure you sleep continuously during the night alternating from non REM to REM. Effective sleeping habits ensure more non-REM so that your body and mind can rest and self-repair.
Causes of poor sleeping habits and sleep deprivation?
There are numerous and varied causes of sleep, deprivation sleep disruption and poor sleeping habits. These include;
- Medical problems such as obstructive sleeps apnea, stress, hormonal imbalances, depression and other chronic ailments
- Busy schedules that don’t spare enough time for sleep
- Poor eating habits
- Lack of sufficient exercise couple with a sedentary lifestyle
- Pain and breathing problems
- Medications which trigger side effects that affect sleeping
- Frequent urination
Now that we have an idea what happens during sleep and what causes poor sleeping habits. Here is a step by step detailed guideline on how to sleep better.
How to sleep better
Sleeping better and for longer is not complex, all it requires is a few helpful tips done consistently until you internalize and they become part of your daily routine.
Create a pre-sleep routine that works for you
Sleep experts recommend making sleeping a priority by making a schedule; according to these experts having an effective and well-thought out pre-sleep routine is by far the most important part of ensuring you sleep better and for longer. This routine should involve engaging in activities that relax both your body and mind. Consider the following;
- Start by deciding the perfect time to go to be; ensure that you fall asleep not more than 20 minutes after going to bed. If you discover that it takes more than 20 minutes before you sleep then choose a different time.
- Avoid using devices such as tablets and smart phones because they emit blue light that prevent the production of melatonin that is essential in sleeping
- Avoid TV but if you must then consider a relaxing and laid back program such as a comedy
- A shower right before bed can come in handy as it can boost melatonin production. Other viable activities to include reading a relaxing book, painting or a jigsaw puzzle. Some light conversation can also help relax your body and mind in readiness for sleep.
Consider adapting to an exercise regimen a few hours every evening
Does exercise help us sleep better? A handful of reliable studies have proved that exercise promotes restful sleep and substantially improves sleep quality by eliminate sleep apnea and insomnia. Additionally, exercising also increases the amount of time spent in the non REM stage of sleep hence allows for deep, restful and restorative sleep.
However, be careful with exercise by ensuring it is done at least three hours before bedtime. This is because vigorous physical activity stimulates the secretion of stress hormone Cortisol which alerts the brain and can make sleeping a challenge. Exercise is however not a quick fix that guarantees instant gratification; it can take months before you start experiencing the full benefits; the trick is patience and consistency.
Yoga before sleep; just a fad or a real way to sleep better?
Practising yoga is very beneficial to sleep because it helps wind down a busy day by relaxing and calming the body. Unlike vigorous exercise that stimulates the production of cortisol, yoga involves gentle stretches folds and twists that relax muscles and calm the mind.
Relaxed muscles and a calm mind make sleeping easier and faster. Concluding yoga exercise with meditation will also come in handy in further relaxing your body and mind for sleep. There is also the added advantage that yoga and meditation will help you do away with hard-to-break habits such as binge watching reality TV while snacking.
Consider sleeping necked
Is it better to sleep necked or is this just a myth? Experts at Cleveland Sleep Clinic recommend sleeping necked to substantially improve the quantity and quality of sleep. I am sure you are wondering how sleeping necked improves your quality of sleep! Pretty simple, for a person to sleep comfortably the core body temperature needs to reduce by about ½ a degree and to stay asleep that ideal body temperature must be regulated.
Sleeping in the nude makes it easier for the body to temperature to reduce quicker and also makes it very easy to maintain that lower temperature. The next time you consider swaddling yourself in blankets and quilts think again! Sleeping nude is really a flawless system that regulates body temperature making you sleep better, uninterrupted and for longer.
Be smart and selective about your diet
What you eat and drink plays a big role in determining how long you sleep. What you eat a few hours before going to sleep is particularly important. Here are a few tips on foods that can help you sleep better;
Start by limiting nicotine and caffeine consumption; Unknown to most people caffeine can affect sleep until 10-12 hours after consumption. Similarly nicotine is also a powerful stimulant that can dismally affect sleep especially if you smoke too close to bedtime.
Avoid talking large meals to close to bedtime; this means you have to take dinner earlier (at least three hours before you go to bed). Avoid heavy and rich foods because richly acidic and spicy foods can cause heartburns and stomach trouble which makes sleeping a challenge.
Alcohol before bed is an absolute no; while a nightcap can definitely relax you, it will interfere with your sleep cycle causing long term effects to your sleep pattern. Also avoid drinking too many liquids because they will result in frequent urination which will interrupt sleep.
Avoid late night snacking; Apart from leading to a larger waistline, snacking will also cause significant fluctuations in your sleep cycle. Research has ascertained that the sugary foods, snacks, cookies and other baked goods can have implications on your digestive system making it harder to fall asleep and causing you to wake up often hence disrupting sleep.
Under the guidance of your doctor take supplements that can help promote better sleep
Medical supplements such as melatonin and chamomile tea have been proven safe and effective in promoting quality and quantity of sleep. Chamomile tea has been used for years and there is now irrefutable proof to back up the fact that it has calming effects improve sleep.
Melatonin on the other hand is also very effective; it is a naturally occurring hormone that is released by the body in cycles throughout the day. It is very beneficial in increasing alertness during the day and helping the body to relax and rest at night. Sometimes sleep deprivation and interrupted sleep is a result of low production of melatonin; by taking a supplement the body will have enough supply to relax your body and mind. Other supplements that can help you sleep include l-theanine, GABA, magnesium and valerian.
Take the prerogative to improve your sleep environment (make your bedroom a sanctuary)
Even little changes to your sleep environment will make a big difference in readying your mind for sleep. A peaceful and calm environment sends a powerful signal to the brain that it is time to let go of the days stresses and relax. Here are a few tips;
- Reduce the noise; if you can’t avoid or completely eliminate it then how about earplugs?
- Keep your bedroom cool and ensure adequate ventilation
- Ensure your bed is comfortable; a great bed should be big enough to allow for stretching and turning. Also consider pillows for added comfort.
- Reserve your bed for sex and sleep; by not working or watching Television in bed you are sending a signal to your brain to associate the bedroom with sleep and pleasure which makes it easier to wind down.
Finally here are some additional tips on getting back to sleep if you wake up in the middle of the night;
It is normal to have a hard time getting back to sleep; here are some tips that will come in handy
- Try as much as you can to stay out of your head because stress will make your body and mind alert and awake for longer. To stay out of your head, consider meditation and breathing exercises
- Keep in mind that the goal is complete relaxation not getting back to sleep; if you are having a hard time falling asleep then your body and mind are not relaxed enough.
- A quiet and calming non-stimulating activity will be very helpful; if you have been trying to fall asleep unsuccessfully for more than 30 minutes then consider a non-stimulating activity such as reading a relaxing book. Also keep the lights dim so as not to send cues to your body that it is time to wake up.
Although falling asleep may seem like impossibility if you suffer from insomnia and disrupted sleep, good sleep is actually under your control. These simple yet effective tips will a make the difference between restful slumber and restlessness.