In this article, we’ll be looking at why sleep is so important, how much of it you need and simple science-backed tips on how to sleep that will help you make the most of sleep every night.
So, sit back and relax as I take you on this life-transforming journey to improved health and productivity.
Why Is Sleep so Important?
There are so many health benefits that stem from getting a good night’s sleep. Contrary to what you may think, your body doesn’t actually “sleep” when you sleep. Rather, it is used this period to carry out some serious “housecleaning” processes that help the mind and body function at maximum efficiency.
Specifically speaking, though, here are some amazing benefits of a good night’s sleep:
- Help manage the appetite, thereby aiding weight loss
- Boost the immune system
- Help to lay off stress
- Reduce the risk of certain cancers such as colon and breast cancer.
- Promote memory, focus and proper brain functioning
- Maintain a healthy heart by regulating the cholesterol levels and blood pressure
- Reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes, myocardial infarction, and stroke
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Okay, now that it’s crystal-clear that you need sufficient sleep to keep ticking, just how much sleep is sufficient?
Well, as far as sleep experts and research studies are concerned, you need 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night before you can reap maximum benefits from sleep.
How to Get the Best out of Sleep Every Single Night
Here’re 10 simple yet powerful ways to help you sleep well:
1. Stay Away from Blue Light at Bedtime
excessive light exposure prior to bedtime can disrupt sleeping patterns and affect overall sleep quality.
How exactly does this happen?
There are two mechanisms behind it. First off, there’s something called the circadian rhythm. This is the body’s biological clock that regulates sleeping and waking up. However, during excessively bright nighttime conditions, (or under exposure to blue light from smartphones and laptops), the brain gets tricked into thinking it’s still daytime, therefore it reduces the production of sleep hormones.
And that brings us to our next point — melatonin. Melatonin is also known as the sleep hormone, as it helps the body to relax and fall into a deep sleep. And as earlier stated, the production of this hormone is significantly reduced under exposure to the blue light generated by smartphones, TV and other electronic gadgets.
2. Practice Sleeping and Waking up at Regular Times
If you want to get the best out of sleep, then you need to keep things consistent. That means you go to bed at a set time every single day and wake up at the specific time each morning.
Why is that so, you may ask?
as earlier stated, your body has a biological clock and that clock is linked to sunrise and sunset. So, maintaining a consistent bedtime every single day (including weekends) enables your body to release the necessary hormones at the perfect time. This enables you to enjoy a sound sleep through the night and wake up fresh and full of life.
3. Stay Away from Alcohol
According to a study published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, it was reported that alcohol consumption at night induced sleep apnea and intense snoring in the tested subjects.
Another study reported a disruption in sleeping patterns among participants who took alcohol before sleep. Other studies have also found that nighttime alcohol consumption affects the production of melatonin, which consequently affects the body’s circadian rhythm.
Whichever way you look at it, alcohol is bad news for sleep. So, as tempting as that glass of wine may seem at 8 PM, stay away from it. Your reward will be a deep, refreshing sleep.
4. Skip the Evening Cup of Coffee
caffeine (in coffee) has a lot of health benefits, ranging from improved focus and energy to enhanced athletic performance. So, it comes as no surprise that over 90% of Americans take caffeine in one form or the other.
But just like most good things in life, moderation is key when taking coffee, especially one containing caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, which by definition, means it simulates your nervous system to keep you awake and alert. Or in other words, keeps you from sleeping.
Interestingly, caffeine can remain active in your system for 6 to 8 hours, which means if you take it too close to bedtime.
5. Get a Quality Mattress and Pillow
When you sleep in a comfortable bed, you feel less pain and enjoy better sleep quality. Studies have also shown that a new mattress and bedding can significantly reduce back pain, back stiffness, and shoulder pain, thereby improving sleep quality.
6. Don’t Nap Too Long During the Day
Taking a quick nap during the day is great, but if it becomes too long, it’ll most likely affect your sleep at night. Here’s why:
Sleeping for long periods during the day can trick your internal biological clock into thinking it’s night time. And this may lead to trouble sleeping at night, as the body releases “wakefulness” hormones instead of sleep hormones.
Research has shown that the best day-time naps are usually no more than 30 minutes.
7. Take a Shower
Never underestimate the power of a shower. Various research studies have shown that people can improve their overall sleep quality by taking a shower before hitting the bed. Even a simple foot bath does the job… especially in elders.
Although the specific mechanism behind this isn’t entirely clear, water does tend to have a relaxing effect on the body and this makes sleep much more enjoyable. Just take
So, if you’re looking for a cheap way of improving your sleep quality, a warm shower before bed isn’t a bad way to go.
8. Empty Your Mind
Sleeping isn’t merely a physical activity, it involves the mind just as much as the body. So, if you want to enjoy your sleep each night, you must learn to empty your mind. And there are different ways of achieving this.
Studies have shown that various relaxation techniques such as reading a book, meditating, listening to soft music and having a relaxing massage, can significantly improve sleep quality. So, you can try various techniques to identify what works best for you.
Also, if you’re the type that worries about the next day a lot, it can help to get a diary and write down every task you need to take care of the following day and how you will get it done. This will help to calm your mind and make it easier to fall asleep.
9. Exercise Regularly
If you’ve been skipping exercise, you’ve been doing yourself a great disservice. Apart from the numerous physical and mental health benefits, it has also been shown to improve sleep quality.
For instance, in one study published in JAMA, it was reported that regular exercise significantly reduced the amount of time it took older adults to fall asleep and increased the normal duration of sleep by 40 minutes. Another study reported that exercise was even more effective for insomnia patients than sleep drugs.
As great as exercise is, though, timing is also important. Experts believe that exercising too close to bedtime can negatively affect sleep. This is due to the stimulatory effect of exercise, resulting from the release of hormones like adrenaline. So, if you must exercise in the evening, make it at least, three hours to your bedtime.
10. Take Sleep Supplements
Remember melatonin? The hormone that tells your body when to hit the bed and relax? Yep, it is available as supplements and you can take it to improve your sleep.
In fact, research has shown that melatonin is one of the easiest means of falling asleep quickly. This is why it is commonly used as a treatment for insomnia.
Melatonin is a prescription drug in some countries, while in other countries, it can be purchased, over the counter. Either way, it is advisable to check in with your doctor before taking melatonin, since it’s a drug that can alter brain chemistry.