With the average person spending about 24 years of their life asleep, getting a good night's sleep is certainly not something to be ignored. This week is sleep awareness week; a week designated to sharing the importance and quality of sleep on your overall life. A common belief is that sleeping gives the brain time to switch off and relax. Studies have shown that in fact our brain does the complete opposite. While we physically switch off, our brains stay busy conducting biological maintenance to ensure we are functioning in top condition and ready for the next day. Without allowing this important time for our brains to go through this process in full each night, we are limiting the potential we have to function and learn.
Sleep deprivation is the cause of many major illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, depression and brain damage. Not only that, but recent studies have even correlated sleep deprivation and a person's perceived beauty! But in terms of its immediate effects on a person's productivity, it comes as no surprise that sleep deprivation causes a lack of motivation and a decreased attention span.
Clearly not getting enough sleep each night is a major problem, but how much do we actually need? While most studies suggest that 7-8 hours a night is optimal, the amount required for each person may vary. One study found that after only two weeks of receiving 6 hours sleep each night, a person has a similar reaction time to a drunken person with a blood alcohol level of 0.1% - double the legal limit for driving! On the flipside, it was found that adults having more than 7 hours each night tended to live longer.
The problem for most people is fitting this in to our busy lifestyles. Below are 8 tips that will help you get that good night's sleep, you could create a personal sleep profile to help you achieve some of these..
1. Develop a nightly ritual
Do an activity before going to bed that helps you disengage from all the stresses of your day. Some tips that people swear by include stretching for 10 minutes before going to bed, going on a similar walk to clear your mind or reading a book.
2. Develop a morning ritual
Keep your body in a routine by waking up within the same hour every day. It often works best if you can have something to look forward to in the morning – perhaps go to the gym, read a book or just get outside to catch some rays of sunshine.
3. You snooze, you lose!
Avoid pressing the snooze button on your alarm. By fragmenting your sleep with multiple alarms, your body restarts its sleep cycle and enters into even deeper stages of sleep. This means that you will likely be even more tired than before when waking up.
4. Smart alarm
Understanding the sleep cycle and timing your alarms accordingly can have a huge impact on how energised you feel after sleeping. A number of smartphone apps have been developed for iPhone and Android that use the motion sensors in the phone to monitor your sleep, develop patterns, and wake you up appropriately ensuring that you have the best sleep you can in a particular timeframe. You can check some out at Lifehacker.com.
Taking a power nap of about 20-30 minutes can help your body get recharged during the day, ensuring greater productivity. Overextending a nap can mean that you're body enters a new cycle and, without completing this cycle, your body can feel a little disorientated and exhausted. Emily wrote a blog earlier about the benefits of napping during the day; check it out here.
6. Turn off all the lights
Make sure to turn off all bright lights in your room. Lights on a TV, laptop or phone trick your brain into thinking its daytime, making it even more difficult to fall asleep.
7. Only use your bed for sleeping
It's best if your brain associates your bed with sleeping, and only sleeping. Doing other activities in bed such as doing work, watching TV or eating food will make it more difficult to fall asleep at night.
8. Cut down on Alcohol/Caffeine/Cigarettes
While alcohol may allow you to fall asleep faster, and cigarettes may make you feel relaxed, the consumption of all of these alters the sleep cycle and damage the quality of your sleep.
So just remember - cheating sleep makes you weak! Make sure you give your body time to rest up and your brain time to perform repair and maintainence so you can enjoy feeling more energised and productive!