Sleep is one of the most important factors affecting a person’s health. It is often something that is overlooked. This is usually because the time that we reserve for relaxation and sleep (evenings) we use it now more often for various other activities which include work exercise and socializing. So let’s look at some sleeping patterns.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) states that sleep is a basic human need and is just as important for good health as diet and physical activity. A good night’s sleep allows the body to wake up fresh and invigorated, ready to face the coming days challenged. Too little sleep results in daytime drowsiness, inability to concentrate, increased risk of accidents and reduces overall productivity and performance.
In the long term, sleep deprivation has been linked to premature aging, digestive disturbances, physiological problems, behavioral disturbances and a myriad of chronic diseases, which include lowered immunity, insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.
Sleep is often considered a passive activity, but while the body rests the brain is active.
During sleep, the body passes through five stages: 1,2,3,4 & REM (rapid eye movement).
- STAGE 1: We can consider the lightest form of sleep the transition from drowsiness to sleep.
- STAGE 2-3: The transition stages to stage 4.
- And STAGE 4: The deep sleep stage. This stage coincides with the release of growth hormone, subsequently, deep sleep allows for physical repair and regeneration of many of the body’s cells.
- REM: The final stage of sleep which is thought to stimulate the brain regions used in learning. REM sleep is especially important during infancy. This is why infants spend much more time in REM sleep than adults.
Sleep scientists generally agree that most adults need between seven and eight hours a night. Getting too little sleep creates a ‘sleep debt’. Eventually, the body will demand that the debt is repaid. If after lying down a person falls asleep within five minutes, then they a probably sleep deprived. Consequently, judgment, reaction time and many other phycological functions are impaired. However, it is common for people to become accustomed to a sleep-depriving schedule.
The following strategies can improve sleeping patterns:
- Set a schedule or time to sleep
- Exercise (but avoid exercise close to bedtime)
- Avoid activating the brain before bedtime
- Avoid watching TV or using screens in bed and for up to two hours beforehand
- Take a warm bath
- Reduce stressful activities
- The darkness should be in complete darkness (use blackout blinds)
- Avoid bedside digital display clocks
- Avoid caffeine less than six hours before bed.
- Also, avoid nicotine and alcohol 9 both disturb sleep)
- Relax before bed
- Don’t go to bed too full or too hungry
- Sleep until sunlight
- Control room temperature (lower temperature improves sleep)