The most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day is sleep.
Our ultimate daily reset is sleep. In his authoritative book “Why We Sleep” neuroscientist Matthew Walker at the UC Berkeley says that we underestimate the benefits of sleep. He notes that in addition to the obvious benefits of rest and replenishment for the body, sleep does great work clearing the detritus of daily emotions and keeps us on track for our responsibilities of daily life.
Well-functioning adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and there are proper benefits if they get this vital reset.
Here are some of the benefits of good sleep:
Stay alert: The mind needs good sleep. Sleep allows your mind to regain focus and tackle mental challenges. It stimulates creativity. It increases concentration which is vital for survival.
Boost memory: Sleep is the most important time for shaping memory and making connections between events.
Fight infection: Sleep is the body’s mechanism to fight off infections. Too little sleep compromises the immune system.
Increase activity: Energy levels are higher after a good sleep, and mental alertness is more acute. Higher athletic performance, greater speed and agility are associated with getting good sleep.
Replenishment: During sleep, the body repairs some of the damage caused by stress, ultraviolet rays and other harmful exposures. Optimal DNA repair occurs with optimal sleep.
On the downside, sleep deprivation vastly increases the likelihood of infections and lowers the effectiveness of our immune systems. It also has a major impact on our cardiovascular system.
The leading causes of death and disease in developed nations are diseases that are crippling health-care systems. These are diseases such as heart disease, dementia, obesity, diabetes and cancer. They all have recognised causal links to sleep deprivation.
Despite the many benefits of a sound sleep regime and vast problems caused by poor sleep hygiene, sleep is still poorly understood and not as extensively researched as one would expect.
Here are some of the most common sleep myths:
*You can make up missed sleep time. People that have missed sleep during the working week sometimes believe that they can sleep-in and catch-up sleep over a weekend. This is a myth. Lost sleep is lost.
*Flagging concentration from lack of sleep can be improved by taking chemical stimulants. Slipping out of the natural sleep rhythm of being awake during the day, and sleeping during the night creates artificial stress. Adding stimulants won’t bring about a desired state of alertness, or rest for that matter. It makes things worse.
*Older people don’t need as much sleep. They make up for lack of sleep by taking naps during the day. In fact, older people need just as much sleep as younger adults but have more wakefulness during the night or early morning due to changes in their brain.
Insomnia is a failure of the body to implement its daily reset. This affects the maintenance of overall health.
Research indicates that one in three people experience lack of sleep known as insomnia. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder where people have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep or can wake up too early in the morning. Almost everyone experiences an episode of insomnia from time to time. There are two types of insomnia: acute insomnia where sleeplessness occurs in brief episodes, or chronic insomnia, where the occurrence is regular and prolonged.
Often caused by stress, chronic insomnia can have long-term mental health consequences including depression, anxiety, poor concentration, weakened coping skills and cognitive impairment. The trappings of modern technology make for more stimulation at all hours of the day and night. The working day used to end at a set hour, but now we are always available and we also rely on technology for our relaxation and entertainment. The presence of cell phones and laptops close to sleeping quarters can play havoc on our sleep cycle and make a restful end of the day less likely.
Some good habits, which are easy to implement, can make a considerable difference in the quality of your sleep.
Here are six tips for setting yourself up for a good night’s rest:
Get a check-up. Make sure that an underlying health issue such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or even heartburn isn’t leading to your sleeplessness. Once you have a clean bill of physical health, you can start implementing the next tips.
De-stress. Stress is one of the leading causes of sleeplessness. Our day time stressors have a way of bubbling to the surface during night hours. This can leave us tossing and turning. One way to manage this is to write down your next day to-do list and prioritise tasks. Also keep a note note pad next to your bed. If worries come calling, write them down and relegate them to deal with tomorrow.
Adopt a ritual.Create and enjoyable bed time ritual that will serve as a signal that it’s time to sleep. The ritual should be calm and peaceful. Draw a warm bath, drink a soothing cup of herbal tea, make a gratitude list or do some reading until your eyes feel heavy.
Set the mood. The atmosphere in your bedroom is key. Banish the electronics.Keep things cool, comfortable and dark. A comfortable bed with breathable good quality bedding is an investment in your health. White noise can make a considerable difference as can calming scents like lavender and sage.
Make some changes. Try to avoid heavy meals, alcohol and caffeine close to bed time. All of these will make falling asleep and staying asleep more challenging. If you must have a clock, face it away from where you sleep so that you won’t see the time should you wake up in the night. Exercise can improve sleep quality since it boost the natural effect of hormones like serotonin. So try to exercise regularly but do it earlier in the day.
Sleep is a gift which we often take for granted. It has a profound impact on our physical and mental health and any improvements you can make to the quality of your sleep will pay dividends in the long run. Boil the kettle, brew a cup, and get ready for your ultimate daily reset.