Sleep is one of the most important parts of your day’s routine. Even though it may seem like nothing is happening after your heads hit that pillow and all the sheep have been counted, the truth is that your mind and body are hard at work.
We’ve all looked back at some point or another and said “I had a terrible sleep last night” and have consequently noticed the following day that we aren’t functioning to the same standard we usually would be. You notice your mood and reaction time is off, you have problems thinking, concentrating, and even remembering things. This is because our mind and body haven’t been given enough time to rest, recharge and repair.
It is said to function at your absolute best you need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Especially for the little ones! It is vital for their developing bodies and brains.
So what does it actually mean to have a good night's sleep? Surely it doesn’t make much of difference….
Having a good nights sleep not only means improved memory, physical health, attention span, energy, creativity and mood, it also contributes to a better mental health, a boost in brain power, strengthening of the immune system and muscle repair.
There are two interacting patterns that our sleep is controlled by. They are the homeostatic sleep drive process and, you guessed it, our body clock. The homeostatic sleep drive process is in short, the balance between being awake and asleep. When you’ve been awake for an extended time period this process kicks in and makes us sleepy. Additionally, it ensures we are asleep for enough time to compensate for the time we’ve been awake. Our body clock, also referred to as Circadian Rhythms, control many of our biological processes, sleep being one of them. These rhythms are created by our central nervous system and are also coordinated with the 24-hour cycle of light and dark, resulting in a routine pattern of night-time sleep.
Jet lag kind of makes sense now doesn’t it? When you’re kept awake your circadian rhythms have been disrupted consequently affecting our body clock, throwing the cycle of sleep off track. Other factors that can disrupt these patterns are stress, day-time napping, oversleeping and interestingly enough, too much exposure to bright light prior to bedtime.
We’ve come to the golden question. What are some ways I can have a good night's sleep? Having a good routine where you’re going to bed and waking up at around the same time as much as possible is number one. Getting enough exercise - but avoiding excessive night-time workouts, staying away from alcohol, caffeine, large meals and cigarettes 4-6 hours before bedtime, avoiding brightly lit devices like mobile phones up to 1 hour before bedtime, having a good room temp where you’re not too cold or warm, and avoiding sleeping in too much on weekends (the hardest one of them all). If all else fails, going into another room and reading a book until sleepy can also be a help!
Now who said sleep wasn’t important?