Sleep Health – Are You Getting A Good Night’s Sleep? Your Life Depends Upon It!
Everyone, at some time or another, has bemoaned their need for sleep. As a playing child, adventure seeking young adult, or a ‘grown-up’ with work and family pressures – there are just not enough hours in the day.
If we didn’t sleep, we could do more, right?
Recent research has turned this concept totally on its head. A lack of adequate sleep - both in terms of quantity and quality - has a direct correlation to severe health problems, longevity, quality of life, and productivity.
Even setting aside the health implications, reduced sleep quite simply results in reduced effectiveness in all we do, which includes enjoying our waking hours.
As far as our health is concerned, the implications are huge. Some prominent sleep specialists claim that sleep is even more important than diet and exercise in determining health outcomes.
This guide explains why good sleep is essential to our health and wellbeing. It discusses specific health issues related to sleep disorders, and how sleep problems affect age groups differently.
Probably of greatest benefit, it provides natural solutions to overcoming sleep disorders, and how to get a better night’s sleep. This knowledge is invaluable to the many people who suffer from a lack of effective sleep but can’t seem to find a solution that works for them.
Importance of Sleep for Health
There is plenty of scientific evidence which proves the health benefits of getting quality sleep. Sleeping for at least 8 hours, the more, the better, can improve your health considerably.
Alternatively, chronic sleep deprivation is problematic as it increases the risk of disease, obesity and many other serious illnesses, which is why it is crucial to get high-quality sleep every night.
Unfortunately, sleep remains under-appreciated by many people, as they continue to steal their sleep time for ‘catch-up’ work or playtime. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the increase of Alzheimer’s and other mental health issues are on the rise.
Sleeping Cleans Your Mind
A good night’s sleep can greatly help our brain restore and consolidate memories. Think of your brain as a computer. A computer needs defragging when it gets clogged to help put all the files back into place.
Your brain is similar! Scientists have discovered that it is only when a person sleeps that the brain activates its nocturnal cleaning services. Therefore, the brain undergoes its detoxification process during sleep.
The Brain’s Cleaning System
A group of researchers discovered that the brain’s glymphatic system is highly active during sleep. The glymphatic system basically cleans out the trash, toxins, and waste, which can be the primary culprit, not just for Alzheimer’s, but for many other neurological problems.
Researchers have also revealed that during sleep the brain removes much of the beta-amyloid protein, that when left to accumulate can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
Brain Cells Shrink During Sleep
Another interesting fact is that brain cells shrink up to 60% during sleep. This shrinkage allows easier cleaning in and around the spaces of the brain’s cells. This means more cerebrospinal fluid can enter the brain, enabling faster and efficient toxin flushing.
The cerebrospinal fluids pass through the gaps in between the neurons, then flow through the bloodstream and into the liver for detoxification. This process gets rid of the toxins and wastes for good.
During sleep, there are certain parts of the brain that are more active than any other periods within the 24-hour cycle. This is because there are other functions that need to be carried out during sleep besides cleaning, and some of these include the following:
Sleeping greatly dictates what and how much information we either remember or forget. Through sleep, the brain will be able to enhance and/or preserve certain parts of our memory.
Research reveals that the memories that have the greatest emotional value will be enhanced through sleep, while those memories with lesser value will be downgraded.
People also need to have at least 7-8 hours of sleep so their brains will be able to carry out automatic processes of the body, such as hormone manufacture and secretion, in an optimal manner.
Better bone health requires quality sleep. Yes, diet and exercise play a part, but sleep is a necessary requirement. Sleep is necessary for the production of healthy bone marrow, which contains stem cells that form healthy blood cells. This complex process cannot be performed without sleep. So if you want to have healthy bone marrow, make sure you get plenty of shut-eye.
Our body is full of hormones, all of which do different, essential things. We have our stress hormones, such as cortisol, adrenaline hormones, our sexual hormones, thyroid hormones and more.
All these essential hormones are affected by sleep or a lack thereof. If our hormones are out of balance, so too is our health, either mentally or physically. Therefore, getting the right amount of sleep will help rebalance your hormones and your health.
Again, sleep is important for two more major parts of our body, the heart, and the liver. The health of these major organs is essential to our total wellbeing, so it makes sense to start caring for them by getting quality sleep.
Although sleep appears to be an easy task for the body to perform, it is actually a complex process. It is definitely more than just a period of quiescence for the mind and body.
If you want a healthy mind and body, you need to care for it the best and easiest way possible, and that is to sleep! It doesn’t require you to measure food portions or count carbs or calories, or whatever your preference for maintaining a healthy weight may be, or running around the park, or pushing weights at the gym.
It simply means making the time to sleep, and sleeping for an adequate period of time.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea – Causes, Symptoms and Treatments
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most prevalent type of sleep apnea. It is a common sleeping problem that affects too many people! A person who suffers from this condition will periodically wake up throughout the night because of an obstruction in their airway.
Often this obstruction is caused by their soft palate or other muscles and tissues in the throat area.
These tissues relax and fall back into the throat, causing an obstruction. The body tries to wake itself up in order to breathe again, once the lack of breathing has been detected. It is vitally important to address this issue as there have been many instances where obstructive sleep apnea has been fatal.
Effects of Sleep Apnea
Due to the frequent interruptions to their sleep, a person suffering from sleep apnea is likely to be tired and unfocused during the day. Some people describe feeling totally exhausted and as if they are walking around in a daze.
Everyone needs to achieve deep sleep so that the body is revitalized and to be able to function the next day. If a person doesn’t get the sleep they need due to experiencing sleep apnea, they may become weaker and more susceptible to infections and illnesses as their immune system breaks down.
Our body heals and recharges while it is asleep, therefore, waking constantly throughout the night greatly impairs this vital process.
Possible Causes of Sleep Apnea
There are a variety of different factors to take into consideration when trying to determine the cause of obstructive sleep apnea. Excessive weight or obesity is one common factor.
Since an overweight person has more fat deposits in the throat area than a lean person, they have a higher chance of suffering from sleep apnea. Older people are also more prone to the condition because their muscles and tissues are generally softer and looser than those of a younger individual.
Anyone who has obstructive sleep apnea will wake up periodically at night, but not everyone will remember their repeated waking episodes in the morning.
Fortunately, there are other symptoms that we can watch out for, such as unexplained sleepiness during the day, loss of memory, anxiety, irritability, sporadic mood swings and depression.
If you notice any of these signs and can't find any logical explanation for them, it's possible that you may have sleep apnea and it's advisable to see a doctor right away.
They will probably schedule you for an appointment in a sleep clinic, where you spend the night in the hospital hooked up to a sleep monitor. The readings will let the clinician know how often you stop breathing and how often you wake.
Obstructive sleep apnea can be (and often is) dangerous and debilitating. Fortunately, there are several possible treatments that can be used.
One popular treatment is with the use of a CPAP - Continuous Positive Airway Pressure - machine. This machine pumps air into the throat as the person sleeps, keeping their airways open. The treatment can take some getting used to as it requires wearing a mask at night.
The machines can also be expensive, so many people are hesitant in purchasing this very necessary machine, especially if they have no health insurance benefits to help cover the costs.
Another viable option is ‘Positional Therapy.’ This simply means modifying the current sleeping position to make breathing disturbances less probable. Elevating your head with pillows or raising your mattress may be beneficial.
If your sleep apnea is a result of excess weight, make an effort to speak with a dietician and/or go for a walk each day. Whatever you do, if you have sleep apnea, make some changes today. It is too important an issue to ignore.
Sleep Apnea in Children
The word ‘apnea’ comes from a Greek word meaning ‘without breath.’ According to statistics, 1 in every 10 children in the world suffers from sleep apnea. Out of all these cases, approximately 20% are life-threatening.
What's even more worrying is that sleep apnea in children cannot always be easily diagnosed. Unlike in adults where the signs are easily discernible, it can be difficult to determine whether or not a child is indeed suffering from sleep apnea.
Much of the problem in getting an accurate diagnosis is that the symptoms can be common to other conditions. Vigilant observation by the parents is required if sleep apnea is suspected.
Common Signs of Sleep Apnea in Children
Sometimes the root cause of sleep apnea is the enlargement of the tonsils or adenoids. If this is suspected to be the issue, a simple diagnostic imaging procedure can be performed to see if these tissues are abnormally large. If necessary, arrangements can be made so that they can be surgically removed.
Some of the more common signs include:
If you have noticed any of these symptoms in your child, it is possible that they may be suffering from sleep apnea. For a correct diagnosis, it is necessary to take your child to the doctor as soon as possible. Typically, the doctor will refer your child for a polysomnography, or sleep study test. This is often done overnight at your local hospital.
Additionally, your doctor will ask you questions about your child’s recent sleeping patterns to enable an accurate diagnosis. Once the test results are returned, and the condition confirmed an appropriate treatment will be prescribed.
Effects of Sleep Apnea
Tragically, many young lives have been lost due to sleep apnea. Many people think this condition only affects adults, and as a result parents are often not adequately informed about the dangers. In order to prevent any dire consequences, remember that it is always better to be proactive when it comes to serious disorders such as this.
If you have noticed any of the symptoms mentioned above, take action! Don’t just assume they will grow out of it. If for any reason there is a delay in seeing your family doctor, video your child sleeping, as this will help speed up any diagnosis.
The recommended treatment methods for sleep apnea in children are quite simple, considering the grave circumstances if left untreated.
For example, if your child is overweight or inactive, it is important to implement some healthy outdoor exercise. Make it fun! Keep your child engaged with nature.
Start walking to school, or walk to the local store. Go swimming, or skating, or whatever sport is in your area. You could even enroll the whole family in some martial arts classes.
Studies indicate that people of all ages who are active and maintain a healthy weight are less likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
There is no question that sleep apnea in children can be a concern, especially for parents. You can take comfort in the fact that once detected, there are solutions available. Being a competent parent means being aware and observant and taking appropriate action early.
Music for Better Sleep
Do you have trouble drifting off to sleep? Perhaps your mind wanders endlessly the minute you place your head on your pillow, where you start thinking about who said what during your day.
Or perhaps you live in an apartment block and have noisy tenants around you. If you answered yes to any of the above questions, music might be something to look into as a natural solution.
It is certainly common to replay things that happened during your day as you try to fall asleep. Often we go over things in our heads, working out what to do tomorrow, or worse, wishing we had handled a situation differently. None of this is conducive to quality sleep. Stress from work or home can wreak havoc with your bedtime routine.
Being able to quieten your mind, by listening to some melodic music may help you relax and prepare you for entering your dream state. Focusing on the music and not your thoughts can help you drift away more quickly.
However, the music you listen to shouldn’t be ‘song’ music. You shouldn’t be laying there singing to yourself! It should be soft and gentle instrumental music. Peaceful music, not music you want to sing or dance to!
Play Music for Children at Bedtime
If you happen to enjoy loud or violent movies once the kids are tucked into their beds, playing music in their bedrooms may be a wise idea. Studies have shown that children who listen to classical music such as Beethoven, Mozart or Bach, tend to be better problem solvers and potentially better at math later in life too.
Even if you are watching your adult shows once the kids are asleep, their subconscious minds are still awake; therefore, they may appear to be unconscious and sleeping, but at some level, their brains are still detecting the violence and horror.
Blocking out the sounds of screeching cars, or shooting, or bombs going off, is highly recommended! Instead of filling their beautiful minds with ugliness, try some classical music.
Different Kinds of Music
As mentioned above, it is better to choose wordless music, otherwise you may inadvertently be singing along in your head. It’s easy to want to play your favorite songs.
Instead, select harmonic, relaxing music similar to what you may find in a wellness center, or even a romantic restaurant, which can transport you to a calm, serene place.
There are many ways you can listen to music at bedtime, and there are a variety of free downloads of virtually any kind of music you desire. Try not to use your laptop or other electrical devices that shine light in your room. Many iPod docking stations double as alarm clocks, so you could play your new bedtime tunes that way.
Music styles to help you induce restful sleep include:
Whatever music you first decide on, just make sure it helps you fall asleep, and if it doesn’t, try a different genre!
Helpful Stop Snoring Aids and Options
Approximately half of the world’s population snores to some degree. While most snorers do this on a tolerable level, there are some snorers that snore loudly enough that they disturb the whole household.
Needless to say, loud, continual snoring can be bothersome to the snorer and their family.
Naturally, you should try sleeping on your side or stomach to stop snoring. However, when this easy option doesn’t work, then stop-snoring devices may prove to be of benefit to you.
There are plenty of methods on the market today that can assist in silencing the noisy situation. These products are specifically designed to enable snorers and their families to get a good night's sleep.
The first method you may wish to explore is the over-the-counter strips that you place on your nose, similar to a thin, flexible bandage. These ‘Breathe-Right’ strips help to open the nostrils, therefore enabling more air to pass through.
Check your local drugstore or pharmacy to see if this option is available to you. It is probably one of the least expensive and least invasive options available.
Different Types of Anti-Snoring Devices
Apparatus designed to stop snoring come in all shapes and sizes. Some of the most popular products are those that can be bought over the counter without a doctor's prescription. Here are a few of those items you may like to try.
Throat sprays are dual-purpose in their action. Firstly, they lubricate the throat and allow air to pass through more easily. Secondly, they can bring down the swelling of the tonsils and adenoids, further reducing another cause of snoring.
Nasal dilation aids, which are similar to little nose bandages, keep the nasal air passages open while sleeping so you can breathe through your nose instead of the mouth.
Special pillows can also be used. Snoring is far more likely to occur if you sleep flat on your back, and/or if you sleep with a thin pillow. For chronic snorers, it is preferable to sleep on your side so that there is less pressure on the airways.
If you have a difficult time staying in this position while sleeping, it is recommended that you invest in a pillow which is specifically designed to prevent or reduce snoring.
However, if you really can't stop yourself from sleeping on your back, try elevating your head by using a thicker, firmer pillow instead of a thin, flimsy one.
Some people may find it helpful to place pillows under the head of their mattress in order to elevate their bed. Experiment with your pillow and see which setup feels the most comfortable and gives the best results.
There are other devices similar to mouth guards which are used to keep the mouth closed and the throat open at the same time. These devices are especially useful for people who not only snore regularly but who also have sleep apnea.
If you are interested in using these mouthpieces, you will have to see your dentist as they will fit you with a properly fitting device.
Mouthpieces — Pros and Cons
Mouthpieces are by far the most popular snoring prevention devices. The main advantage of these devices is that they are very easy to use. They are available in all forms and price ranges, so there will certainly be one that fits your mouth and your budget.
An anti-snoring mouthpiece works by keeping your tongue in place as you sleep, thereby keeping your air passages open and reducing the chance of snoring. It may feel uncomfortable to use in the beginning, but after a couple of nights, you will get used to the sensation of having the device in your mouth.
Many people prefer using a mouthpiece over other snoring prevention devices because they are less intrusive. Some may worry that the mouthpiece will force their teeth out of place, but that is not likely.
Unlike a retainer, an anti-snoring mouthpiece will not put pressure on your teeth. Its only purpose is to keep your air passages open while you sleep.
Another Option, if Over-The-Counter Options Fail
You can experiment with the above non-surgical solutions first. Should all these simple options fail to prevent your snoring, you may need to discuss with your doctor the option of surgical treatments.
There is also another alternative to traditional methods of snoring prevention, and it is called ‘Radiofrequency Tissue Reduction’ or ‘Somnoplasty.’ In this simple, out-patient procedure, the space between the nose and throat is enlarged to make breathing during sleep an easier process.
If all else fails, you can try sewing a tennis ball into your pajamas, so that you can’t roll onto your back and snore. There’s more than one way to help you stop snoring!
Sleep Problems in Seniors
As many people age, their sleep patterns change. Some may find it more difficult to sleep, while others fall asleep on a whim. Contrary to popular belief, sleep needs do not decrease as individuals age.
Although they may not be as active as they once were, they still need to get plenty of sleep to stay healthy – both physically and mentally.
Common Factors That Cause Sleeping Problems
Many older people complain that it takes them longer to fall asleep compared to when they were younger. They also complain of an increase in the number of times they wake up during the night, and the increased difficulty in getting back to sleep if they do.
Another contributing factor to sleep problems experienced among the aged population is the presence of physical or mental illness. These illnesses are often treated with prescription medications, and many of these medications come with side effects, which can include sleeping problems.
Next, they may have a change in their circadian rhythm, which can be yet another factor that affects their ability to achieve quality sleep. Many seniors find themselves feeling sleepy during the early evening, so they need to retire early, and in doing so they are wide awake very early in the morning. Experts have not yet found conclusive evidence which explains why these changes in a person’s circadian rhythm occur as people age.
Insomnia is a condition that often becomes more prevalent among the senior population. Unfortunately, insomnia has been associated with an increased risk of many diseases and poor overall health, such as an increase in falls and injuries, and cognitive impairment.
In some cases, insomnia appears to be the result of other medical conditions. However, it is more often than not the precursor of these conditions. Seniors diagnosed with insomnia have often been found to be suffering from cardiovascular, or respiratory disease, diabetes, hypertension and/or mood disorders.
Sleep Deprivation Can Lead to Serious Consequences
Regardless of age, our brain goes through a self-cleaning process when we sleep. This is one reason why sleep deprivation can lead to many health problems. A lack of sleep means the brain cannot do what it needs to do, and one of those needs is to clean out toxic waste.
If the brain cannot clean itself, and the toxic waste builds up in the brain’s cells, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders may come into existence, or worsen. Sufficient sleep is crucial for keeping the brain cell wastes at a level where they do not become a serious health concern.
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Usually snoring is seen as an annoying problem, rather than a sign of something more serious, such as sleep apnea. Whether it is a sign of sleep apnea or not, there is no doubt that snoring is a very disruptive behavior to quality sleep. Many snorers are woken up by their own snorts.
If snoring issues are left unchecked, and if it is in fact due to OSA or Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a person’s breathing stops for a lengthy period of time, and this can significantly affect an individual’s level of oxygen present in the blood. This leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Sleep apnea can also cause excessive daytime sleepiness, which again exacerbates the annoying circle of disrupted sleep patterns.
Restless Legs Syndrome
This is another annoying sleep problem for seniors. RLS is characterized by an irresistible urge to move the legs. Although RLS or Restless Legs Syndrome can occur during the day, it often occurs at night, which is when the symptoms become worse. Although the symptoms may vary from one person to another, most seniors complain about their need to move their limbs once they are in bed.
Seniors need their sleep, so whatever it takes to make them comfortable and sleepy is worth trying. If they can get a good night’s sleep every night, their physical health will improve, and their brain will stay clean and healthy too.
Food and Drink Habits That Can Cause Sleep Problems
Do you always feel sleep-deprived? If you do, you may be unknowingly doing a few things that negatively affect your sleep. Some of these habits may not even be considered ‘bad’ however, where your sleep is concerned they certainly could be.
Eat Protein Foods Moderately
Protein is a great food source and essential for health. The reason you have to eat protein in moderation is due to the length of time it takes to digest.
If you are a keto dieter, don’t despair, you can eat as much as you want through the day, just eat a moderate amount at night. If you are counting your macros, you will anyway.
Don’t Eat Over-Sized Meals Before Bed
The size of your meal and its food type composition affects the length of time your body needs to digest it. If you eat a huge dinner, you will have to allow several digestion hours.
This digestive process will not help you fall asleep. If you want to eat large meals, eat them at lunchtime, not dinnertime. If possible, limit your calorie intake at night.
Another night-time eating tip is to avoid eating spicy foods. That way if you are prone to experiencing heartburn and indigestion, you won’t suffer the consequences, and you will get to sleep without the added pain and discomfort.
Avoid Snacking After Dinner
One more thing. If you have been good and had an early dinner, don’t spoil it by after-dinner snacking! Perhaps your stomach is sending out grumbling signals near supper-time. Ignore them and go to bed. Sleeping on a full stomach will disrupt your body’s ability to follow its natural sleep-wake cycle.
Plus, after eating, your body produces C-peptide, which helps insulin perform its job, and the production of C-peptide has also been associated with decreased levels of melatonin.
Melatonin is required by the body to get to sleep, and food consumption lowers melatonin levels in the body. This means your body has a harder time getting to sleep.
Don’t Drink Bladder Stimulating Beverages
Avoid drinking too much fluid, especially the bladder stimulating ones, before bedtime. If you do, you will naturally be woken up by the call of nature. Beverages that contain stimulants also speed up your heart rate which can prevent you from falling asleep.
Most of us are already aware of how caffeine can affect sleep patterns. Even moderate amounts of caffeine can cause sleep disturbances. Coffee, tea, cola, and some chocolate drinks may contain caffeine. It is advised to drink any of these beverages at least four to six hours before retiring.
Don’t Drink Alcohol for Sleep
Many people drink an evening ‘night-cap’ thinking it will help them get a good night sleep. Unfortunately, this is not what studies indicate. Research shows that alcohol can interfere with a person’s REM sleep. This will cause them to feel foggy-headed in the morning.
It is not necessarily the alcohol causing the foggy head, but the lack of good sleep. Although a person can feel sleepy soon after drinking a few glasses of alcohol, it is a short-term effect of alcohol in the body.
Alcohol intake has never been associated with quality sleep. Alcoholic may send you off to sleep faster, but it may also cause you to experience periods of wakefulness. Just like caffeine, it is best to avoid any alcoholic beverages at least four hours before your bedtime.
Avoid Bad Bedtime Habits to Enable Better Sleep
Once upon a time in the land of nod… well not quite, but centuries ago, going off to sleep was easier than it is today. That’s because times have changed and today we are surrounded by stimulating sounds, lights, and modern gadgets. It gets harder to unwind and relax from the daily stressors of life.
We need an effective night-time ritual. One that is conducive to getting to sleep. One of the ways to start is to remove the habits that stop us from going to sleep in the first place. Here are a few habits you may be doing that you could, or should, avoid, in order to get the quality sleep you need.
Don’t Exercise Before Bed
Exercise is great! Don’t stop exercising, but make sure you don’t just before jumping into bed. It’s okay to hit the gym straight after work, so long as you do it at least three hours before your bedtime.
If you don’t, you will quite possibly have a sleepless night. Less than three hours is not enough time to give your body the chance to get over its adrenaline boost and increased energy levels.
Exercising energizes your body, and it can be challenging to wind down from a strenuous routine. As a result, you will have the urge to stay up late, even into the wee hours of the morning. Isn’t that how you feel if you are out and about, partying and dancing?
It is best to exercise in the morning or no later than mid-afternoon to give your body enough time to cool down and achieve the sleep your body needs. Exercising just before you retire can cause you to take a long time to drift off to sleep.
Another reason you shouldn’t exercise right before bed is because your body’s temperature is supposed to drop, in order to prepare for the physiological initiation of sleep.
If you exercise before bedtime, you will be raising your body’s temperature making it difficult for your body to facilitate the entrance into sleep and its deep sleep phases.
Turn Off All Lights and Make Your Bedroom Dark
Darkness induces sleep. You need to make your bedroom as dark as possible in order to trigger your sleep-induction hormones. A dark room will help enable your brain to trigger the production of melatonin, which begins to make you feel sleepy.
Night-shift workers need to make their room dark for their health. Studies have shown that light-filled rooms affect sleep quality and long-term health.
Turn Off the Bedroom TV
Your body cannot produce melatonin if the TV is on. If you think you’ll watch the late-night movie to go to sleep by, you are in fact fighting your own natural sleep hormones. The more time you spend in front of the TV, the more you are ruining your own body-clock.
TV programs stimulate your brain, and the artificial light emitted is also disrupting your body’s ability to produce the melatonin hormone. If you really want to watch television at night, set limits. Turn it off at least an hour before retiring.
Don’t Check Your Emails and/or Social Media
If you keep your brain busy in front of the computer, you are depriving it of the chance to slow down and be prepared for sleep. Also, the blue light emitted by device screens has been shown to keep the brain in a wakeful state. If you need to check your emails and social networking sites, do it at least an hour before your bedtime.
Many social media addicts suffer from sleep deprivation. They may spend several hours during the night actively chatting with their friends and posting messages, only to find themselves sleepy and suffering the effects the next day. Long-term, this habit is detrimental to their physical and mental health.
If you are a workaholic, don’t finish work you can leave until tomorrow. Your mind will be more alert if you stop everything right now and get a good night sleep. It isn’t going to go anywhere, so relax and rest and start fresh tomorrow.
Do You Have a Bedtime Ritual?
The human mind loves routines. This is why one of the best ways to signal your mind and body that it is almost bedtime is to have your own pre-bedtime rituals.
These may include brushing your teeth, taking a warm bath or shower, preparing your clothes for the next day, or listening to soft music. These routines you set and do repeatedly at the same time each night will help put you in the right mindset for bringing on a good night’s sleep.
Signs You Are Sleep Deprived
We may assume that we are perfectly healthy after losing crucial sleep time. However, research has shown that losing sleep can have an impact on our wellbeing.
Below is a list of some seemingly ‘mild’ consequences of sleep deprivation, and how they can impact our quality of life.
Are You Finding it Difficult to Focus?
Chronically depriving yourself of sleep can lead to problems such as focusing on set tasks. This occurs because if you are not able to get enough sleep, your brain’s ‘locus coeruleus’ neurons will degenerate.
This degeneration makes it difficult for the brain to send the right signals to the cortex. This results in the brain being unable to receive a message saying it is time to concentrate.
Have you ever noticed when you are tired that your mind wanders and you start to drift off the set task? Where did you go? You may find yourself zoning out!
If you are working on the computer or typing, you may notice you have made many typographical errors.
These little things may seem harmless in some applications, but what if it happens when you are driving? How many times have you heard a person has had an accident due to inattention or worse, they have dozed off?
Committing errors not only impairs job performance, but it can be the cause of accidents and even death. These are why they are not considered ‘mild’ but serious circumstances.
Are You Forgetful?
Have you noticed yourself forgetting things more regularly? Perhaps you keep forgetting where you put your keys or your phone. Or do you keep looking for your glasses, and find them perched on your head?
Even if you want to deny that you are becoming forgetful, experiencing moments like these, may well and truly mean you are becoming sleep deprived.
Every stage of sleep has an impact, not just on a person’s memory but on all aspects of their brain’s health. You need your sleep in order for your brain to do what it needs to do.
Are You Unable to Remain Attentive?
One of the direct effects of sleep deprivation, or any other condition that deprives you of sleep, including insomnia, is being unable to remain attentive. If we are sleep deprived for too long, our attention span levels are significantly reduced.
The worst-case scenario is if you are sleep deprived for many days, that damage to the brain’s neurons can be irreversible. This has been shown by expert research and studies.
Are Your Decision-Making Skills Impaired?
Having a weary, worn-out, sleep-deprived brain can cause you to become slow at making decisions. Your brain will always try to conserve power and when it is sleep deprived it will only try to handle one task at a time, and at a reduced cognitive rate. If you need it to handle multiple tasks at once, you will feel scrambled.
Your brain will also find it hard to look at the picture as a whole when dealing with a certain situation. That is just overloading your already tired brain. This is why sleep deprivation is associated with bad decision-making and why sleep loss is one of the biggest factors linked to health and safety.
It’s Time to Get A Good Night Sleep
Quality sleep is vital if you want to keep your mind and body functioning at an optimal level. When we sleep we are giving our body (including our brain) the chance to rebuild, repair, heal and grow.
It is also through quality sleep that we are able to release stress which accumulates in the body during the day. It is only during sleep that the brain’s mental processes slow down, and perform the essential restorative actions it must.
Knowing that we need to sleep in order to remain healthy, it is important to know how we can wake up feeling refreshed and revitalized in the morning. In order to do that, you may like to try these helpful tips.
Regulate Your Circadian Rhythm
You may have heard of this term, but perhaps not too sure of what it is. If your circadian rhythm is working well, your body will want to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Even if you work and you are up early, your body will want to do this on the weekend too, in spite of your hopes of sleeping in.
Your body/mind loves consistency, and this consistency is very important when trying to improve your body’s sleep-wake cycle. First, make sure to retire at around the same time every night.
Then, if you want to change your sleep schedule, such as going to bed earlier, give your body time to adjust by making small incremental changes to your bedtime ritual. For example, make adjustments of 20 or 30 minutes to your schedule.
Sticking to your bedtime schedule will help you get the right amount of sleep you need, and when you get it right, you won’t even need an alarm clock. Your own body clock will do the waking up for you.
Watch Your Napping Time
While napping is definitely effective at making up for lost sleep, it should not be done for more than thirty minutes. Power napping is effective and only needs to be for approximately 20 minutes. If you sleep longer, you may even feel groggy when you wake up.
Napping should also be done in the early afternoon, just after lunch is best, rather than napping too close to retiring. If you are an insomniac, it will be better if you don’t nap. If you do you will only make your sleep scheduling worse, and your night will likely be another sleepless one.
Boost Your Melatonin Hormone Production
Melatonin is our body’s naturally occurring sleep hormone. Its production is regulated by our exposure to light. Your brain needs plenty of melatonin at night to make you sleep, and less during the day to help you stay alert.
Make sure the light in your bedroom is turned off so that your body’s melatonin production will not be disrupted. The darker, the better – even a little will impair the quality of your sleep.
If avoiding lights at night makes you fall asleep, having exposure to light during the day is just as essential. When your body is exposed to too much light at night, your body will believe that it is day time.
Alternatively, you need to get plenty of real sunlight during the day to keep you awake and help with your own natural body clock. Exposing yourself to daylight in the very early morning will ‘switch on’ your brain.
If you start feeling tired at work, take the time to go outside during your break, and feel the sun’s rays. By doing so you will be subjecting your body to its much-needed sunlight.
Make Your Bedroom the Right Temperature
Sleep research shows better sleep is achieved when the environment is slightly cool rather than too warm, for the whole sleeping phase. When we sleep, our core temperature drops slightly, and this is necessary for quality sleep. Sleeping in an area or bedroom that is too warm will thwart your body’s ability to cool down and fall asleep.
Add Tryptophan-Rich Foods to Your Evening Meal
Many of us have heard about drinking a cup of warm milk before bed, so as to get a better night sleep. It’s why so many babies and infants are given some at bedtime. Do you know why? The reason is the milk’s tryptophan content.
Tryptophan is a substance that induces sleep and can be found in milk and other foods, such as seeds, nuts, bananas, eggs, and cheese.
Turkey is another tryptophan-rich food. Have you ever felt sleepy after a big Thanksgiving dinner? Although turkey is rich in tryptophan, it is certainly not advisable to eat it every night just to get some sleep.
At least you have a few ideas now to help you get the sleep you need.
Do you toss and turn for a couple of hours every night and often end up feeling foggy and grumpy the next day? Life in a 24/7 world has made sleep loss a national health concern for most countries in the world.
A good night’s sleep is truly refreshing and it is something that we all need especially in these modern hectic times. Sleep not only reduces our anxiety but it also helps us to become more capable of carrying the tasks we expect of ourselves in the course of the day.
Don’t gloss over a lack of sleep. You can’t really make it up later, and the effects are cumulative. Every time you shave that bit off your sleep allocation, you are taking another toll on your health.
All those tolls add up to a burden on your overall health, that affect your wellbeing now, and also take years off the end of your life.
Sleep is one of the three pillars of lifestyle that drastically affect our health, wellbeing and longevity – along with diet and lifestyle. Each are critical, and they can all be greatly affected by our own choices and behaviors.
For your health’s sake, start with a good night’s sleep – every night!