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by Niki Kovács on January 18, 2018
Do you think you have enough and good sleep? Not neccessarily? Actually, most of the world’s population is in the same boat. As an example, 79% of the USA population gets less than the recommended seven hours.
Let’s dig deeper into the world of dreams and see what you can do to improve your habits so that it supports your health, corporate skills and everyday life.
The hours you spend resting have a huge effect on your health. There are many body functions that work best if you have more than six hours of sleep per day, and there are others that even stop when you have less.
A lack of sleep can prevent your brain from making new memories. You can’t commit new experiences to memory, new information are bounced, and you end up feeling as an amnesiac.
Not enough sleep will also lead to an increased chance of Alzheimer’s disease. It is being associated with a toxic protein, beta-amyloid. In case your body doesn’t get enoguh sleep, more of that Alzheimer’s-related protein builds up, making a greater risk of dementia later.
Moreover, sleep deprivation affects the reproductive system. It will age you by almost a decade in terms of virility and wellness. Men sleeping five to six hours a night have the same level of testosterone as of men ten years their senior.
Lack of sleep impacts your immune system, too.
After one night of four-five hours of sleep, the level of critical anticancer immune cells cells is reduced by 70%.
Short sleep duration predicts your risk for developing cancer. Even the World Health Organization decided to classify nighttime shift work as a probable carcinogen that may induce cancer.
Not enough sleep impacts the cardiovascular system. During deep sleep at night you receive a form of effectively blood pressure medication: your heart rate drops and blood pressure goes down. Getting six hours of sleep or less causes a 200% increased risk of having a fatal heart attack or stroke in your lifetime.
Naps can be a double-edged sword. When you’re awake during the day, you’re building up sleepiness. With this you’ll fall asleep quickly at the end of the day and stay asleep. However, if you take a nap during the day – especially if it’s late in the afternoon -, you will release some of that pressure.
However, if you don’t struggle with your sleep and you can nap regularly, then naps are just fine. A useful tip for you then: if you wish to avoid grogginess that you can often have after a long sleep, you should avoid naps that are longer than 40-50 minutes.
You might think that you can compensate short sleeps during the week with oversleeping at the weekend. But the answer is a definite no.
Sleep is an all-or-nothing event: you can not short sleep during the week, oversleep at the weekend, and then count an average. You’ll never actually get back the hours that you’ve lost.
Humans are the only species that deprive themselves of sleep intentionally, but for no biological reason. Nature has never had to face this challenge during evolution. Consequently, there is no mechanism that overcomes a sleep debt. We have a storage system for calories within in the body, though, called fat cells. But this was a neccessary thing to survive, since during the evolutionary process we had feast and then famine. With sleep no such thing happened, so we cannot store it, and need to get enough of it every day.
What is the recycle rate of a human being? How long can you or me actually last without sleep before declines in the brain function or even impairments within the body occur? About 16 hours of wakefulness is that time. Once you get past 16 hours of being awake, you start to see mental and physiological deterioration in the body. About eight hours of sleep is needed after to repair the damage of wakefulness.
After you’ve been awake for 19-20 hours, your mental capacity is so impaired that you would be as deficient as someone who was legally drunk behind the wheel of a car.
The number of hours you spend sleeping is not the only aspect when evaluating if your habits are supporting your health. How can you make those hours valuable for your body? Let’s see.
You need to try and maintain regularity. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time on weekdays and weekends.
Humans need darkness in the evening to allow the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps the healthy timing of our sleep. Try to turn off half of the lights at home one hour before going to bed.
Stay away from screens, especially those LED screens with blue light (e.g.: smart phones, laptops). These put the breaks on melatonin and make your brain think that it’s not nighttime yet.
Keep your bedroom cool. No, not like the weather in South Pole. An optimal sleeping temperature is about 18,5 degrees Celsius. Why should you do that? Your brain and body need to drop their core temperature a little to enable good rest.
By drinking alcohol you’re not putting your brain into natural sleep, only knocking it out. You’ll also wake up many more times during the night.
Caffeine keeps us awake due to being an alerting chemical. You might be thinking ‘So what? I can sleep just as fine after drinking coffe.’ After a cup of coffee you might fall asleep fine and even stay there, however, the deep sleep period with caffeine isn’t as deep as it could otherwise be. There is a great chance that in the morning you find yourself reaching for coffee again, since you did not have quality sleep and feel tired. Then you develop this dependency, an addiction cycle, that leads to having poor sleep on a daily basis.
Snacking within 3 hours of bedtime will ruin your sleep and also makes you gain extra weight. If you go to bed after eating, your sleep won’t be as restorative. In this case the digestive system is occupied digesting, instead of being able to slow down and recharge for the next day. Instead, you could drink a cup of herbal tea, e.g. lavender, that even helps you rest.
Exercise can make you tired, but if you work out just before bed, you’ll make it more difficult for your body to relax. The ideal time for exercising is during the day, but if you have no time until the end of business day, workout asap after.
Your brain can learn that bed is the place where you’re awake or sleep. If you can’t fall asleep at night or can’t fall back asleep in the morning within approx. 20 minutes, don’t stay in bed awake. You can consider going to another room and reading a book. Avoid screens and food, and when you feel sleepy, return to bed. An alternative is meditation that helps you relax the body and quiet the mind.
Most of us cannot wake up naturally in the morning, so we need alarm. Many of us uses the snooze button, too, however, this does more harm than good. The sleep cycles of a human are approx. 45 minutes long. When hitting the snooze button, sleeping back and 5-10 minutes later being waken up again, you force yourself into a shorter sleep cycle than what is normal for your body. This is more tiring and confusing than actually waking up, it even ruins the positive effects of the sleep you were able to have already. A trick to waking up more easily is to set the alarm for the time you really need to get up to be on time for work. This way your subconscious cannot tell you that you actually still have time in bed and can hit the snooze button.
Did this article make you think about how do you sleep? This is the perfect time to change your daily habits and come up with new, more healthy ones. This is what you should take care of:
Ensure the quantity:
7 hours per day is the recommended sleeping time
regularity is key (weekdays and weekends)
Optimize the quality:
18 degrees Celsius
NOs before bedtime: no alcohol, no coffee, no food, no exercise
NOs after bedtime: no staying in bed awake, no snooze button
Be determined and do not give up on having a better lifestyle when the first difficulties occur. Think of the long term benefits in case the short term ones are not convincing enough. You’ll be thankful for your decision later.
Sleep tight! 😉
What are your experiences about having enough sleep? What are your habits? Share your thoughts and opinion on this topic in the comment section below.
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Niki is an enthusiastic coffee admirer and ballroom dance lover with the desire to travel and explore the world. She's dreaming of owning her own cafe, speaking perfect French and making the best ever pancakes one day.