By Adrian Sparrow
Everybody needs sleep to rest their body and mind. A good night’s sleep is just as important as exercise and a balanced diet. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep, although not everyone gets enough sleep in their routine.
Sleep is essential for a person’s health and significantly impacts brain function. Good sleep improves brain plasticity. The brain can then process what happens during the day, and short- and long-term memory retention improves.
Without proper sleep, health risks rise. Depression, seizures, high blood pressure, and migraines are just some of the risks associated with little sleep. Lack of sleep can also lead to a compromised immune system, which increases the risk of infection and disease.
The brain goes through 4 stages during sleep: 1-3 of non-REM sleep, and then the 4th is REM sleep. We dream during REM sleep while the brain works on critical organizational tasks like processing, consolidating, and retaining information and emotions.
Cells repair and rebuild while you sleep, and hormones are released, encouraging muscle and bone growth.
We’re all familiar with interrupted sleep. Here are a few of the most common causes:
Stress is one of the most common reasons for disrupted sleep. Stress surrounding work, school, family, or illness often leads to short-term insomnia.
Alcohol, caffeine, and drugs will often disrupt sleep if taken in the evening.
Traveling, especially when traveling across time zones, can upset your natural circadian rhythm and leave you too energetic at bedtime or excessively sleepy during the day.
Environmental factors, like bright lights or noises and other interruptions, can make it challenging to get enough deep sleep.
Symptoms of physical and mental disorders can disrupt sleep. Pain from arthritis, and fatigue from depression, are just a couple of examples.
Sleep disorders will make getting enough sleep very difficult. Common conditions include insomnia disorder, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea.
There are a few ways to help you get enough quality sleep.
Stick to a schedule. Set aside at least 7 hours for sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Being consistent will help your body’s natural rhythm and make it easier to fall and stay asleep.
Exercise regularly. Physical activity can improve sleep quality, but be sure not to exercise too close to bedtime.
Create a restful environment. A cool, dark, and quiet bedroom is often best for a restful night of sleep. Avoid prolonged exposure to blue light- as in the case of many electronic screens- an hour before bed. Do calming activities before bed, such as light reading or taking a bath. Don’t lay awake in bed if sleep isn’t coming. Instead, do a relaxing activity until you feel tired.