Sleep is Crucial, Not a Luxury, and 10 Simple Ways to Improve Your Sleep Today
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Sleep is crucial for your health. Getting enough sleep doesn’t mean you are lazy. Conversely, getting by with very little sleep isn’t brag-worthy.
The duration of your sleep is important, but the quality of your sleep is even more important.
Studies show that you are more likely to get sick when exposed to a virus if you haven’t been getting enough quality sleep. And lack of sleep can also lengthen the duration of being sick.
When it comes to sleep deprivation, sometimes one night is enough to do damage. A study on healthy individuals shows that when they limit their sleep to 4 hours for one single night, they get a 70% drop in their body’s ability to produce Natural Killer (NK) cells. These are critical immune cells that fight cancer as well as infection.
Ever wonder why you feel extra sleepy when you are sick? This is because when you become infected, even if you don’t feel sick yet, your body immediately triggers increased sleepiness and increased amounts of deep sleep.
It turns out that the infection indicates to the immune system that you’re under attack and the immune system signals to the sleep system in your brain that you need more sleep.
Sleep is the best battle force that you have to combat the assault. That’s why when you’re sick, all you want to do is curl up in bed and go to sleep. The reason is because your body is trying to sleep you into being well.
When you sleep, your body creates and releases a protein called cytokines. A lack of cytokines can compromise your immune system.
Cytokines promote cell to cell communication, and they direct cells toward problem areas to tackle infection and viruses. If you don’t have enough of these in your body, it’s harder for your body to fight back against a virus and heighten your chances of getting seriously sick from a virus.
Whatever ailment you’re facing, it’s very likely that sleep has a tool in the box to help you fight it. Improving your quantity and quality of sleep is going to help you, and also reduce your risk of getting diseases in the future.
Not getting enough sleep is not just about being tired. Sleep deprivation is associated with a laundry list of negative health effects, including memory problems, increased cancer risk, depression and anxiety, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s linked buildups in the brain.
Listen to your body. If you feel extra sleepy or tired even when you are not sick, get that extra sleep. Your body is trying to tell you that it needs it.
Generally, adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, teenagers need 9 to 10 hours, kids need 10 to 13 hours, and babies and infants need way more. Note that this is time that you are actually asleep, not time that you are in bed.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, here are 10 simple ways that you can try to help you improve the quantity and quality of your sleep.
1. Stick to a regular sleep schedule.
Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even when you’ve had a bad night of sleep, regardless of whether it’s a weekday or a weekend.
This helps with the regularity of your body clock.
2. Don’t exercise too late in the day.
Getting physically active can help you improve both the quantity and the quality of your sleep. But conversely, if you try to exercise or do sports without getting good quality sleep, you increase your risk of injury.
Don’t do physical activities too close to bedtime, because your metabolic rate and body temperature stay too high, which prevents sleep.
Try not to work out at night, but if you do have to sometimes, taking a warm bath before bed can help decrease the body temperature.
3. Get sunlight exposure during the day.
Exposure to sunlight during the day helps regulate your sleeping patterns.
Try to get outside in the natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes a day.
4. Have a relaxing pre-bedtime.
Set aside some time to relax and unwind before bed. A bedtime routine is especially important for kids.
5. Don’t consume caffeine from the afternoon onwards.
Caffeine is a stimulant that when consumed in the afternoon, can have an effect on your sleep.
6. Avoid alcohol.
You should completely avoid alcohol for a whole host of other reasons but as far as sleep is concerned, having alcohol in the body can reduce your deep sleep and keep you in light stages of sleep.
7. Avoid large meals and beverages late at night.
A heavy meal late in the evening can cause digestive issues which interfere with sleep.
Drinking too many fluids can also disrupt sleep due to frequent wakings to go to the bathroom.
8. Be aware of medicines that can disrupt sleep.
Some commonly prescribed medication, including over the counter and herbal medicines for coughs, colds, and allergies, can disrupt sleep patterns.
Here’s what sleeping pills really do to your sleep.
Sleep experts caution that the brainwaves of people who have taken sleeping pills indicate that they’re not getting real sleep or natural sleep. They’re not awake, and they’re not asleep either. Instead, they’re sedated.
There are some indications that medication-induced “sleep” could even be harmful. Some sleep medication has been shown in research to weaken the brain cell connections associated with learning, and it may cause memory damage over time.
9. Keep your bedroom cool, dark and free of gadgets.
You sleep better if the temperature in the room is on the cool side, as cooler temperature takes your body into the right thermal space to induce sleep.
Gadgets can be a distraction, and the light they emit suppresses your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep/wake cycles.
10. Optimise your sleeping space.
Invest in a comfortable mattress, pillow, and bedding. They don’t have to be expensive, but get what works for you. After all, we spend one third of our life sleeping, so good bedding may be well worth the investment.
You may find it helpful to not have a clock within your sight, because when you have trouble falling asleep, watching the time can make it worse.
Some indoor plants emit oxygen throughout the night and may help with the air quality in your room.
Make your sleeping space comfortable, but not so decked out that it actually feels exciting instead. It should be a cosy space that induces relaxation.
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