How well do you sleep each night? How often do you not get enough sleep due to work commitments or because of a sleeping disorder? Is sleep important? Why do we sleep?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, most of us need between 7 and 9 hours sleep per night, but a lot of us don’t get enough sleep each night. But how important is sleep and what’s the purpose behind it?
On average, we spend one third of our lives asleep and the reason for this is simple; sleep is vital for our mental and physical health.
What is the Purpose of Sleep?
Restoration: Sleep serves many purposes essential to our brain and body, one of the most important is restoration; our brains accumulate metabolic waste as it goes about it’s daily neural activities and like any waste, it has to be gotten rid off. Recent research suggests this happens mostly at night when we are asleep. As we sleep our brain cells shrink by 60% and this allows the our brain’s waste removal system, called the glymphatic system, to do it’s job more easily and essentially ‘take out the rubbish’ leaving our brains restored, so you wake up refreshed and ready for the day ahead. The research also suggests that the glymphatic system clears away the toxins responsible for neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Memory Consolidation: Another essential function of sleep is memory consolidation (the process which a memory becomes stable); research suggests that the quality and quantity of sleep can have a significant impact on our memory and learning. This occurs in two distinct ways, firstly, a sleep deprived person would find it harder to focus their attention and therefore the efficiency of their learning is lowered. Secondly, sleep plays a part in the consolidation of the memory, which is essential for learning new information.
Metabolic Health: Sleep is also essential for our metabolic health. Studies have shown, when you sleep for 5.5 hours per night rather than 8.5 hours per night, a higher proportion of the energy you burn comes from protein and carbohydrate rather than fat. This can make you susceptible to fat gain and muscle loss. So if you are trying to loose weight, it’s essential you get a good night’s sleep. Plus abnormal sleep cycles and insufficient sleep could also lead to insulin insensitivity, which in the long run could increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.
What are the Effects of Sleep Loss?
Through your own personal experiences, you have probably noticed that not getting enough sleep can make you irritable and feel in a low mood, but it can also affect your mental and physical performance too. A study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Washington State University found if you get 6 hours sleep or less per night for two weeks, your physical and mental performance deteriorates to the same level, as if you had stayed awake for 48 hours straight – the study also observed how the participants didn’t notice their own decline in performance.
The irony is, in this day and age we sacrifice sleep to work more but the reduction in our performance offsets the benefits of putting in the extra hours of work.
How To Get A Good Nights Sleep
I think it’s safe to say that it’s really important to get a good nights sleep for both our physical and mental health, however sometimes that’s easier said than done. So here’s a few tip to help you get the sleep you need:
Avoid bright screens: Melatonin is the hormone that helps you enter into your sleep cycle and the light from computer screens, televisions, phones and tablets can hinder it’s production so preventing you from feeling drowsy. So avoid using screens an hour or so before bed or if thats not feasible, turn the brightness down or better still use a light altering software such as f.lux.
Avoid TV before bed: Not only does the light from the screen hinder melatonin (the hormone that helps you sleep), most programmes are stimulating rather than relaxing. So try reading a book instead, but avoid back lit devices such as tablets. Plus working too late can keep your mind stimulated, make sure you give yourself enough time between finishing for the night and bedtime; give yourself some ‘wind down’ time.
Exercise more: Regular exercise can help you sleep and improve your quality of sleep. But be careful not to do any vigorous exercise too close to your bedtime because it can interfere with your sleep.
Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant, it can make us feel more alert and it does this by increasing adrenalin production and blocking sleep inducing chemicals in the brain. Caffeine also remains in our bodies for a surprisingly long time (the effects of caffeine can last for 8 to 14 hours) so if caffeine affects you, limit the amount of caffein you have during the day as well as the night or better still, avoid caffeine in the evenings all together.
Relaxation Techniques: If you find it difficult to sleep or get back to sleep due to anxiety or worrying, use a relaxation technique like 7/11 to help you relax, plus if you are counting in your head you can’t be worrying at the same time. You could also try progressive muscle relaxation; squeeze each of your muscles starting from the toes and work your way up your body, hold the squeeze and then allow the muscles to relax. Another technique to help you relax is to use visualisation; with your eyes closed visualise a relaxing and peaceful place, it can be somewhere you’ve been before or made up, and notice how relaxed it makes you feel.
Hypnotherapy for Sleep
If you are having trouble sleeping, Cognitive Hypnotherapy for sleep can be very effective in helping you get a good nights rest. Sometimes problems sleeping can be related to something thats happening in your current life or possibly connected to something in the past. If you would like to find out more, contact me for a free consultation over the phone to see how Cognitive Hypnotherapy for sleep can help you get a good nights rest, leaving you refreshed and ready for your day ahead.