A good night sleep is worth its weight in gold, because we wake brighter, more refreshed, and better able to meet the challenges ahead. Sleep also allows our brains to process and file information and solve problems.
When we sleep we lose normal ability to hear, see, smell, feel, and taste. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t do these things. Any strong enough stimulus is perceived by our sleeping selves, and affects our dreams and depth of sleep, or might even wake us. We can speak during sleep too, and lots of people do. Sleep-talk isn’t consciously driven, through it may reflect something we’re dreaming or worrying about. But what happens when we sleep?
Does The Brain Sleep?
The sleeping brain certainly isn’t inactive. While our conscious mind rests, our brain cells continue to produce waves of electro-chemical activity that is orchestrated by neurotransmitters, substances that enable messages to travel along nerves.
The rhythm and frequency of these brainwaves alternate between two patterns: one associated with REM (Rapid Eye movement) sleep, the other with non-REM sleep. During REM sleep our eyes and bodies move, we dream (and may speak), and we’re easily aroused. Conversely, non-REM sleep is deeper and quieter.
We need a balance of both kinds of sleep to refresh both our bodies and minds. Without enough we lose mental and physical activity. We feel tired and dull, coordination suffers, and we become slow and depressed which can lead to Insomnia.
Getting the right amount of sleep:
You are an individual and the amount of sleep you need depends on your age, stage of life, and current activities and experiences. There is no single “right” amount for all people or at all times of any individual’s life though most of us need at least seven hours in 24, and some several hours more. So be guided by how you feel. If you’re tired when you wake and don’t soon feel brighter, you may need more sleep or better quality sleep.
Also Read: Know About Insomnia and How To Prevent It
Siestas, Naps, and Sleeping In:
Some people function better in the late afternoon and evening, and enjoy a longer evening if they have an afternoon siestas. Other cope well with occasional short naps or sleeping in weekly. The important thing is to recognise what’s best for you.
How to Enhance Your Sleep Quality:
Use these tips to promote a good night sleep –
1. Your Bed:
- Check that your bed and mattress aren’t too hard or soft
- Make sure your pillow has the right degree of softness and support. People have strong views about their pillow(s) but it’s often best to choose a firm one if you sleep on your side; a medium-firm one if you prefer to sleep on your back; and a soft one – or none at all- if you’re a stomach-sleeper.
- Invest in good quality sheets or comforter covers
- Choose blankets, a comforter, or other covers that keep you at right temperature and are big enough to cover you and stay put.
2. Your Bedroom:
- Keep Street light out with drapes made from heavy material, or light-excluding blinds.
- Heat or cool the air as necessary
- Ideally have an open window or other source of fresh air
- Invest in earplugs if someone’s snoring stops you sleeping- or go to another room yourself, or ask them to.
- Insulate windows if you live near a noisy road
- Take half an hour of exercise each day, ideally five or six hours before bedtime, rather than just before.
- Try Meditation and yoga in the morning for a sound sleep at night
5. Food and Drink:
- Eat healthy diet which provides soothing nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin B
- Avoid a large, rich meal in the evening
- Have you last “proper” meal ear ly, and keep later snacks small and light
- Have a nightcap a honey-sweetened cup of chamomile, lemon balm, linden (lime) blossom, vervain, or hop tea.
- Remember coffee, tea, and caffeine-containing soft drinks after 4pm can interfere with sleep.
- Regular tea and coffee both contain caffeine, so consider switching to herbal tea or decaffeinated coffee in the late afternoon and evening
- The position on alcohol isn’t so clear. Alcohol relaxes muscles so if you’re tense, drinking in moderation in the evening may help
- Some people find a hot, malted, milky nightcap very calming and comforting; others find it interferes with a good night sleep
- Relaxation is very much essential for a good sleep. Before bedtime, enjoy a warm bath scented with a chamomile teabag or a few drops of lavender oil.
- Listen to soothing music
- If worry- about work or money problems, for example- stops you sleeping, consider discussing solutions with a friend or counsellor
- See whether reading helps you to drop off
- Relax by cuddling, or having sex
7. A Healthy Sleep Regime:
- Say “no” to an evening nap, however tempting
- Aim, if possible, to have a regular bedtime and rising time
- Keep your bedroom for sleeping, not working, watching TV or phoning friends
Warning: see your doctor if you’ve slept badly for more than two weeks, and are exhausted, depressed, desperate, or unable to drive or cope with your job or family.