It should be no surprise to anyone that sleep is a hugely important part of taking care of yourself. But many people simply don’t get the kind of sleep they need, and this is something that is now so common we might think of it as an epidemic. If you feel that you might not be getting enough sleep, and you would like to do something about it, then there are many things that you can do, and we will look at that later on in this piece. We are also going to discuss exactly what it is that sleep does for you, so that you can appreciate just why it might be so important to try and get much more of it. In this article, we are going to look at both of these in turn, and hopefully dispel some sleep myths along the way.
What It Does
Many of the clues around what sleep does for you can be gleaned from what happens if you lose out on your sleep. By paying attention to the changes in your body, brain and mind when you lack sleep, you can easily start to see the kind of benefits that sleep has in store for you if you get enough of it. So what are these?
Getting enough sleep is essential for improving your ability to learn, and to retain information in general. If you have a big test coming up and you fail to get enough sleep every night that you study, the information will not be retained as well as if you get your full eight hours. You will just generally learn a task much better if you happen to be well rested, and the studies show that even if you feel you are remembering something well, you might not be able to access it as easily as if you were sleeping better. Clearly, that is something that many of us could learn from.
This is also related to the issue of memory in general. If you have a poor memory much of the time, you might want to look into whether you are getting enough sleep, as this is one of the most common culprits for people who can’t remember things too well. If you happen to drink alcohol frequently, that could be simultaneously affecting your memory and your sleep, so you will find it doubly difficult to keep the information stored, so that is something you will particularly want to make sure that you do away with as best as you can. The more sleep you get, the better your short and long term memory will be, so that is a great reason to get your full eight hours whenever you possibly can.
Of course, sleep is also a necessary agent in ensuring that the body keeps healthy. This is true of even the most essential organs and parts of your body. If you want your heart to remain healthy for longer, you absolutely need to make sure that you are getting as much sleep as you possibly can. If you don’t, your heart’s ability to self-regulate worsens, and your blood pressure will likely be higher than someone who gets more sleep than you. You will be more likely to experience all heart-related problems at some point in life, therefore, such as angina, heart attacks and strokes, and other serious problems which you would rather avoid. If you want to look after your heart, make sure that you get as much sleep as you can.
Sleep is a great regulator of hormones. When you sleep through progressive REM and non-REM cycles, your hormones change dramatically for the better. Something to note in particular here is that your development of the growth hormone will speed up as you sleep more, which is essential for your growth of any kind. Even if you are fully grown adult, the growth hormone is something that you will need plenty of in order to be healthy. In other respects, your hormones will just generally have much more of a chance to be well-regulated if you get plenty of sleep, so make sure that you are thinking about that. The more sleep you get, the better off your hormones will be in general.
These are just some of the benefits that you can expect from getting more sleep. But regardless of what you might expect to get from it, if you know that you need to sleep more, how can you make sure that you do so? Let’s take a look at what might help you to have a much better night’s sleep.
Getting More Sleep
If you don’t get enough sleep, the good news is that there are always plenty of changes you can make in order to do so. Some of these are easy to make and just take a change in approach, and others might be behavioural things which you need to change in the long term in some way or another. But they are all worth doing if you want to be able to sleep better, and you should not overlook any of these if you can help it.
First up, make sure that your bedroom and the bed in particular are as comfortable as possible. Having a comfortable sleeping environment is absolutely essential, and you can’t get away with avoiding or ignoring this part of the process. Be sure that the temperature is relatively cool – your body actually needs to cool down slightly in order to get to sleep, so this is likely to help (as is splashing water on your wrists and face just before bed). If you live in a hot climate, you will need to think about a fan or air conditioning in order to be sure of this, and have your sheets thin enough to allow you to keep cool throughout the night. Temperature has a huge effect on how easily you sleep, and how deeply.
Beyond that, make sure that the room is plenty dark, and that you have a decent control of noise and other distractions. Getting good blackout curtains can be useful if you are someone who particularly struggles with sleeping well, and double-glazing can help with the sound from outside. You should also, of course, make sure that you have the most comfortable bed possible. This is all about finding a decent mattress. Find a supplier you trust and check out their best mattress – you will find that that really enhances your sleep profoundly. You will also want to make sure that your pillows are as comfortable as possible, as otherwise you will find it much more difficult to get off to sleep.
As long as your sleeping environment is comfortable, sleep is much more likely to be your friend. But you will also need to think about a few other changes.
Most of us use screens throughout the day and – for many people – just before or even while in bed. This might seem harmless, but it is anything but. In fact, using screens before bed inhibits your body’s production of melatonin, which is the chemical that your body clock uses to know that it is time to sleep. So if you are starting at screens in the evening and in bed, you are literally changing your body’s physiology in such a way that you will find it harder to get off to sleep, and to remain asleep when you do. Clearly, that is far from ideal, so some kind of screen detox is going to be a great way forward if you want to improve your sleep. Make a point of having no electronics in your bedroom at night – buy an alarm clock instead of using your phone to wake you up.
This should mean that you can sleep much better in no time, and so enjoy all of those benefits.
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