Fitness, Healthy Living, Wellness

Science of a Good Night's Sleep

optimized-good-nights-sleep

By Noor Kawach & Mirvat Ammouri

Our daily performance is very much tied to how well we sleep.


In a time when everybody is on the go, and people’s definition of taking a break is doing a different type of action, being able to sleep well has become an art, maybe even a privilege. Our ways of living are much louder than our previous generations, and it just seems almost impossible to switch off from electronic notifications or mental chatter without making a conscious awareness to do so. It doesn’t take much to realize then that sleep deprivation, especially quality sleep is necessary for achieving our goals, even if we’re still not convinced that we deserve it.

So here’s the science. An average adult needs around 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day. There is a natural sleeping rhythm (circadian rhythm), which is much affected by light and darkness. That rhythm needs to be stable and consistent if we are to enjoy good sleep. When our bodies sense darkness, a hormone called melatonin is released. It causes the body to slow down to eventually fall into sleep. And when our bodies perceive light, it slowly releases a hormone called serotonin which gradually wakes up the body.

The key word to note is GRADUAL. As the brain transitions from one stage of sleep to the next, the brain waves become less rapid. For ultimate energy restoration and body repair to happen, it is essential that the brain falls into the deepest stage (slowest brain wave level).

All this goes to show that brain activity needs to slow down for good rest to happen. In other words, we cannot force ourselves to sleep well, and we should not stress about lack of sleep. Stressing about stress leads to more stress.

We can however begin from a place of strength. Here are healthy habits you can adopt to help your body help your mind to rest.

Avoid Caffeine.
This seems really basic, but it just seems harder to go on without a cup of coffee. Ideally a cup of coffee in the morning should be enough to boost you for the day. Don’t take coffee after 5 pm, and keep your total cups for the day to less than 3.
Quit smoking.
If you’re not convinced already of the hazards of smoking, here’s another. Studies have shown that smoking can lead to sleep apnea and insomnia because it affects the “body clock” of the lungs and brain.
Never sleep if you are too hungry or too full.
Sleeping whether you are too full or hungry can cause discomfort. You’re body is too focused on feeding you if you’re hungry or on digesting if you’re full. Make sure your last meal is at least 3 hours before your bedtime.
Lock away all your devices!
This means phone, laptop, ipad, TV and any other electronics you may have. We are all guilty of keeping our phones close to our faces, scrolling down our news feeds on our different social accounts. Not only do we hurt our eyes and confuse our bodies with the phone’s glaring light, but we also put our brains back into activity mode, feeding it images and stories on which to feed our dreams. Remember, in deep sleep, the brain doesn’t have dreams. P.S. It is important to keep your devices away from you so that you wont check on them in the middle of the night because this can really damage your sleep patterns.
Keep your feet warm.
Apparently warming your feet before you sleep can reduce the time you fall asleep by 2 minutes. That is a lot in the sleep world!
Make your room a sleep friendly room by going dark.
By switching off bed side lamps and shading the windows, the brain detects darkness and starts releasing the sleep hormone.
Take a nap.
A power nap (not more than 30 min) boosts your energy for the day and organizes your sleep patterns by preventing sudden overwhelming afternoon fatigue periods that will require bigger recovery. Stick to the 30 min mark, otherwise it will disrupt your sleep.
Exercise.
According to sleep foundation.org, exercise may moderate intensity exercise of 150 minutes per week could help you sleep better. By keeping you more active and energetic during the day, you’re better able to sleep at night. Better sleep patterns all translates to a deeper better sleep at night. You may also choose to go for activities like golfing, yoga, or gardening! These activities require both physical and mental  involvement and help the brain to relax. Avoid exercising later in the day as  in the afternoon as this keeps your body active at the wrong time of the day.
Be organized.
Stress is the enemy of sleep. It can be hard to manage the stress of everyday life, but it does help when one is organized in managing one’s daily routines. This way, you can trust your to-do list instead of worrying and planning your tomorrow’s before falling asleep.
Create a ritual.
This is probably the most effective way to guarantee a good night’s sleep. Before going to bed every night, find something calming that you can always do like reading a book or taking a warm bath. Do anything that relaxes you. If you create a bedtime routine, your body will adapt to it and eventually know that it is bedtime and you will be guaranteed to fall asleep at the same time everyday. Its important to sleep and wake up at the same time because your body will slowly adapt to this routine and make you feel more energized than ever though out the day!

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