In today's world it is an achievement to live our busy life interrupted by as little sleep as possible. We proudly wear the 'I only sleep 4 hours a night' badge of honour so we can cram as much life into our days as possible. We show off how well we use those remaining 20 hours a day and feel really good about telling everyone about this. But is that really true? Are we really that productive on this little sleep? Or are we depriving ourselves from our real quality of life for which the bill might be presented to us many years later?
Sleep is one of your most important medicines. And an average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of it a night. During your sleep, your body can switch off its flight and fight mode and gets a chance to rest, recover and restore. Inflammations that can lead to serious illnesses are being fought as if a team of maintenance guys goes around your body every night to repair any problem they can find. Tissue is being repaired, muscles grow and protein synthesis occurs. Also, hormones that regulate appetite control, growth, stress, metabolism and other bodily functions are being released. It is then that your memories are being consolidated, which allows for information and new memories to be stored. That is essential for learning new information. And for really being productive during the hours you are awake.
Some people will only feel how tired they really are once they step out of their routine, for example during their holidays. Others feel exhausted when waking up every day, but have forgotten that this is not how they should be feeling. Being aware of the strong connection between sleep and health can help improve the quality of your life. If your quantity and quality of sleep are good, you are more likely to have the energy to make appropriate lifestyle choices. It will also strengthen your immune system and heighten your alertness, focus and creativity. Another advantage: it improves your mood by reducing anxiety, irritability and mental exhaustion, and it can increase your libido. Let alone increase your beauty.
4 easy tips to improve your quality of sleep
- No screens
- Create a routine
- Leave the light off
- Be gentle with yourself
TVs, computers, laptops, smart phones, video games, tablets all emit a blue light that interferes with your body's production of melatonin. Your system thinks it is the middle of the day and doesn't start to make you feel tired or sleepy. This impacts your quality and quantity of sleep badly. Instead, switch your screens off 60 minutes before the time you plan to go to sleep. If your smart phone is also your alarm clock, than switch it to air plane mode during the night to avoid any distractions.
Routines are processes you don't have to think about any more, just like habits. I'm sure you already have heaps of routines and automatic orders to do things in. Your body and mind will love nothing more than going to bed and getting up around the same time every day. Mark your bedtime routine in a way that works for you. Taking a bath, maybe a sleep meditation, lighting a candle with some soft music or journaling. Try to stick to your routine for 21 days and after that you will see you wouldn't want to do it any other way!
Make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark. If your curtains are not blocking out the light, you can use an eye mask or a piece of clothing to cover your eyes. To reduce any sound or noise you can use earplugs or noise-canceling headphones. Silent nights!
Why don't you allow yourself to go to bed when you feel you want to? Nowadays any TV show, film or series can be watched on demand, so there is no need to stay up for that. Your book is super patient and will be there until you will have the time to get back to it. Out with a friend? Maybe by saying you really want to go to sleep, you inspire them to do the same and catch up on some well needed rest and restore time!
Sleep is cheap and should be straightforward. This form of self-care is priceless, don't you think?
Sleep and Health. (2008). Harvard Medical School
Durmer, J. S., & Dinges, D. F. (2005). Neurocognitive consequences of sleep deprivation. Semin Neurol 25(1), 117–129