Why do we need to sleep?
There are many theories as to why we spend a third of our life sleeping. They include the need for energy conservation, that it serves as a way for our body to restore itself and it helps your brain develop. At the end of the day, the why is still being researched with everyone agreeing that regardless of the reason, sleep is an important part of our lives.
What is sleep?
Defining sleep is tricky. While we sleep we are in a state of decreased responsiveness but able to (relatively) easily respond if needed. While our physical body may be in a state of reduced activity, our brains are very active.
How do we sleep?
While we are asleep, our brain undergoes a sleep-wake cycle. This cycle usually occurs in a sequence: awake, non-REM sleep, REM sleep. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement.
Non-REM sleep has stages from light to deep and is triggered by a chemical called adenosine in a specific type of brain cells. Non-REM sleep is important for energy conservation and restoring the mind.
REM sleep is where you dream and your brain activity during this stage is similar to when you are awake. When deprived of REM sleep, your memory and ability to understand things are decreased.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?
Sleep impacts every system of your body. Lack of sleep can impact your attention, memory, mood, metabolism, tissue repair and immune function.
How much sleep should I get per night?
There’s no one magic number for everyone. Aim to sleep 8 hours per night but you may need closer to 10 to function at your best. Less than 3% of the population can sleep less than 6 hours per night without health or performance detriments. The amount of sleep you need will also depend upon your age and activity level both physical and mental.
How do I know if I’m getting enough sleep?
Since the amount of time each of us needs to sleep varies, this is a difficult question to answer. If you feel like you could fall asleep when you’re sitting down reading a book or watching TV, you may need to sleep more. Start by maintaining a set bedtime and wake up time that allows for at least 8 hours and see how you feel.
What if I have a difficult time sleeping?
Welcome to the club! Part of the reason I chose to share information about this topic is because I frequently have a difficult time sleeping.
Here are some things you can try:
set sleep schedule and bedtime routine,
avoid bright lights at night (no phones/tablets in bed),
keep your bedroom cool and dark,
avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening,
no smoking or drinking at night. Alcohol can help you fall asleep but can negatively impact sleep quality
If you have difficulty falling asleep, avoid napping. If you must nap, limit it to 20-30 minutes.
Avoid using your bed for anything other than sleeping and romantic encounters.
If you are lying awake, research has shown that you should get up from bed for a period of time and return to try to sleep. Over time, this has shown to improve sleep quality.