There’s nothing quite like a good nights sleep. It’s a sublime feeling of being refreshed and ready for the day. The problem is I think a lot of us are not getting the right quality and quantity of sleep that we truly need. I’m not just talking about the new parents either. Sorry you lot (me included) fit in a whole other category all together. I’ll talk to you guys at another time….
“Sleep restores not only the brain but also the entire body.”
Dr Emmanuel Mignot, Stanford University Sleep Professor
We all need sleep to survive. Deprivation causes despair and it truly is a form of torture. But what actually happens when we sleep that makes it so good for us?!
Sleepy time happenings
When we sleep we move through different cycles through a Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) state. The whole cycle takes somewhere between 90-120 minutes so in one night you’ll go through about four or five cycles. We need both NREM and REM in order to sleep well and get the full benefit of shutting our body down.
During the deep stages of NREM sleep, the body has been found to repair and regrow tissue, build bone and muscle, and strengthen the immune system.
During REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep, blood flow decreases to the brain and redirects itself towards the muscles, allowing the body and mind to rest and recover.
How much sleep should we be getting?
As an athlete sleep was hugely important in my ability to recover from day to day training and also in preparation for competition. I had the luxury of a semi-early bedtime and a full nights sleep everyday. Results from the Stanford Sleep Study showed that sleep is an important factor in peak athletic performance. The study participants were University basketball players and they were asked to sleep for 10 hours per night. At the end of the study over two basketball seasons, the players ran significantly faster and their shooting accuracies (both free throw and 3-point) improved. Not a coincidence! For athletes the study then recommended 60-70 hours per week. Is this realistic for you???
It’s been reported that Roger Federer sleeps 12 hours a night – as a father of two sets of twins I’m thinking he’s got a very understanding wife and some bloody great Nanny’s! For me the reality of being a young Mum is I have broken nights sleep at times. I wouldn’t trade it but yes I would like to have more sleep in general (mainly because I love sleeping). I try to have some catch up naps in the weekend which are like gold. They help restore me and recharge. It’s really tempting to use that time to do other stuff. Ultimately though I know I can’t look after my people if I don’t look after myself through sleep.
How can we improve the quality of our sleep?
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol four to six hours before bedtime….yes you read that correctly!
- Stick to a routine sleep and wake time
- Sleep in a dark, quiet room at a cooler temperature
- Turn your phone off – no brainer
- No electronics in the bedroom
- No screen time within an hour of going to bed
- Evening Epsom salts bath promote faster fall to sleep time
The light that’s keeping us awake!
Our phones and devices in general have a lot to answer for with our sleep quality. We have become people who relax through scrolling through our phones, looking at social media on tablets and working on laptops in the evenings. The problem is there is a higher concentration of blue light as opposed to natural light in those screens. Increased blue light slows the release of the sleep inducing hormone melatonin affectively then your screen acts as a stimulant. Not ideal when you want to get your z’s in!
ACTION: Limiting time on all devices one hour before bedtime is the advice being given by the experts. Yes I know it’s a long time but it will along to you get into a REM state earlier increasing the quality of your sleep. If this is too much of a struggle dim the brightness of your device as a start. I have a self imposed rule no phones in the bedroom. My watch acts as my alarm and if someone really needed to get hold of me (most likely my Mum) in an emergency they would find a way. Within your set bedtime routine try involving other forms of relaxation instead of relying on your phone.
Sleep matters and it should matter to you. If you find it a struggle to get going in the morning or you just want to roll at a higher level throughout the day consider what kind of sleep you’re getting at night and how long you’re sleeping for. Everyone is different and has unique needs but as humans sleep is critical!