In today’s fast moving world, healthy sleep has become more of a luxury rather that a vital necessity for general good health (both physical and mental). Poor sleep has negative effects on the brain functioning, performance and productivity as well as one’s hormones. The body does a lot of regeneration during sleeping time.
Therefore, when the body doesn’t get enough sleep, it suffers “sleep deprivation” which basically, is less sleep than needed for an individual to be alert and awake.
The recommended optimal sleep for a healthy adult is anywhere between 7hrs – 9hrs of continuous uninterrupted sleeping.
However, this varies from an individual to another. Some of the issues that could deny you that much needed healthy, quality and uninterrupted sleep when you so need it are, snoring, Bruxism and other sleep disorders like Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
To understand healthy sleep and it’s relationship with good health, its important to appreciate how it occurs and the stages thereon.
Stages of sleep;
1st Stage – Rapid Eye Movement (REM):
This is defined as the first phase as one slips to sleep. One single continuous sleep is split into 15-25 REM cycles in adults and about 40 or more in children. It’s a state of temporary paralysis when the brain signals the spinal cord to cease limbs movement. The phase takes place between the first 10 to 90 minutes of each cycle.
Therefore, at this stage, your eyes appear to be moving around rapidly in various directions, brain almost still active and it’s at this time that memory is consolidated. A lot of vivid dreaming too happens at this phase before the decrease in brain activity.
2nd Stage – Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM):
Picking on from the first phase, this is a collection of about 3 stages of sleep. The average duration at each stage in this phase is 10-15 minutes. Here, your muscles are fully paralyzed. These stages are; half-awake/light sleep which leads to deeper sleep. As a result, slow heart rates and reduced body temperatures are experienced.
The sleep then intensifies to restorative/deep sleep and It’s at this stage that the body repairs and regenerates tissues. Most importantly, at this final stage, body’s immune system is improved.
Healthy sleep should come naturally. In-case it doesn’t, you should not worry as there are safe natural Sleep boosters and other Sleep aiding gadgets. As a result of healthy sleep, a healthy and alert mind is built that resulting to your most optimal functionality and productivity.
What is recommended and enough sleep?
Sleep demand; just like all other body function’s demands, vary with age too. National Sleep Foundation recommends as follows;
|Age Bracket (Years)||Recommended sleep (Hours)|
|6 – 13||9 – 11|
|14 – 17||8 – 10|
|18 – 64||7 – 9|
|> 65||7 – 8|
For infants and toddlers, they have greater need of sleep. Their sleep patterns are also characterized by naps once in a while.
|Age Bracket||Recommended sleep (Hours)|
|< 3 months||14 – 17|
|4 – 11 months||12 – 15|
|12 – 24 months||11 – 14|
|36 – 60 < months||10 – 13|
Negative health effects caused by poor quality sleep;
Resulting from poor and less of quality sleep, you are exposed to a wide range of negative effects on your general health. Some of the common effects it contributes to are but limited to;
- It lowers the immune system. Sleep time is when the body does a lot of self-regeneration and boost immune system. Also leads to premature skin aging,
- Leads to feeling of unmotivated, fatigued, lethargic etc.,
- It causes brain activity impairment,
- Causes poor emotions management as well as increase risks of slipping into depression among others.
How does poor sleep result to excess weight and obesity?
Another adverse exposure by poor quality sleep is to excess weight gain and obesity. Most times when we feel lethargic, unfortunately, sugary foods are mostly our best bet to boost our energy levels. Just to note, “Ghrelin” and “Leptin” are the two hormones that regulate the feeling of hunger or fullness respectively in human bodies.
As a result of less and poor quality sleep, Ghrelin levels increases, and likewise, the appetite. In contrast, Leptin levels fall. Consequently, these imbalanced oscillations of these hormones increase the body cravings for foods while there is no notice of fullness due to low level of Leptin. As a result, this leads to more than normal foods intake and subsequently, unnecessary excess weight gain.
What are the signs that your sleep pattern is good;
These could vary a bit, but they generally offer a self-gauge. They include but not limited to the following;
- You sleep between 7-9hrs most times every day,
- You fall asleep in under half an hour of getting to bed,
- You have uninterrupted sleep and your sleeping not interrupting others. The interrupters could be Bruxism, snoring, Sleep Apnea among others.
- You don’t suffer sleepiness and fatigue in the day even after a full 7-9hrs sleep.
As a result of routinely sleeping less hours, whether deliberate or caused by other factors leads to a “Sleep Debt”. In such cases, naps can act as short-term boosts to alertness and performance by reducing sleepiness.
However, it is recommended that you seek medical help and attention if you still suffer sleepiness and feel unrested even after sleeping for the recommended number of hours. It could be an indication of a riskier sleep disorder.
7 simple ways to improve your quality of sleep;
Here are some of the few ways there are that you can embrace and experience a tremendous improvement on your quantity and quality of sleep. They are both devices and supplements aided or not.
Non sleep devices and supplements aided;
- Avoid Caffeine a few hours before; Caffeine is a stimulant that enhances the body’s focus and energies. Resultant stimulation inhibits the body’s natural relaxation ability which is a key component in sleep. Therefore, it’s recommended that caffeine shouldn’t be taken 3-4 hours to sleep time. Instead, decaffeinated coffee can be considered.
- Establish a workable sleep routine: Human bodies have a natural clock called circadian rhythm that naturally aligns itself with dawns and dusks. If you follow through with a convenient workable routine of when to sleep and wake-up consistently, the body gets used and effectively improving the sleep quality. To the contrary, irregularity will adversely affect “Melatonin“ levels which commands the brain when to sleep.
- Avoid alcohol before sleep: Alcohol causes conditions that disrupt sleep like, snoring and Sleep apnea. It inhibits production of melatonin, subsequently distorting the circadian rhythm. Additionally, alongside alcohol, you may want to cut down on fluids shortly before sleep. This will reduce need to wake up to relieve oneself, ultimately allowing a continuous sleep.
- Adapt a pre-sleep relaxation routine; these could include having a bath before sleep, massage, relaxation exercises like yoga and meditation, book reading, listening to soft music etc. However, vigorous exercises shortly before sleep are not recommended. This is because; exercises stimulate both body and brain to alertness. Consequently, alertness increases time taken to sleep.
- Create ambience in you sleeping area/room: Create a good and conducive environment for sleep. This could be by,
- Having the right temperature,
- Ensure stillness and minimal noise,
- Eliminate external lights getting to the room,
- Get a good bed and beddings for comfort,
- Cleanliness and proper aeration of the room etc.
However, a “white noise machine” would help if you need soft soothing noise or to drown out external interruptive noises.
Sleep Devices and supplements aided;
- Ensure that you don’t have a sleep disorder; Snoring and sleep disorders are a sure reason to deny you good sleep and the benefits there on. As such, you could “self-test for snoring” or have a respiratory physical check you out for the risky Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). The test will enable you get yourself the right devices to guarantee you good uninterrupted sleep.
- Use of Sleep aiding Supplements; as discussed above, Melatonin directs the brain on when to shut and sleep. Melatonin Supplements have proven effective as reliable sleep aids. It reduces time one takes to fall asleep ensuring more restful time. It will normalize circadian rhythm incase its distorted, and as such, its recommended in-case of change of time zones. It hardly ever has withdrawal effects. Professional advice is recommended more so especially if you consider using it on children.There are other supplements that you may consider. However, caution is that, only one type should be used at a go.
How can technology help to improve sleep quality;
Technology, already embraced by millions is helping to improve the quality of the much deserved healthy sleep. The devices employed are enabled to collect and analyze data on your sleep to enable you know how to improve. The data collected range from sounds during sleep, respiration and heart beat monitoring, body movements and even record hours slept.
Importance and benefits of quality sleep cannot be underrated as it has a direct effect on our general health and productivity.