EXAMINING SLEEP: Why, How and How Much?
One of my biggest regrets in adulthood is not recognising the true value of sleep. I definitely regret every nap which I did not take as a child; I would love to make use of some of that valuable sleep time now.
Adult life is hectic and admittedly, for those of us who are seeking to successfully manage a career, care for a family, pursue further studies and maintain a social life, all while trying to be fit and active, sleep can easily became a casualty which is sacrificed in an effort to stay on top of it all.
Sleeping is a natural part of the human life experience, so let’s delve a little deeper into why we should make sleep a priority.
Why should you sleep?
• It feels good!
After a long day, drifting off into a peaceful slumber feels like absolute bliss! Not all sleep feels this way, but specifically the feel-good sleep is the kind of sleep where you don’t even remember when you fell asleep. Instead, your muscles just relaxed, the tension left your body, your mind stopped racing and your conscious mind switched off to recharge and you remain in the blissful state for six or more hours.
Now that is a good sleep.
• It improves your productivity!
Be honest, how much do you really get done, and get done efficiently when your mind and body are tired?
Sleep deprivation hampers various cognitive functions and reduces your ability to concentrate. Reduced energy levels also hinder a person’s output by slowing down your movement and other physical capabilities.
• It helps your memory!
You might not be as forgetful as you think you are, you might just be underrested. When you sleep, your brain uses this time to process events of the day and consolidate them into longterm memories. Lack of sleep reduces your brain’s ability to create memories and makes it difficult to recall past events.
• It lifts your mood!
Admit it, there are days when everything irritates you. Your patience is limited and your tolerance for people and their actions and attitudes is low. This could be largely due to a lack of rest. While other people may not experience irritability, sleeplessness has also been linked to a lack of emotional regulation which manifests itself in conditions such as anxiety and depression.
• It strengthens your immune system!
As you know, when you are sick, rest is usually a part of the doctor’s recommendation for your recovery process. That’s because while your mind is in a state of rest, your internal systems are hard at work repairing and regenerating your body. The better your sleep is, the stronger your immune system is at fighting off illnesses.
How can you improve your sleep?
Now, let’s consider some ways to improve your nightly sleep. If you have not been getting a sound rest each night, here are some tips that might help you improve your sleep life: This does not just apply to children. Adults should abide by a fixed bedtime nightly, even on weekends. If you have to break your routine, try not to let it be more than one hour earlier or later than your fixed time.
• Power down before bed.
At least an hour before your sleep time, turn off lights and devices such as televisions and computers to prepare your brain for rest mode.
• Nap when needed.
Naps are not just for children. While they need naps to help their brain development and give them the appropriate number of hours of sleep per day, adults can benefit from naps too, as they help to boost productivity and alertness.
• Watch what you consume, and how much.
Avoid alcohol, nicotine and heavy meals immediately before going to bed, give your body a few hours before bedtime.
• Get out and work out.
Physical activity and time outdoors can improve your night’s rest, but be sure to avoid strenuous and intense exercise before bedtime.
• Make the bedroom a welcoming space.
Many parents make the mistake of using a child’s bed and or bedroom as a place for punishments and timeouts. However, children should not be given this perception. Their room should be comfortable and a place they want to go and stay on their own at bedtime.
• Create a peaceful atmosphere.
A quiet, cool bedroom which is dark or dimly lit sets a nice tone for sleeping. Before bed, take a warm shower and use relaxation techniques to unwind your body and calm your mind.
• Sleep comfortably.
Choose a mattress, pillows and bed linens which are comfortable. They should provide adequate support for your neck, back and feet.
How much sleep does a person really need?
The answer to this question varies based on a person’s age. You may realise that you might not be getting an adequate amount of sleep each night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, these are the recommended amount of hours per day: KW