Written by Mike Merkt
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! You finally stop that dreaded noise that is coming from whatever device you choose to help wake you up. In today’s day and age, many of us view sleep as rest and think that it doesn’t serve much purpose. Since we view sleep in this regard it does not seem like a very important aspect of our lives. It especially seems like a waste of time if we realize that we spend over 1/3 of our lives sleeping. That means if you are 90 years old, you have spent over 30 years of your life sleeping, which seems like time wasted, doesn’t it?
Sleep is absolutely NOT time wasted. It has been shown that sleep has dramatic effects on your overall health. Many people think that when we sleep that the body shuts down. Sure you aren’t eating, working, thinking, or exercising when you sleep. Parts of the brain shut down when you sleep but other parts increase their activity during sleep.
There are many reasons thought by scientists why we sleep, but there are really 2 main reasons, which are restoration, and brain function. There are certain parts of your brain that are specifically turned on only when you sleep that help with the restoration of your mind and body. One of the most important things that happens when you sleep is brain processing. This may sound complicated but when you sleep, information from the day is sorted and stored. This means that someone who is sleep deprived is not able to recall and come up with solutions to problems as quickly and as intuitively as someone who has proper rest along with an increase in creativity. It’s been estimated that a good nights sleep gives you triple the advantage to solving complex problems compared to those who are sleep deprived. This information alone makes it obvious that sleep isn’t something that just takes up time.
Research has shown that lack of sleep causes poor memory, increased impulsiveness, weight gain, increased stress, decreased immunity, and poor judgement.
How do you know if you aren’t getting enough quality sleep? If you need an alarm clock to get up, if it takes you a long time to get up, if you need lots of stimulants (coffee, caffeine), if you’re grumpy and irritable, or if you’re told that you look tired are all hints that you’re not getting enough sleep.
So now that we know that sleep is important, what are some ways that we can get a better night’s sleep? Here are 3 tips for a better night’s sleep!
Cool Down. I know that this probably sounds silly but it is important. The first thing is make your room slightly cool, around 65 degrees. Something worth noting is that you might fall asleep faster if you warm your body before bed. Going from a warm environment into a cooler environment can slow your body’s metabolism, which makes you a little drowsy allowing you to fall asleep quicker. I know that you might think this sounds funny since you are jumping under a warm blanket but researchers have also found that a cool head is more conducive to sleep.
Use Light to your Advantage. When going to sleep make your room as dark as possible, also be sure to be careful when you are brushing your teeth before bed. It is best to do this with dimly lit lights as it cues the brain to prepare for sleep. It is recommended that you dim your lights 30 minutes before you are going to go to sleep, this includes shutting off your phone and computer. When it is time to wake up expose yourself to bright light, either by looking out a window or turning on your bedroom or bathroom lights. This helps the brain wake up and also establishes a better sleep cycle for your body.
Use Technology to your Advantage. I know I know, in the above tip I told you to put away your phone and computer 30 minutes before you go to sleep. This doesn’t mean that we can’t use them to our advantage. Although you should get up without an alarm most people use an alarm to help them get out of bed. Something to incorporate with your alarm clock is the use of a sleep app. With a sleep app it will tell you how much you move around, if you snore, or what cycle of sleep you are in. Have you ever been sleeping then forced to wake up because of something but then you feel extra groggy? That is probably because you were woken up at the wrong time in your sleep cycle. Apps like SleepBot have a “smart alarm” that actually wakes you at the correct moment of your sleep cycle.