We’ve all experienced a bad night’s sleep at one time or another. It leaves you feeling irritable, sad, exhausted and due to the effect it has on your hormones it can even make you feel hungrier during the day. As bad as this is in the short term, chronic bad sleep can cause high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and make any existing mental health issues a lot worse too. Our bodies need sleep as it’s a chance to repair, transfer memories into long term memory storage, synthesize hormones and grow and repair muscle. Here’s some more information about sleep – and how you can get more of it!
Types and Stages of Sleep
It’s not as simple as drifting off to sleep and then waking up again in the morning. There are actually different kinds and stages of sleep which have various functions on the body and brain. This is how you can go to sleep some nights and wake up still feeling tired. Light sleep, which accounts for the majority of sleep gained in the night, is responsible for processing memories and emotions. It’s here that the metabolism regulates too.
The next stage is deep sleep; most of the deep sleep we get occurs earlier on in the night. Here you secrete growth hormone, you rebuild your body’s cells, and the immune system is strengthened. You don’t dream during this stage, and it’s mainly focused on the body.
On the flip side, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is very much about the brain. It’s at this stage that your brain is very active, and you begin to dream. The body is paralyzed during this sleep stage to essentially stop you from “acting out” your dreams. You usually get longer periods of REM sleep later in the night close to the morning, which explains why you’re more likely to experience bad dreams the closer you are to waking up for the day. Fitness trackers are a great way to find out exactly how much of each sleep stage you are getting. Since your heart rate changes during each stage it’s easy for it to determine and present in easy-to-read graphs.
Comfort and Getting Better Sleep
A large part of our day (and life in general) as a human being is spent lying down to sleep. So, if you’re lying in an uncomfortable position on an unsuitable surface, it can cause you some issues. Neck, back, shoulder, and hip pain can all result from this. Spend some time choosing a good mattress; it’s recommended that these are replaced every seven years as after that they can wear out. You need something that’s firm enough to support your body but not so firm it causes pressure points. A lot of it will come down to how much you weigh so try out some different styles and see which works best for you.
Your duvet and pillows can also be a reason why you’re not sleeping well. Both of these things can harbor dust mites, and set off allergies and respiratory problems at night. If they’ve not been replaced in a while, throw them away and buy good anti allergenic ones. Soft sheets will finish everything off and give you the ultimate in comfort. Go with good quality with a high thread count that feels soft to the touch – blends including materials like polyester won’t be as breathable and could make you sweat in the night. Finally, what you’re wearing to bed can make all the difference too. Soft, comfortable cotton or bamboo pajamas are a good choice. They’re cozy, breathable and keep you warm in winter/ cool in summer.
Lastly, sticking to a good sleep schedule is one of the best things you can do when it comes to your sleep. You can do this by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. Doing this should help you to fall asleep more quickly, and wake up feeling refreshed where you’ve had enough sleep.