We tend to think of sleep as a time when the mind and body shut down. But this is not the case.
Sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs. Exactly how this happens and why our bodies are programmed for such a long period of slumber, is still somewhat of a mystery. However, scientists do understand some of sleep’s critical functions, and the reasons we need it for optimal health and wellbeing.
One of the vital roles of sleep is to help us solidify and consolidate memories. As we go about our day, our brains take in an incredible amount of information. Rather than being directly logged and recorded, however, these facts and experiences first need to be processed and stored, and many of these steps happen while we sleep.
Overnight, bits and pieces of information are transferred from more tentative, short-term memory to stronger, long-term memory – a process called “consolidation.” Researchers have also shown that, after people sleep, they tend to retain information and perform better on memory tasks. Our bodies all require long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones. Here are some top tips to help you sleep:
1. To get the most out of our sleep cycles, we need to adopt a specific pre-sleep routine. This includes, creating an electronic sundown by switching off laptops and other high-stimulus gadgets that can keep you in an alert “wake” state and prevents the cortisol levels in the body from gradually decreasing – something that is essential for drifting off peacefully and easily. Also, cover all indicator lights as each bit of light stops your melatonin levels from rising, which you need to induce sleep.
2. The ideal environment to sleep is a “cool” one – raising your body temperature with a warm shower just before climbing into bed in a cool bedroom is likely to help you sleep better. Being stuffy or too cold is a key indicator of poor sleep.
3. Keep properly hydrated during the day.
4. Have good bedding that suits your needs. Choose a mattress that makes you feel supported and cool and a bed large enough so that you and your partner are not disturbing one another. Also, see my blog about pillows →
5. DO NOT PANIC IF YOU DON’T GET AN EIGHT HOUR STRETCH OF SLEEP. People are different and not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. Take advantage of downtime to cat nap and recover. Try not to fill every moment of every day with activity but give yourself downtime to prepare your body for sleep. It is a modern phenomenon, since the advent of electricity, to sleep in one stretch. Many cultures still have a ‘long lunch’ or siesta.
6. Have a regular time for going to bed and getting up, and develop a relaxation routine that works for you. This could include a warm bath with some drops of lavender, bergamot or camomile essential oil, either in the bath or in an oil burner. Sleep in complete darkness and open your curtains as soon as you wake up. How you prefer to relax when or before you go to bed, may be related to your sensory preference. If you are highly visual, you may prefer to read a book (nothing too thrilling or exciting and definitely not work related). If you are auditory, you could listen to relaxing music, the radio or a guided visualisation. If you are kinaesthetic, you may prefer something more physical such as breathing exercises. The ideal will probably involve a combination of all these senses and may include smell and taste. Do what works for you.
7. Take regular exercise, but not too close to the time you want to go to sleep. Exercise not only helps to tire out the body physically but is also an important time for YOU away from the computer and stresses of your work and responsibilities.
For more information on sleep issues or to book an appointment in Bridgnorth or Shrewsbury, please call 01746 761050.