The quality of your life depends on the quality of your sleep...
Current research into sleep has shown just how important a good night's sleep is to function optimally in our busy, sometimes stressful, daily lives. A solid night's sleep has a myriad of benefits to keep us mentally alert, physically refreshed and emotionally stable. It turn out that scientific research has begun to provide a simple explanation for the benefits of sleep, particularly for our mental health.
Much of the current sleep research is founded on the recent discovery of the glymphatic system, and its role in removing toxins from our brain. “It’s been coined the glymphatic system,” says A. Thomas Perkins, a sleep expert and director of the Sleep Medicine Program at Raleigh Neurology in Raleigh, North Carolina. “This system sort of flushes the brain of all metabolic waste, and it does this every night, getting in between the cells and neurons, purging the brain of the metabolic byproducts of the day.”
This vital maintenance system, first discovered in 2012, uses the cells’ mitochondria to remove cellular waste from the brain. It was found that the clear cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain is what is responsible for draining toxins from the brain, much like how the lymph system in other organs is what removes waste from those cells to the kidney and liver. But the brain has no lymph – it has CSF instead. The important aspect of the glymphatic system is that it is particularly active during sleep, and not getting enough sleep or not sleeping deeply enough hinders your brain’s ability to perform this nightly flush, possibly leading to the cognitive effects you experience the next day. For detailed information on this important research - http://www.sleepdex.org/reboot.htm.
While it's reassuring to have some scientific insight into this nightly drama, personal experience is probably a better measure. Everyone remembers waking from a wonderful night's sleep, hopefully in the not to distant past. How did we know it was a deep and restful sleep? That's easy...we found that upon waking we felt physically refreshed, mentally alert and, most importantly in a great mood. The good news is that by prioritizing sound and successful sleep habits, we can learn to create many more mornings when we feel on top of the world.
The National Sleep Foundation, https://sleepfoundation.org/, suggests that "Your bedroom is your sanctuary from the stresses of the day. Use your senses to create the best environment for sleep." They now have an additional website, https://sleep.org/, that is "dedicated to starting a movement about the positive benefits of sleep health. Learn more about how you can feel better and start improving your sleep today."
Both of these sites provide a wealth of information on successful sleeping habits, sleep health, sleep disorders and additional sleep topics. We urge to investigate these sites, not only if you are having trouble sleeping, but also to create even higher quality sleeping habits.
Getting a good night's sleep won't grant you immunity from disease, but study after study has found a link between insufficient sleep and some serious health problems, such as heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity.
Research has shown that the temperature in your bedroom has a profound effect on falling asleep, and staying asleep. It's actually a very simple equation, our circadian rhythm responds to external stimulus, particularly when it's time for us to fall asleep. As temperature fall, our bodies responds by inducing sleep.
Not only does a mild drop in temperature help us to fall asleep, but the comfort level of your bedroom temperature also affects the quality of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the stage in which you dream.
Make Your Bedroom Dark
Light and darkness are powerful cues that tell your body it's time to rest, or get you ready for a productive day. So it's no surprise that light in the bedroom (as well as light peeking in from outside) has an impact on the quality of your sleep.
If you can wake up rested with the sun after 7-9 hours of sleep, then by all means welcome the early morning rays. If not, use darkening curtains or shades to keep your body in sleep mode until it's time to wake up and start the day.
Power Down For Better Sleep
Whether it’s email, a video game, the Web, or TV, electronic devices have become mainstays in our busy lifestyles. However, the price for staying connected to these devices can be steep. The cognitive stimulation from electronics increases the electrical activity in our brain, which can keep us from both falling asleep and sleeping well.
Studies have also shown that the light stimulation or "glow" from our electronic devices pass through the retina into a part of the hypothalamus (the area of the brain that controls several sleep activities) and delay the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
The most helpful bedtime routine is the simplest, stick to a regular sleep schedule. This helps to regulate your body's clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night. Try to set aside an hour before lights out to slow down and consciously step back from the over-stimulation of our everyday life.
Maybe it's a hot bath, soothing music, a good book, cuddling with your partner, turning the lights down and relaxing, or many other choices that help you slow down. The most important ingredient is that you make a conscious choice to reduce the stimulation and stress of your busy daytime hours by replacing that hurried pace with deliberately calming and slowing yourself down. This conscious choice will bring your body into harmony with the rhythm of deep sleep.
Your Mattress is the Most Important Home Furnishing
Your mattress should have the highest priority of any piece of furniture in your home. You'll spend considerably more time on your mattress than on the couch, recliner or easy chair. Do not "tolerate" an aging mattress, assuming that an aching back, sore shoulders or hips, or morning stiffness are to be expected upon waking for a new day.
Inner-spring mattresses were first developed 150 years ago. Since that time there have been enormous advances in the comfort of mattress materials, particularly foam mattresses. Most of us have seen the TV campaigns for the Tempur-Pedic memory foam mattresses, and they still serve as a great introduction to the comfort provide by all foam mattresses, although they are not without their faults.
Arianna Huffington may popularize discussion of a topic on which many experts agree, that we are in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis, which has profound effects on our health, job performance, relationships and happiness. The book is an effort to point out that sleep is a gateway to a more satisfying life. She is not alone in this assessment.
Scientists at the University of Michigan, who were looking to analyze sleeping patterns around the globe, compiled data from sleeping patterns around the globe shows modern-day social pressures are eating into more and more of everyone's bedtime. They have termed the lack of sleep they found worldwide as a "global sleep crisis." The cause of concern is primarily directed at the impaired judgement that is a result of sleep deprivation.
While a lack of sleep may not be a cause for significant concern, one fact stands out, quality sleep is a boost to human performance. In the same manner that many emphasize nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle choices in search increased productivity, research shows that
There Is No Better Performance Enhancer Than Sleep
Perhaps those who equate sleep with laziness or lack of dedication can be convinced of the benefits of sleep by looking at what's going on in a world that is the ultimate in pragmatism, where performance and winning are everything: sports. To professional athletes, sleep is not about spirituality, work-life balance, or even health and well-being; it's all about performance. It's about what works, about using every available tool to increase the chances of winning.
Sleep quality and duration should be considered a vital sign of our overall health. While many studies emphasize the problems resulting from not enough sleep, extremely long sleep durations can also be indicators of health issues. And it’s not just about how much you are getting. Researchers also found that merely making an effort has a positive effect on your health and your sleep cycle. It turns out, those committed to getting a better night’s rest slept for 36 more minutes than those who made little effort to manage their bed times.
School-aged children and adolescents generally sleep less now compared with decades ago, with the greatest rate of decline in sleep occurring for adolescents and on school days. New research undertaken in Canada examines the influence of sleep duration on key health indicators in children and adolescents.
The National Sleep Foundation in the USA recommends sleeping between 9-11 hours/night for children (ages 6-13 years) and 8-10 hours/night for adolescents (ages 14-17 years). Adolescents have become increasingly vulnerable to sleep deprivation, do to late-night screen time, caffeine use, extracurricular activities, artificial light, and no bedtime rules in the household.
The new research reviewed 141 articles from 40 countries around the world looking at the relationships between sleep duration and health outcomes in children and adolescents aged 5-17 years. Overall, longer sleep duration was associated with lower fat mass, better emotional regulation, better academic achievement, and better quality of life and well-being, confirmimg previous evidence showing that shorter sleep duration is associated with adverse physical and mental health outcomes.