The Sleep Foundation’s research shows that adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, but just getting the recommended amount of sleep isn’t enough to keep you happy and healthy. Getting good, quality sleep is vital to your physical and mental health, but can be difficult to ensure that you get the kind of sleep you need!
What Is Good Sleep?
If all sleep was good sleep, we would all awaken feeling refreshed and rested. Unfortunately, that is not the case! Sleep is quite complex, and to understand what separates good sleep from bad sleep, you need to know what sleep is supposed to accomplish.
Good Sleep Is A Process
A good night’s sleep is divided into two stages: REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep occurs in three phases. You cycle through all of these phases multiple times during a good night’s sleep, as all of them are necessary for memory consolidation and resting the brain.
Good Sleep Is Continuous
If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, you aren’t getting good sleep. Studies have shown that continuous sleep is as important as overall sleep duration, especially for the support of cognitive function the next day.
Good Sleep Is Rhythmic
Our sleep patterns are usually governed by our circadian rhythm. This is a cycle based roughly on a 24-hour day that determines our bodies’ hormonal responses to light levels and other environmental stimuli. Ignoring our circadian rhythm throws our sleep cycles off and creates discord between our bodies and our environment, which leads to poor quality sleep.
The Risks Of Bad Sleep
The UK’s NHS estimates that one in three people suffer from poor sleep. Bad sleep is more than just an inconvenience: It is a health risk. People who don’t get enough sleep are at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, memory issues, weakened immunity, and memory and mood issues. In the USA, over 100,000 car crashes are caused by drowsy driving each year. These risks are substantial and can be avoided by improving our sleep quality.
The Benefits Of A Good Night Of Sleep
On the other hand, if we get good sleep, we see improvements in our cognitive abilities almost immediately! Because sleep helps regulate our immune system, good sleep can reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Sleep helps the body repair itself and gives the brain a well-deserved resting period that allows you to have better executive function and improved mood the next day.
Why Good Sleep Can Be Hard To Get
Before modern technology, peoples’ sleep schedules were dictated largely by the sun. The day didn’t end with sunset, but the natural light cycle helped promote a healthy sleep cycle. It’s also likely that our ancestors’ sleep patterns varied to take advantage of optimal sleep temperatures and seasonal changes. In other words, their sleep cycles were flexible and took advantage of the environment.
Today, we enjoy the benefits of modern technology for work, play, and automation. But that comes at a cost: Sleep. Our modern world doesn’t cycle around local environmental effects, and our globalized society means that we’re often working odd hours and using technology late into the night. This means that to get the sleep we need, we need to develop good sleep habits.
Developing Good Sleep Habits
Improving your sleep might seem like a daunting task, but by making small changes, you can introduce better sleep habits. Over time, you will see these small changes make big improvements!
Put Down The Phone
Putting away your devices at least an hour and a half before bedtime will immediately help improve sleep. The blue light generated by screens reduces melatonin levels after just ninety minutes. Technology also often leads to mental stimulation, which keeps our brains alert and wakeful, and “just one more episode” often turns into a distraction that keeps us up hours later than we want.
Turn Down The Thermostat
Your body benefits from a cooler temperature when you’re sleeping. Our body temperature begins to drop as bedtime nears, triggering the release of melatonin– the “sleep hormone.” By keeping your bedroom cool, you can help your body with this process to jumpstart your sleep cycle. Doctors recommend keeping your bedroom between 60ºF and 67ºF to get the best sleep possible.
Develop A Routine
Picking a bedtime and sticking to it can help maintain your internal clock. Researchers at Harvard note that the best sleep routine is one that addresses the disruptions to sleep that you experience. Everyone’s ideal routine is different, but a good routine can help build lifetime sleep habits that improve all aspects of your health and wellbeing.
Align Your Spine
Does the position you sleep in matter? Is it good to sleep on your stomach? How about your back or side? Honestly, you can sleep in any position that’s comfortable for you and still get a good night’s sleep. What’s really important is spinal alignment. Stomach sleepers should place a small pillow under their hips to keep their spine in proper alignment, while back sleepers should make sure to keep a pillow under their knees for the same reason. Side sleepers should hold a firm pillow between their knees to keep their upper leg from putting downward pressure on their hips and lower back.
Supplementing your body’s natural melatonin production can improve your sleep by helping you achieve a state of relaxed, quiet wakefulness when you take it about two hours before bedtime. But as with any supplement, you need to make good decisions about what products to take.
While there are many melatonin products available, it’s important to choose one made from high-quality ingredients without inert fillers to “bulk out” the dose. It can also help to choose a synergistic product that combines melatonin with other sleep-improving compounds. Rest by Vitaldiol combines melatonin with relaxing, calming CBD isolate to make it easier to fall asleep and get the good quality sleep you need.
Ultimately, there’s little that’s more important than a good night’s sleep. By making small changes, you can make huge improvements to your quality of life. We hope that the next time you get ready for bed, you take the time to invest in improving your sleep– your body will thank you!