Sleep

Sleep is an important part of your daily routine—you spend about one-third of your time doing it.

Quality sleep – and getting enough of it at the right times — is as essential to survival as food and water.

Without sleep you can’t form or maintain the pathways in your brain that let you learn and create new memories, and it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly.

Sleep is important to a number of brain functions, including how nerve cells (neurons) communicate with each other. In fact, your brain and body stay remarkably active while you sleep. Recent findings suggest that sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins in your brain that build up while you are awake.

Frequently Asked Questions

If I can’t get to sleep, should I take sleeping pills?

According to leading researcher Matthew Walker at UC Berkley, unfortunately, the current set or classes of sleeping pills that we have do not produce naturalistic sleep. So they are all a broad set of chemicals that we call the sedative hypnotics. And sedation is not sleep. It’s very different. It doesn’t give you the restorative natural benefits of sleep.

Another concern with sleeping pills is that they have been linked to a higher risk of death and cancer. Walker thinks this evidence has perhaps not made its way clearly out to the public yet. Walker says: “Now, we don’t currently know whether that evidence is simply correlational versus causal. We don’t simply know if people who are taking sleeping pills are also people who are more likely to die a faster death or more likely to suffer from cancer. But it could very well be that those sleeping pills do cause a higher likelihood of death and cancer. That data is currently unclear. But I think the public needs to be informed about that evidence.”

Should I use alcohol go help me get to sleep?

Alcohol doesn’t put you to sleep faster. That’s one of the most misunderstood aspects of alcohol. Alcohol, again, is a sedative drug. And what you’re doing there is simply knocking yourself out. You are removing consciousness quickly from the brain by way of having alcohol. But you’re not putting yourself into naturalistic sleep.

The other issue is that alcohol will both fragment your sleep – it will litter it and punctuate it with many more awakenings throughout the night. These awakenings are brief andyou tend not to remember them. And so once again, you’re not quite aware of how bad your sleep was when you had alcohol in the system. The final aspect of alcohol is that it is very good at blocking your REM sleep or your dream sleep, which is critical for aspects of mental health within the brain and emotional restitution, too.

What should I do if I can’t sleep?

Consistency Counts

Going to bed at the same time every night is a great place to start improving yours sleep habits. Try and stay within 20 minutes of your usual bedtime every night, even on the weekends. This will also help you keep a fixed wake-time each morning, so you’ll rise feeling rested and bright-eyed.

Cut the Stimulants

A more challenging habit to curb is your caffeine consumption. Many of us love the afternoon pick-me-up of coffee or tea, but anything consumed after 2 PM is considered bad sleep hygiene. Similarly, smoking and drinking alcohol before bed will give you fitful sleep and a groggy morning. Steer clear of any alcoholic beverages or cigarettes at least three hours before bed.

Avoid Lying Awake

If you find yourself lying in bed unable to drift off after 10 minutes, it’s recommended that you get up and try to relax somewhere else, like a chair in your office or on the couch. You can try and find relaxation through gentle breathing, meditation, or splashing warm water on your face. Steer clear of electronics or reading, as these will only keep your brain active.
Maintaining excellent sleep hygiene is a key part of cultivating great overall health and wellness. Happy sleeping!

Turn Off the Devices

TVs, smartphones, tablets, and computer monitors all emit blue light, which reduces serotonin production in the brain and makes us feel more alert. Powering down devices or adding a blue light filter in the evening will allow your body to start producing melatonin at the appropriate time, so sleep overcomes you like it’s supposed to.

Watch What You Eat

Heavy meals or those with high acidity, sugar, or spice can cause fitful rest. Try and eat lighter healthier dinners with lean meat or fish to help curb late night snacking. If you do want a snack before bed, consider a high-carbohydrate snack like toast or crackers. These foods help trigger the release of serotonin, so sleep won’t be far behind.

Stay Out

Be sure to treat your bedroom as just that, a place where you sleep! Using your bedroom for relaxing, doing work, eating dinner, or watching TV is considered poor sleep hygiene, because2 your mind associates the bed as a place of wakefulness. Sleep and alone time with your partner are the only things that should be happening in the bedroom.

Create a Pre-Bed Ritual

Now that you’re going to bed at the same time each night creating a pre-bed ritual is the next best sleep hygiene habit. Many sound sleepers suggest parsing the hour before bedtime into 20-minute segments, where you get everything ready for the next day, take a hot shower, and relax or meditate.

Chill Out

Your bedroom should be the ultimate place for sleep, and this includes maintaining the ideal temperature. Anything between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect for catching zzzs.

Think Dark or Dim

Once you’re finished with dinner and dishes, it’s a good idea to start dimming the lights in your home. This tells your brain that sleep is on the horizon, and you’ll naturally start powering down. Once you get into bed, make sure your room is as dark as possible. Cover windows and shut doors as necessary, and put the electronic devices away.

Workout on Time

Keeping your workouts on an optimal schedule is great for your sleep. Any physical activity should take place no later than three hours before bedtime. Evening workouts cause us to be overstimulated when it’s time to rest, so shoot for morning workouts instead. You’ll feel more energized all day, and your body will be ready to relax come evening.

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