We sleep to restore and rest the body and mind. If we can learn to sleep better there are many benefits. The brain organises and integrates memories during sleep. And dreaming sleep can be an important way for the unconscious to process events and difficult emotions. Lack of sleep can affect our daytime functioning, hormonal balance, appetite and immune system.
Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle and can benefit our heart health, mental health and even our weight! All mammals, including us humans, have internal clocks that tell us when we need to sleep; they are sensitive to light so that we feel alert when the sun is up and drowsy when it is down. We are the sleepiest between midnight and 6am and between 1pm and 3pm.
How much sleep do we need?
- Babies – 16 hours per day
- Children – 9-16 hours per day
- Teenagers – 9 hours per day
- Adults – Most need 7-8 hours a day, but some may need as few as 5 or as many as 10
- Pregnant women need more sleep than usual
- Older adults may sleep for short periods of time or more often
Good sleep is deep and restful.Your brain waves are in alpha state before you drop into sleep and in theta/delta when you are asleep. Your muscles are relaxed. Your body rearranges itself once or twice each hour so your blood circulates. You spend at least two hours dreaming. Your body’s cells produce and store proteins to renew and restore all of your systems.
Tiredness on waking
Have you ever woken up and felt like you haven’t really slept even if your sleep was not interrupted? Anyone can have a sleep problem, many people accept this as normal and few people seek the help they need from their doctors.
If you don’t sleep it can seriously affect your body:
Day 1 with no sleep – You will feel tired and irritable. You may feel ‘wired’ because your body produces extra adrenalin, or you may feel slowed down because of fatigue. You may start to feel more grumpy.
Day 2 with no sleep – You will probably have trouble concentrating and your attention span will feel shorten considerably. You are likely to make more mistakes at work. You shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery. You will certainly be feeling grumpier now. Lack of sleep causes our brains to overreact to the negative, when we are tired we lose the ability to focus on positive stimuli. In short, lack of sleep blunts the positive emotions and makes us feel more negative.
Day 3 with no sleep – Your will probably have extreme difficultly thinking clearly and you may see things that aren’t there or believe things aren’t true.
If you consistently can’t get to sleep or wake in the night and struggle to get back to sleep or if you wake too early you may have a sleeping problem.
The symptoms of a lack of sleep:
- You wake up feeling like you didn’t get any sleep
- You have trouble staying awake while driving
- Your struggle to stay awake while inactive, such as watching TV
- You yawn or blink frequently
- You have difficulty paying attention or concentrating
- You have disconnected thoughts or frequent daydreams
- Your performance at work has dropped
- You have a slow reaction time
- You have mood swings
- You start dreaming right away when you fall asleep
5 Top Tips to help you sleep better or get a better quality sleep:
- It is good to establish a bedtime routine, to calm and relax your brain as you get ready to sleep so that you don’t take those high beta waves into deep sleep with you!
- Learn to relax to re-balance sympathetic and para sympathetic nervous system and establish low alpha brainwaves.
- Exercise raises your body temperature. This counteracts your internal body clock, which lowers your temperature before bed. Make sure you don’t exercise before bedtime, allow at least two hours before bed time.
- Yoga and particularly yoga nidra, can help you get the best night’s sleep you have ever had.
- Yoga Nidra is a practice which leads awareness through many levels of mental process to a state of supreme stillness, receptivity and insight. Like all yoga practices it is the persistent practise that brings about real transformation and joy.