The value of sleep
Waking up energised after a good night sleep is undoubtedly the best way to start a day. Unfortunately insomnia and disruptive sleep can make getting out of bed feel like a nightmare.
A survey on our Facebook page revealed that 64% of respondents suffer from disruptive sleep and wake up a few times during the night. We decided to investigate the impacts of a poor night’s sleep and healthy ways to get enough shut-eye.
People who suffered from disrupted sleep are more likely to have amyloid plaques in the brain (the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease) than sound sleepers, according to a study by Neurologist Dr. Yo-El Ju and researchers at Washington University. Another study concluded that over time, not getting enough deep sleep contributes to high blood pressure. In a 2010 study the protein associated with heart attack risk, C-reactive protein, was found to be high in people who got six hours of sleep or less per night.
In contrast, a good night’s sleep could help you live longer. Adults who sleep between six and half hours to seven and half hours a night have been found to live the longer than those who get less or more than this optimal amount of sleep. A good night’s sleep won’t only help you live longer; it could help you learn faster! According to Dr. Rapoport, associate professor at NYU Langone Medical, sleep helps strengthen memories or “practice” skills learned while you were awake in a process called consolidation.
Now that you know why a good night sleep is important, here are a few ways to improve the quality of your sleep…
- Cut down caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant which can keep you up at night. Instead of having a cup of coffee after supper, opt for caffeine free tea like Rooibos tea or, if you crave that coffee taste, opt for decaf coffee.
- Eat to sleep. According to Joan Salge Blake, RD, a clinical associate professor at Boston University, foods that contain tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin in the body, may aid sleep. Blake recommends making a meal which contains a balance of protein and tryptophan, like a tomato whole-wheat-pasta dish with fresh vegetables, diced chicken breast and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
- Create a calming ritual. Squeezing in work, surfing the net and watching that thrilling crime investigation TV show all before bedtime won’t do you any favours. Too much mental stimulation at night may make it hard to log off and nod off. If you have an active mind, record that TV show, give work a break, turn off your computer at least an hour before turning in, switch your mobile phone off and rather opt for light reading material before bed.
- Create a serene space. Remove distractions and clutter from your bedroom, particularly electronic devices like mobile phones, computers and TVs. If possible, don’t let pets sleep in your bedroom and ensure the bedroom is as dark as possible when sleeping. If bright security lighting or street lights illuminate your room at night, invest in blackout blinds or curtains.
The best recommendations for a good night’s sleep are aimed at calming the mind, because as the famous English author Charlotte Brontë so aptly put it, “A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.”