A sleeping lady

What is sleep?

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Previously, it was common for people to assume that sleep is a natural and passive activity where the entire body "shut down" until you wake up. Research has, however, disapproved this with the common finding that our bodies are still active and carrying out some processes during the state of sleep. The brain is the chief coordinator of all these processes.

Science has come to show that sleep occurs in a cycle which alternates from the state of consciousness to deeper state of consciousness. This cycle occurs throughout duration of sleep.

What are the two types of sleep?

There are two distinct types of sleep:

  1. Rapid Eye Movement(REM) sleep and
  2. Non Rapid Eye Movement(Non-REM) sleep.

REM sleep occurs about 90 minutes after you have fallen asleep. It also commonly known as paradoxical sleep because what the brain does here is similar to what it does during the state of wakefulness. Dreaming also occurs here. There are some body and brain changes which occur and these include: increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, sexual arousal, rapid movements of the eye, and a difference in thermoregulation and homeostasis.

Non-REM sleep is also called quiescent sleep. It is the most dominant phase and is where you experience deep sleep. Here, you do not experience rapid eye movements. The mind and body are in their most dormant state. They undergo massive repair and regeneration. Younger people experience longer hours of these sleep. Some of the activities that take place here include: rebuilding of bone and muscle, strengthening of the body immune system, regeneration of body cells and tissues, and restoration of various hormones and proteins. Unlike REM sleep, Non-REM sleep occurs in four stages which we will not discuss it here.

What is a good and quality sleep?

A good quality sleep is one that allows your body and brain to rest optimumly without interruptions in between. Sleep is vital in maintaining good physical and mental health. It is an absolute necessity to stable consciousness and sanity.

How can you get a good and quality sleep?

Everyone wants to get a good and quality night sleep but with this current fast paced life, it is common for people to sacrifice healthy sleep for work and play. This however is a poor practice that can negatively affect your health and cause you unprecedented illnesses of both mind and body.

We have brought you some of the common practices that you can do to improve your sleep. These are discussed below:

Develop a healthy bedtime ritual

Having a well-organized sleep-time routine that helps you relax is the best thing you can do for yourself. Many successful people have employed various bedtime rituals to help them sleep better and increase their productivity. Activities such as taking a warm bath, reading and meditating make it easier for the mind to fall asleep. With enough discipline you can get yourself into a routine that works for you. Relaxing bedtime routines are the best way to improve your sleep quality. Some activities you can do before going to bed include;

These are just to name but a few. The main aim is to create a comfortable mental environment most suitable for sleep. This will aid your brain to smoothly and beautifully transit from the state of wakefulness to sleep.

Limit daytime naps

It is well known that a power nap can help increase productivity and performance. Naps also contribute to a healthy lifestyle. However irregular and long naps have been shown to have a negative effect. If you happen to suffer from any sleep disorder, try to reduce or avoid naps. This is because napping can worsen problems such as insomnia, sleep apnea or poor night-time sleep quality.

It is quite tempting to kick back and have a little snooze during the day. Frequent napping can also be damaging to your natural sleep cycle. Long naps during the day reduce quality of sleep at night. To be on the safe side keep your power nap to no more than thirty minutes and avoid napping late in the noon-time. The bed should be preserved for night time.

Avoid screens for at least an hour before going to bed.

The light rays and electromagnetic waves emitted by our devices can delay sleep latency. They also affect some stages of deep sleep. Nighttime exposure to light has a negative effect on your brain. The blue light from electronic devices is especially worrysome. It tricks your brain into functioning like daytime. This affects the likelihood of getting good deep sleep. The best practice is to keep off all devices for at least an hour before sleep. If you must use your phone, computer or tablet here are some helpful measures to reduce blue light exposure.

Avoid caffeine in the evenings.

Caffeine is a known stimulant. It increases brain activity. This makes falling asleep harder and uncomfortable. This means you should strive to avoid chocolates, evening tea, soft drinks and some medicines. The underlying effect of high caffeine consumption on sleep cannot be overstated. Not only will you have problems falling asleep but also waking up.

Your body’s need for caffeine will make waking up and your morning routine troublesome. Caffeine’s biggest effect is seen in the REM phase of sleep. Heavy consumers of caffeine often do not remember dreams. You also increase the chances of interrupted sleep, i.e waking up at odd hours of the night because of stimulation of brain activity by caffeine.

Your body also constantly works to eliminate excess caffeine. This is done by kidney via urine. This is the reason why many people get an urgent burning sensation to pass out urine almost immediately after taking tea. You may, therefore, find your sleep being interrupted by an urgent need to go and relieve yourself in the bathroom.

You should therefore avoid too much caffeine especially in the evenings.

Optimize your bedroom environment

A good bedroom environment optimizes sleep. There are various factors that go into making a room good enough for healthy and quality sleep. The most important factor is hygiene. A clean room allows you to enjoy space and good airflow. This is necessary in aeration and getting rid of toxins that may ruin your overall health, let alone your sleep.

The factors that are most vital in enhancing sleep quality are noise, temperature and lighting. Studies have shown that diminished noise and lighting improved sleep quality by more than 50 percent. If you must keep your lights on while sleeping then make sure that it is a low light.

Doctors advise that your bedroom should maintain a cool atmosphere. Your bedroom should not be warm nut and also not freezing cold. A cool environment helps to put the brain into a less-active state. This is almost like hibernation for some animals.

Get comfortable and clean beddings

Your mattress and pillow should be comfortable to your body. Your mattress should not be to hard to nor too soft. It should have the right density. It should also not be too thin to the extent that you feel direct pressure from the woodings or metals that support the base of your mattress.

Ensure that your bedsheets and covers are clean every time. You should wash them every week if not every three days. There should never be dust in it as this can disturb your comfort in bed by inducing or making you cough.

Put in place this measures and you will enjoy your sleep and wake up healthy and fresh for the day's activities.

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Sleep is dedrimental to good health. You should therefore always aim at getting the best of it so that it possitively impacts on your health.