Sleep is one of the strangest things we do each day. The average adult will spend 36 percent of his or her life asleep. For one-third of our time on earth, we transition from the vibrant, thoughtful, active organisms we are during the day and power down into a quiet state of hibernation.
But what is sleep, exactly? Why is it so important and so restorative for our bodies and minds? How does it impact our lives when we are awake.
Sleep serves multiple purposes that are essential to your brain and body. Let’s break down some of the most important ones.
The first purpose of sleep is restoration. Every day, your brain accumulates metabolic waste as it goes about its normal neural activities. While this is completely normal, too much accumulation of these waste products has been linked to neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Alright, so how do we get rid of metabolic waste? Recent research has suggested that sleep plays a crucial role in cleaning out the brain each night. While these toxins can be flushed out during waking hours, researchers have found that clearance during sleep is as much as two-fold faster than during waking hours.
The way this process occurs is fairly remarkable:
During sleep, brain cells actually shrink by 60 percent, allowing the brain’s waste-removal system—called the glymphatic system—to essentially “take out the trash” more easily. The result? Your brain is restored during sleep, and you wake up refreshed and with a clear mind.The second purpose of sleep is memory consolidation. Sleep is crucial for memory consolidation, which is the process that maintains and strengthens your long-term memories. Insufficient or fragmented sleep can hamper your ability to form both concrete memories (facts and figures) and emotional memories.
.Finally, sleep is paramount for metabolic health. Studies have shown that when you sleep 5.5 hours per night instead of 8.5 hours per night, a lower proportion of the energy you burn comes from fat, while more comes from carbohydrate and protein. This can predispose you to fat gain and muscle loss. Additionally, insufficient sleep or abnormal sleep cycles can lead to insulin insensitivity and metabolic syndrome, increasing your risk of diabetes and heart disease..
If you want to know how to sleep better and boost your performance there are 3 levers you can “pull” to give yourself a boost.
Intensity refers to how well you sleep. The percentage of sleeping time you spend in slow wave sleep and REM sleep largely determine the quality of your sleep each night.
Timing refers to when you go to sleep. What time do you go to bed? This factor is important for two reasons. First, if you get in bed around the same time each night, it is easier for your body to develop good sleep habits. Second, the time you go to sleep should be in accordance with your circadian rhythm.
Duration refers to how long you sleep. This one is simple: how much time do you spend sleeping each night?
Use the bedroom for sleep and sex only. Is your bedroom designed to promote good sleep? The ideal sleeping environment is dark, cool, and quiet. Don’t make your bedroom a multi-purpose room. Eliminate TVs, laptops, electronics, and clutter. These are simple ways to improve the choice architecture of your bedroom, so that sleep is easier and distraction is harder. When you go to the bedroom, go there to sleep.
Anyways, there are natural ways one can use to sleep better and they include;
Exercise. There are too many benefits to exercise to list them all here. When it comes to sleep, exercise will make it easier for your brain and body to power down at night. Furthermore, obesity can wreak havoc on your sleep patterns. The role of exercise only becomes more important with age. Fit middle-aged adults sleep significantly better than their overweight peers. One caveat: avoid exercising two to three hours before bedtime as the mental and physical stimulation can leave your nervous system feeling wired and make it difficult to calm down at night.
Temperature. Most people sleep best in a cool room. The ideal range is usually between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 21 degrees Celsius).
Sound. A quiet space is key for good sleep. If peace and quiet is hard to come by, try controlling the bedroom noise by creating “white noise” with a fan. Or, use ear plugs (here’s a good pair).
By; Edna Asare Oppong
Alcohol. This one is a slippery slope. It is true that having a drink before bed — a “night cap” — often does help people fall asleep. However, while it makes it easier to fall asleep, it actually reduces the quality of your sleep and delays the REM cycle. So you fall asleep faster, but it’s possible that you’ll wake up without feeling rested. It’s probably best to improve your sleep through other methods before resorting to alcohol to do the job
Cumulative sleep debt is a barrier between you and optimal performance. If you want to know how to sleep better, the answer is simple but remarkably underrated in our productivity-obsessed culture: get more sleep.