You have probably heard many times before that we spend a third of our lives sleeping. Have you ever wondered why do we need to sleep that much? Although sleep is one of our basic daily needs, just like eating or drinking water, more than 60% of adults believe they should sleep more during the week. Sleep, like nutrition and physical activity, is critical to our physical and mental health, and if we don’t get enough shuteye, we will actually sacrifice a lot more than just a good night’s sleep.
The 5 Stages of Sleep
During sleep, our body and mind is repaired and restored. Simply put, without sleep, our body can’t properly prepare for the next day. However, lack of sleep won’t only lead to tiredness and grogginess, but it will also deteriorate the overall quality of your life. In order to understand the importance of sleep, you should know more about how sleep actually flows.
Sleep has five main stages, and in order to have a good nigh sleep, we need to go through each of them, even a couple of times. The first stage of slumber is light sleep. In light sleep, your body relaxes and prepares for deep sleep. During this stage, we breathe slowly. In the second stage, the brain waves become slower and our eye movement stops. The third stage is characterized by slower and faster delta brain waves, while the fourth stage consists of only delta brain waves. During deep sleep, there is not any body or eye movement. It is very difficult to wake someone from this stage even if he or she is a light sleeper. The fifth stage of sleep is REM sleep, also known as rapid eye movement or dream stage. During REM sleep, breathing becomes faster and shallower, while our heart rate and blood pressure increase.
Since REM occurs at the end of our sleep cycle, getting a couple of hours to sleep means we will miss it out. REM sleep is vital for preserving both our physical and mental health. Research shows that individuals who do not experience REM sleep and dream that often are more prone to depression, anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses.
Negative Effects of Lack of Sleep
Lack of sleep is associated with heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other severe medical conditions and diseases. However, before worrying about these chronic health problems, you should learn how lack of shuteye can deteriorate the overall quality of your life.
Lack of Sleep Slows Down Your Mind
Lack of sleep will first affect your mind. You will have difficulties concentrating, staying alert and even remembering things. During sleep, things you have learned the previous day are transferred from short term memory to long term memory. However, without slumber, your mind simply won’t have enough time to organize your memories and experience and make them available to you in the future. If you are a student, this will severely affect you because you won’t be able to learn properly and prepare your exams.
Higher Risk of Accidents
Unfortunately, research shows that issues with sleeping lead to severe injuries on the job and tragic traffic accidents. By not getting enough sleep, you are not actually only affecting your health, but also jeopardizing the wellbeing of others, especially if the nature of your work requires you to be extra careful.
According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, being tired is as dangerous as driving under influence. The US NHTSA warns us that fatigued drivers cause more than 100,000 car crashes and 1,500 road related deaths every year.
Insomnia Ages You
You are definitely aware that you don’t look so good after a sleepless night, but did you know that lack of sleep actually speeds up aging? When we are tired and fatigued, our body produces cortisol, a stress hormone that has the ability to break down collagen proteins. Collagen proteins are crucial for ensuring our skin cells stay young and fresh. High cortisol levels cause collagen degradation and ultimately lead to fine lines, poor tone and wrinkles.
Essential Sleep Tips
The following tips are essential for improving your sleep hygiene. Using these tips for a week or two will definitely improve your sleep and make a massive difference to many elements of your life.
Set Your Body’s Natural Sleep-Wake Clock
Sleeping eight hours during a night and establishing a healthy sleeping pattern has many benefits to your physical and mental health. Regular and quality sleep will also help you think more clearly and ensure creative ideas come easily. To establish a healthy sleeping routine, try sleeping and getting up roughly at the same time every day – this means no sleeping in, even on weekends. Although naps are good for your health, you should limit them to 15 to 20 minutes a day.
Control Your Exposure to Light
Modern life has greatly altered our natural sleep-wake cycle, and improper exposure to light can also shift it further. In order to optimize your sleep as well as your writing process, expose yourself to sunlight as soon as you wake up, and ensure you have as much as natural light into your home as possible. At night, avoid bright screens at least one or two hours before sleep because the blue lights emitted by your phone, TV and computer can severely disrupt it. All electronic devices have a stimulating effect on our brain and in order to sleep peacefully, we need something calming or relaxing. Many writers struggle with insomnia because they are over exposed to blue light emitted by their computer screen. Even if we turn down the brightness or use light-altering software to minimize its impact, these electronic devices still greatly impact our overall quality of sleep. If you have troubles falling asleep at night, instead of watching TV, listen to relaxing music or read an inspiring book.
Get a Good Mattress
The most important factor in getting a good night’s sleep is your mattress. If your mattress is old or causes you pain and discomfort, consider replacing it. If you don’t do this you are just encouraging more and more sleepless nights. Since the minds of creative individuals tend to work faster than average, you might also have additional troubles falling asleep at night. The best mattresses for insomnia are the ones that reduce the stress on pressure points of our body and allow us to sleep peacefully through the night. Getting a memory foam mattress will mostly likely do the trick because they provide increased blood flow and circulation, help us fall asleep faster and stay asleep during the entire night.
Eat and Drink Healthier
All your daytime habits affect the quality of your sleep – especially the last two hours before going to bed. Avoid caffeine and nicotine not only to alleviate sleep problems, but also because it kills your creativity. It is true that coffee can give you a temporary boost in productivity and creative thinking, but if you are having more than a few cups every day, you are actually burning on energy your body doesn’t really have. After you experience a caffeine crash, you will also going to be in a fight for good ideas.
Smoking also works as a stimulant than will not only disrupt your sleep, but will also slow you down and affect your cognitive functions.
When it comes to food, it is important to avoid big meals at night, as well as eating sugary foods and refined drinks. Refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, and pasta can pull you out of the deep stages of sleep that are the most important for restoring your energy and boosting your creativity levels.
About the author
Andrew Levacy runs Memory Foam Talk, a site dedicated to unbiased Mattress reviews. As a person who suffers from insomnia for years, and someone who slept on almost 75 mattresses since starting the site, my mission is to help people have a better night’s sleep by facilitating the long and often painful process of selecting a new mattress.