Sleep is Important. Are You Doing It Right?
Sleep serves a similar role in our health and well-being as food, water, and air. Scientists have attributed the function of sleep to a variety of evolutionary, biological, and energy conservation theories. It allows us to recharge both mind and body, maintain brain function, and is vital for brain plasticity (our brain's ability to learn and adapt).
- Boost your immune system
- Prevent weight gain
- Strengthen the heart
- Increase productivity
- Improve mood
- Improve memory
Your body naturally runs on a biological clock, making it essential to stay on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. This is a reason why it is recommended to sleep and wake at consistent times every day.
How Much Sleep Should You Be Getting?
This handy chart outlines how much sleep a person needs at each stage in life:
Healthline also provides a convenient sleep calculator as an easy way to determine what your bedtime should be to get the recommended amount of sleep:
Tips for Better Sleep
- Limit consumption of caffeine and alcohol later in the day
- Listen to calming and relaxing music before bed
- Reduce blue light (phones, laptops, TVs) exposure in the evening
- Optimize your bedroom environment: dim bright lights, steer clear of loud noises, declutter your room
- Cut down daytime naps to no more than 20 minutes
- Use apps like Headspace or Calm
- Practice mindfulness
- Try doing yoga before turning in
If you need a little extra help falling asleep at night or improving the overall quality of the sleep you're getting, consider trying out a melatonin-based supplement. Melatonin is a natural hormone that plays an important role in the body's sleep-wake cycle. It's also worth noting that the body's natural melatonin production decreases with age.
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What is REM Sleep?
There are 4-5 stages of sleep. The first 3-4 are what is categorized as NREM, or non-REM sleep, and stage 5 is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the deepest stage. Human beings ideally cycle through these stages around 5-6 times for a full night's rest. The first period of REM sleep typically occurs 90 minutes after you fall asleep.
Our most vivid dreams occur during the REM stage and why we dream is one of humanity's greatest unanswered questions. While there have been no shortage of proposed explanations, there is no single consensus.
A lack of sleep for one night can leave you with short-term effects such as feeling tired and irritable the next day. On the other hand, longer durations of sleep deprivation over a course of days, weeks, or months, can have detrimental consequences on physical and mental health, essentially reversing the benefits listed above.
- We spend about 1/3 of our lives asleep (that's about 26 years!)
- The feeling of jolting awake just as you're falling asleep is called "hypnic jerks"
- Over 90% of dreams are forgotten within 5 minutes of waking up
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