10 Things You Need To Know About Sleep
The bed is a bundle of paradoxes: we go to it with reluctance, yet we quit it with regret; we make up our minds every night to leave it early, but we make up our bodies every morning to keep it late - Charles Caleb Colton
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Sleep Is The Best Meditation.
1. BATH BEFORE BED
About an hour before bedtime, take a nice, long, warm bath. This not only will relax you and make you feel all nice and warm inside, it can actually help you to sleep better.
Well, the normal body temperature is around 37 degrees Celsius, when we take a bath, our internal temperature rises by about 1 degree. After we have taken our bath, our body cools back down to our normal temperature. The cooling of the body after being warmed up by a hot bath is what actually helps to induce sleep.
2. BEATING INSOMNIA
Do you suffer from insomnia? Tired [excuse the pun] of all those sleepless nights? Want to put an end to it without the use of prescription sleeping pills that are potentially dangerous for you?
Professor Espie from the University of Glasgow has a rather strange yet effective approach to beating insomnia.
This approach is called the Sleep Restriction Programme. The aim is to make you so tired that the disruptive sleep patterns are then broken and re-invent your association with sleep.
It is a 4 week programme that is guaranteed to banish away those sleepless nights once and for all. The way the programme works is by restricting you from the bedroom to only 6 hours every day, whether you sleep or not. By spending less time in the bedroom, and using it only for sleeping, helps you to associate the bedroom with only sleeping and not with any other usual activities like reading or watching TV that might be keeping you awake. You are only allowed in the bedroom between the hours of 02:00am – 08:00am. At 08:00am whether you have slept or not, you must get up and leave the bedroom. All other times, the bedroom is out of bounds.
For this method to be effective, every waking minute must be spent out of the bedroom.
Of course this method will require a lot of discipline, willpower and perseverance on your part. At first, you will not be getting all 6 hours of sleep while you are in the bedroom, but by getting up every day at the same time, whether you have slept or not will, first of all, set your body clock to waking at that time everyday and secondly if you have not slept, your body will eventually be so exhausted by 02:00am, you'll be looking forward to going to bed in the night. Gradually, by the 3rd week, you will be able to have a full 6 hours of sleep each night.
The key is to stay in the bedroom only to sleep and always get up at the same time each day.
3. WHEN TO NAP OR SIESTA?
Napping is a great way to boost energy levels. It’s no wonder that the Europeans and Mediterranean people have a siesta every day. The questions are however, when to do it and for how long?
If naps are to be of real value, they must be taken at the right time. What is the right time?
The best time to have a nap is between the hours of 14:00-17:00 in the afternoon, for 30 minutes.
Your body will naturally fight sleep if you try between the hours of 07:00 – 12:00 and 18:00 – 20:00.
4. HOW TO STOP SNORING
Are you a snorer? Well, there are about 15 million of them in the UK! Snoring affects 1 in 5 relationships. Outrageous snoring keeps partners awake, depriving them of their sleep, causing irritability and perhaps even resentment between couples who sleep together.
Snoring can also be linked to serious health conditions, such as high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack. Heavy snorers who also fall asleep during the day should consult their doctor as it could be a sign of a more serious condition.
So how does snoring occur? When we sleep, the muscles that control our airwaves relax, causing the air passage to narrow. As a result, when we breathe, the soft tissues of the throat, mouth and nose vibrate resulting in snoring. Over the counter remedies like moistening strips can help and work to cut down the vibrations in the soft tissues reducing snoring.
5. DON’T MESS WITH YOUR SLEEP CYCLE
An experiment carried out by the University of Surrey using the world’s best known mood altering substances, alcohol and caffeine, shows what we drink before we go to bed can affect the duration and most importantly, the quality of sleep. You may already think that coffee keeps us awake at night and a late night tipple will help you to sleep, but is this true?
There are 5 stages of sleep; those 5 stages form a cycle. Stage 1, we feel drowsy. At Stage 2, we begin to have a light sleep, Stage 3 and 4 are of deep sleep and finally Stage 5 is REM sleep, which is when we dream. Healthy sleep goes through 4 to 6 cycles.
Disrupting our sleep cycle can affect the ability to concentrate, cause mood swings and damage long-term health.
2 people were asked to consume 3 glasses of wine and 3 cups of coffee respectively, 3-4 hours before going to sleep. They were then monitored by ECG to see the brainwaves created during sleep.
The one who had coffee took longer to fall asleep, had a more light sleep with less deep sleep and no REM sleep at all. This is called a Restless Sleep Cycle.They did not feel they were refreshed from their sleep and were prone to more awakenings during the night.
The person who had wine before sleep was asleep much faster but took longer than average to reach REM and although it was easier to fall asleep, during the second half of the night, they were easily awakened. Alcohol does help to fall asleep but doesn’t help to maintain sleep.
Both had a disturbed night’s sleep because of caffeine and alcohol consumed before bed.
Ensuring your body goes through all 5 Stages of sleep is essential for your general wellbeing. The best way to keep your sleep cycle is to have on average around 8 hours sleep a day and of course avoiding coffee or alcohol more than 4 hours before bed will help.
6. POWER OF DAYLIGHT
Most of us are normally alert during the day and sleepy at night.
So we might expect light triggers wakefulness but in 2002 scientists found specific cells that wake us up. By using this discovery we can trick the body into feeling more alert.
Scientists found that receptor cells at the back of the eye help control our sleep pattern. When the eye is open, light passes through the eye to the retina at the back of the eyeball where tiny receptor cells contain a pigment that can react to daily light. These cells send signals to the brain that then regulates melatonin production. Melatonin levels in the blood determine whether you’re sleepy or wide-awake.
Our body at night increases the supply of the hormone Melatonin to help us sleep. As daylight peaks through behind the curtains, the brain starts a relay race. Even though the eyelids are closed, the cells in the retina react to blue light, sending signals to the brain’s biological clock that alerts the pineal gland to reduce production of the sleep hormone Melatonin. As a result, our body feels more alert and wakes up.
An experiment was carried out and showed a 60% reduction in Melatonin levels after using a blue light for 30 minutes after waking up in the early hours of the morning.
We can use this knowledge by making sure our curtains are tightly shut to block out daylight or use light to help wake us up.
What we eat can affect our sleep.
It can make us perky or sleepy.
What is the best food to keep you awake during the day and to help you sleep better at night?
In an experiment, one person was given a protein rich meal and the other a carbohydrate heavy meal. The experiment proved what effects a particular meal has on the body.
The protein rich meal made the person more alert and awake, whereas the carbohydrate heavy meal made the person feel sluggish and sleepy.
Carbohydrates release Insulin which in turn helps the chemical Tryptophan enter the brain. There, it is turned into Serotonin which makes us sleepy.
Proteins have the opposite effect. They change into Amino Acids which reduce Tryptophan; therefore less Serotonin is produced making us feel more alert.
What you eat can control how tired you feel.
A protein rich meal perks you up.
A carb-heavy meal in the evening around 4 hours before bed will help you sleep.
8. HOW TO BEAT JETLAG
Flying to another time zone is hugely disruptive to our sleep patterns. The usual tips like changing your watch to local time and avoiding alcohol during the flight don’t work. The latest scientific research carried out by Dr. Patrick Fuller at Harvard University shows that we can bypass our Body Clock by using our body’s in-built Food Clock, by starving the body to reset the Body Clock.
In an experiment, 2 people flew from New York to London crossing 5 time zones, one person was not allowed to eat anything during the flight but only drink water. The other was allowed to eat and drink whatever they wanted. Once they arrived in London, the person who didn’t eat had to have a regular meal at the regular local time. They had arrived at 07:30am London time, when their bodies still thought it was 02:30am.
By this time, the person who hadn’t eaten had activated their Food Clock. This overrides the natural desire to sleep. By eating breakfast when arriving at London, reset their body clock and made them feel more alert and able to continue awake throughout the day. The person who had been eating however was very sleepy by 11:00 and slept until 15:00 confusing his Body Clock even more.
Avoid eating during the whole fight and don’t eat until a regular mealtime when you arrive.
Stress is the enemy of sleep.
When tossing and turning and mulling over the day’s events in bed, you just can’t get to sleep. Now, there’s a proven technique that just might help you. Panicking about if you will get to sleep or that you have to sleep because you have to get up early will not help.
Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
When we are stressed, our muscles are tense. Progressive muscle relaxation works by unscrunching those muscles.
Starting with the toe, tense and relax each muscle group as you work up to the head. By tensing and relaxing every muscle group on each part of the body one at a time, it helps the whole body to relax.
Put on some relaxing sounds to hear in the background, such as ocean or rainforest sounds. Get into bed with a good book and start to squeeze and hold your muscles for 15 minutes to help your body relax.
It is a simple and effective method to help get you to sleep faster.
10. HERBAL POTIONS
Plants and flowers have been used for centuries; here are the most popular, traditional natural sleep remedies available.
Plant extracts like Lavender and Valerian form many of today’s herbal remedies. Opium was once used by the Egyptians. Nowadays, most of the prescribed sleeping pills are opiate based but since combined with other synthetic and chemical compounds, has made them a hazard if not a threat to your overall health and wellbeing, so I wouldn’t advise on taking any chemical sleeping pill to help you to sleep.
Lavender is frequently used as an aid to sleep and relaxation. Seeds and flowers of the plant are added to pillows, and an infusion of three flowerheads added to a cup of boiling water is recommended as a soothing and relaxing bedtime drink.
Chamomile is also an age old sleep aid. Having a cup of chamomile tea before you go to bed will help to relax you and prepare your body for sleep.
Valerian has been used since the times of the Ancients Greeks. Hippocrates described its properties and it was later prescribed by Galen to treat insomnia. It was also used as a sedative, anti-convulsant, migraine treatment and pain reliever.
There you have it. 10 things you should know about sleep.
All in all, I hope you have learned some new things about sleep but most importantly, some helpful hints as to how to get more of it!
True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.
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