Sleep is one of the basic needs of life. We spend one-third of our life in sleep. Out of 24 hours a day, 8 hours go for sleep, making sleep one of the most important aspects of our life. A sleepless night makes us irritated, and our mind becomes foggy. For a productive, happy, healthy life, sleep is one of the crucial factors. A poor quality of sleep deteriorates our physical, emotional, mental health. A poor-quality sleep is that sleep where after you wake up from sleep, you don’t feel good, and you don’t get that feeling of freshness and energy in the morning. This kind of sleep affects every aspect of our lives.
A good quality of sleep makes us feel refreshed, joyful, healthy, and energetic. Both quality and quantity of sleep matter, and it is important for us to understand how to improve the quality of sleep.
What happens during sleep?
Sleep has five stages.
Stage 1 –In this stage, the body transitions from waking state into a sleep state where the brain is going to sleep. This only makes 2% of the sleep time.
Stage 2- 50 % percent of the sleep happens in this stage. Many different things are going on at this stage, where basic regulatory maintenance of the body takes place.
Stages 3 and 4-This is the stage where physical restoration, maintenance, and repair work of the body happens. The brain secretes growth hormones and muscles relax. Deep sleep occurs in this stage, and it is important for maintaining youthfulness and health.
Stage 5 -REM stage. This is where your mental restoration and dreams happen. Also memory consolidation, all the flashes, intuition we experience happen in this stage
Stages 3 and 4 are more frequent in the first half of the sleep. REM happens in the second half. During sleep, we transition between various stages multiple times. This transition happens cyclically. An average person has 5 sleep cycles. Each cycle lasts for 1.5 hours.
A good quality sleep should have 5 cycles. We wake up refreshed and energetic when we have 5 sleep cycles. If you take out the last 2 or 3 cycles, you will be missing on the REM stage, and that’s where the memory problems come in. If you have trouble remembering things, probably it’s because you blocked out the REM stage of your sleep. Missing REM sleep leads to memory problems.
So, sleeping for 8 hours is the first step in improving the quality of your sleep. In addition to this, let’s see some more factors that affect sleep and solutions to address these factors.
Factors that affect sleep:
1.Stress – High-stress levels make it difficult to fall asleep and lead to insomnia. Sleep will also be disturbed with nightmares and too many dreams. Regularly de-stressing oneself is very important for a good quality sleep. Some techniques to de-stress are
1. Regular meditation
2. Using aromatherapy oils
4. Spending time in nature
2. Exposure to blue light after Sunset – Blue light is emitted by all the electronic devices we use. Exposure to blue light after Sunset tricks your body to think its daytime and prevents the secretion of melatonin hormone, which makes you fall asleep. This makes it difficult to sleep. Minimize your exposure to blue light after Sunset by following below tips
1. Minimize the usage of electronic gadgets
2. Since it’s not practical to minimize the usage of electronic gadgets after Sunset, wear blue-light blocking glasses for eyes. Check out these blue light blocking glasses.
3. Use the blue light filter option on your gadgets.
3. Sleeping during daytime for more than 25 minutes makes it difficult to fall asleep during night-time. You can take a nap during the daytime for not more than 25 minutes. Between 1 and 3 in the afternoon, there is a release of melatonin, and some people could feel sleepy at this time. Don’t take a coffee break but instead take a sunshine break. The trick is to go out and get the sunlight before you feel tired and sleepy.
4. Excessive caffeine consumption interferes with sleep quality. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, and it affects other systems of the body as well. It blocks Adenosine- the neurochemical that makes u sleepy. And it also suppresses other hormones like melatonin, the key that starts the engine for sleep. Caffeine has a life of 6 to 8 hours in your body. Stop drinking coffee at about 2 PM to sleep better. If you really have a need for coffee, then substitute it with green tea or a light week black tea.
5. Common drugs like diet and weight loss pills, headache and migraine medicines, painkillers, antidepressants, etc. also impact the quality of your sleep. Consult with your doctor and see what you can do about these drugs
6. Alcohol consumption interferes with the quality of sleep. Yes, alcohol helps you fall asleep and relaxed, but it stops you from going into the deep stages of sleep where your body actually rejuvenates. So, avoid alcohol before you fall asleep. Stop drinking alcohol 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
7. Lack of exposure to sunlight during the daytime makes it difficult to sleep during night time. What you do during the day influences your sleep at night. Getting optimum doses of sunlight during day time is important for a good quality sleep. Some ways to include sunlight in your day time are
1. Watch Sunrise
2. Exercise during Sunrise time
3. Open the doors and windows of your home and let the sunlight enter your home
4. Take Sunshine breaks throughout the day where you walk in the open air
8. Incompatible pillow or mattress makes it challenging to sleep well.
1. Choose the right pillow that is suitable for you.
2. Consider two factors while buying a mattress – comfort and support.
3. Support Comes from a well-constructed mattress from high-quality Materials. Educate yourself and do your research before you get your mattress
9. For a good quality sleep, it is very necessary to create a complete darkness in the bedroom so that no light will be streaming from outside. Buy blackout curtains or invest in a high-quality eye mask to address this
10. Sounds prevent us from falling asleep. You can use sound machines, white noise, natural sounds such as water, meditative music or chanting for soothing sounds. These soothing sounds help you sleep better
11. Introducing the right scents into your bedroom can enhance a sleep-friendly environment. You can try below solutions
1. Open the doors and windows of your home every day to let in the fresh air
2. Use an air filter or air purifier. Check out this air purifier.
3. Aromatherapy oils which relax you, soothe you and help you unwind and prepare for sleep
12. Exercise can boost your sleep and contribute to more sound and restful sleep. It helps with sleep quality and increases sleep duration. It also reduces stress and relieves anxiety
13. Sleep at the same time every day. This prepares your body better for sleep
14. Have a power down ritual where you follow certain practices like gratitude, meditation to calm your thoughts, emotions, and mind.
15. Switch off your Wi-Fi so that you don’t have any radiation
16. Say no to alarm clock: Don’t use an alarm clock to wake you up as it can abruptly wake you up when you are in the middle of sleep cycles. Use a simulator which uses light to wake you up instead of a traditional alarm clock. This wakes you up with light slowly, and instead of waking you up abruptly like an alarm clock, it ensures that your brain actually wakes up in the way that it is naturally designed to wake up, and this is really important for sleep cycles.
Prioritize your sleep and give it due importance. Plan not only the number of hours you will sleep but also plan how well you will sleep. Quantity and quality – both matter.