Despite the importance of sleep, many people aren’t managing to get a good night’s sleep. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly and can affect your concentration, as well as your ability to think clearly.
On average in the UK adults are only getting around 6 hours and 20 minutes of sleep. But this is below the minimum recommended amount of 7 hours of sleep per night. Additionally, around a third of people in the UK suffer from insomnia and sleep deprivation.
So why is it so important to get a good night’s sleep? We look at what happens while you are sleeping and share some tips on how to get enough sleep.
The Science of Sleep
Our bodies have an internal body clock that helps us to regulate our sleep cycles. This is known as the circadian rhythm. It is responsible for controlling when you feel tired and ready for bed compared to feeling awake and refreshed.
In addition to controlling the sleep-wake cycle, the circadian rhythm contributes to a wide range of health factors. These include hormone production and release, body temperature, mood, heart rate, blood pressure, mental health, appetite, DNA repair and metabolism.
Stages of Sleep
Once we fall asleep the body continues to follow a cycle that can be split into four stages. These are three non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep stages, and one rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stage. It is during the NREM stages that the body relaxes, decreasing body temperature, slowing down the heart rate and relaxing the breathing mechanisms.
The fourth stage of REM sleep is when you are most likely to be dreaming. During this stage, the body starts to wake up but you are in a dream state. All of these stages repeat throughout the night until you wake up. Typically, each cycle is thought to last around 90 – 120 minutes.
How to get a good night’s sleep
An insufficient amount of sleep can have a significant impact on your health. As well as affecting your mental health and cognitive function, it can lead to a higher risk of some diseases. This includes type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
However, if you are finding it difficult to get your 7 hours of sleep, there are some simple things you can try:
- Consider a digital screen ban in the bedroom – blue light from technology such as phones or laptops can disrupt the body’s ability to prepare for sleep.
- Ensure a comfortable environment – including room temperature and mattress and pillow types that suit you.
- Establish a realistic bedtime routine – stick to the same time each night.
- Cut out caffeine, alcohol or large meals in the hours leading up to bedtime.
- Exercise during the day – this can help you wind down in the evening.
If you are having trouble sleeping and would like to find out more about some simple lifestyle changes you can make then get in touch with us.