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Health

The Importance of a Good Night's Sleep

Using sources from the NHS and BBC, this study and infographic takes a close look at the importance of sleep offering helpful suggestions including what to eat, bedroom environment, different stages of sleep and the effects of sleep deprivation.

Rules for a good night’s sleep:

  • Establish fixed times for going to bed and waking up.
  • Avoid long naps – a 15 minute nap is more effective than a cappuccino at beating tiredness.
  • Avoid checking the clock throughout the night – trust that your alarm will wake you.
  • Take daily exercise – 30 minutes a day, at least four hours before your bedtime.

Food and drink:

  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol late at night.
  • Avoid eating a heavy meal late at night.
  • Avoid spicy foods just before bedtime.
  • A small snack containing tryptophan (a natural sleep-promoting amino acid) may help, such as turkey, banana or fish.

 Bedroom environment:

  • Use thick blinds, curtains or an eye mask if the early morning light affects your sleep.
  • Don’t watch television, make phone calls, eat or work in bed.
  • Wear ear plugs if noise is a problem.
  • Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable.­
  • Keep the room at a comfortable temperature.

 Stages of sleep:

1 - This is the initial stage of sleepiness, when the sleeper can be awakened easily. It lasts for around five to ten minutes and can include experiences of falling, causing the sleeper to wake up suddenly.

2 - The heart rate slows and the body temperature decreases in this light period of sleep. There are short episodes of rapid brain activity, called sleep spindles. This stage lasts around 20 minutes and prepares the sleeper for deep sleep.

3 - This is the lighter of the two deep sleep stages. If aroused from sleep during this stage, a person may feel disoriented for a few minutes. Delta waves – deep, slow brain waves – are produced as the sleeper moves into deep sleep.

4 - This stage is deeper than the previous stages and lasts around 30 minutes. It is sometimes referred to as delta sleep because of the delta waves that occur throughout. Bed-wetting and sleepwalking may occur.

5 – This is known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and is where most dreaming occurs. The brain and other body systems become more active while muscles become more relaxed. Voluntary muscles are paralysed to keep the sleeper safe.

The Sequence of Sleep Stages:

A sleep cycle begins at stage one and goes through each stage in order, up to stage three. Then stage three and stage two are repeated before REM sleep begins. Once REM sleep is over, the body usually returns to stage two. There are usually four or five sleep cycles each night.

REM sleep begins approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep. The first cycle of REM sleep is often short, but each cycle becomes progressively longer and later cycles of REM can last up to an hour.

 Effects of sleep deprivation:

  • Fatigue.
  • Feeling irritable or short tempered.
  • Lack of focus.
  • Weakened immune system.
  • Greater risk of depression and anxiety.
  • Greater risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

 Relaxation techniques for a better sleep:

  • Deep breathing.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Visualising a peaceful place where you can fully relax.
Sources:

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Insomnia/Pages/treatment.aspx

http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleep_tips.htm

http://www.greatbritishsleepsurvey.com/2012report

http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sleep/articles/advicetips.shtml

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue/Pages/lack-of-sleep-health-risks.aspx

CREDIT: Oldrids & Downton, The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep, Researcher: Katherine Weir

Have you suffered sleep deprivation? Have these tips helped? 

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