The full functionality of sleep is still not completely understood though all evidence has proved beyond all doubt that it is a function necessary for survival and optimal function, both physically and mentally. It is therefore vital that we get enough sleep; estimates put the minimum amount of sleep a person should get at 7-8 hours of sleep for every 24 hours.
Studies have conclusively shown that a lack of sleep has negative effects on the body, for example a famous study by Gumustekin and his team showed that depriving rats from sleep caused wounds to heal at a much slower rate. More obvious side effects of not getting enough sleep are ones which we can readily observes ourselves; the brain has a harder time concentrating. There are also physical signs of not getting enough sleep such as shaky hands and aching joints. Lack of sleep can also be a major cause of stress, which in turn can lead to health risks such as hypertension and increased risk of heart disease in later life.
So how exactly do we go about getting a good night’s sleep and in which ways are we sabotaging our otherwise persistent efforts to get the necessary 40 winks?
1. One of the main ways in which we hinder ourselves when trying to get to sleep is not setting ourselves a regular bed time. The biological clock is a very important concept when considering how to get to sleep. You should try to make yourself go to a preset time, sleep for an approximate duration and then get up at reasonable time. This gives the body clock a chance to programme itself and inevitably make it easier for you to get to sleep when you have to.
2. Staying up when we are tired is especially counterproductive, especially when you are trying to get a good night’s sleep. Yawning and beginning to feel fatigued are the signs used by the brain telling you it needs rest, and by ignoring these warning these signs you are essentially telling it to go away and come back later. If you stay up for a few extra hours then you are telling the brain to wake up again, a process which is not easily undone when you then want to go to bed for sleep.
3. Reading before going to bed is a method used by many people in order to get to sleep. However this actually stimulates the brain and gives it something to do which is in fact telling the brain to wake up and work rather than telling it to prepare for sleep. The reason which reading helps before going to bed is not because it is relaxing but because it’s a method of making yourself a routine before you go to bed. Do something you don’t particularly enjoy instead.
4. Eliminating sources of light is one of the top tips for getting to sleep; leaving lights on around the house when trying to get to sleep not only wastes energy but it also prevents you from getting to sleep by telling your brain and your biological clock it is sunrise and time to wake up, rather than time to go to bed.
5. Finally, not exercising during the day is a big contributor to not being able to sleep. Exercising using up some of that extra energy that you will otherwise used pondering a rolling about in bed trying to get to sleep. Exercising increases the need for the body to rest and recuperate both of which are done during sleep.
In conclusion getting to sleep is much easier than some people give it credit for and whilst these tips may help not getting to sleep may be just a symptom on an underlying illness which needs the attention of a doctor, so always see your physician if you are in doubt.