The importance of getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis is often overlooked. Some people view sleeping as the most unproductive activity of their day and will go to great lengths to stay up all night to get more work done, especially when deadlines have to be met.
While this strategy may provide more time to complete the presentation, the negative effects of sleep deprivation such as drowsiness, irritable mood, headaches and concentration problems are likely to affect their performance during the following days. Sleep is an essential part of our lives and a remarkably productive activity that rejuvenates both the brain and body.
Sleep Controls Weight Gain
Studies have shown that there is a strong link between weight gain and lack of sleep. Sleep deprived children and adults tend to weigh more than those who get enough sleep. As a matter of fact, inadequate sleep is considered a strong risk factor for becoming overweight or obese. It is believed that inadequate sleep reduces the motivation to exercise and affects the release of hormones that control weight. Therefore, if you are trying to lose weight, ensure that you are getting enough sleep on a daily basis.
Boost Concentration and Productivity
Poor sleep affects the productivity, performance, cognition and concentration of your brain. In fact, research has shown that not getting enough sleep impairs certain brain functions to a similar extent as alcohol intoxication. On the other hand, good sleep improves memory, performance and problem solving skills, thus making you more productive.
Lower Your Risk of Developing Heart Disease
Those who suffer from sleeping disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, stroke and heart attack. A study published by the European Heart Journal points out that people who have problems staying asleep, falling asleep and who wake up feeling tired have a higher chance of developing heart failure over an 11 year period. If you suffer from a sleeping disorder, getting help can help restore your sleep cycle and lower your risk of developing heart diseases.
A common complain amongst patients with depression is poor sleep quality. Sleep cycle undergoes fives stages. The fifth stage, REM (Rapid Eye Movement), in particular is essential as it is in this stage that people dream and mentally process the events of the previous day. In most cases, people who suffer from sleeping disorders are also found to suffer from depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses. Getting adequate sleep is crucial if you are to treat depression successfully.
Sleep Boosts your Immune System
Even a few hours of lost sleep are enough to impair your immune function. A two week study carried out to find out the effects of sleep on the immune system showed that candidates that slept less than 7 hours were three times more likely to develop a common cold compared to those who slept for at least 8 hours. If you find yourself battling a cold every now and then, getting a good night’s sleep regularly might be the answer.
Now that we know the benefits of sleep and the damage that sleep deprivation does to our bodies let’s look at some natural hacks that can help you sleep better.
1. Check your room temperature and lighting
Keeping your bedroom completely dark boosts the production of melatonin which is a potent antioxidant that promotes optimal sleep and regulates sleep cycles. Even a little amount of ambient light from your Smartphone is enough to disrupt melatonin production.
Keeping your bedroom at around 65 degrees Fahrenheit is considered conducive for sleep. Getting the perfect balance between your pajamas, air conditioner and bed covers can help you get to sleep faster and turn you into a sleeping beauty.
Meditation helps ease many stress and anxiety related ailments, and when it comes to sleep, this is super important.
Stress suppresses the production of the powerful neurochemical called melatonin, which is a critical player in the falling asleep process.
While you can supplement with melatonin pills, boosting your production naturally with meditation is a far better and more effective solution long term!
3. Move your body
It’s no secret that exercise contributes to more sound and restful sleep. Physical activity increases time spent in the most physically restorative sleep phase.
Yoga in particular is a great choice of movement if you’re looking to improve your sleep quality as it activates your parasympathetic nervous system Sometimes called the rest and digest system, the parasympathetic system conserves energy as it slows the heart rate; perfect for falling into a deep and restful sleep.
Another benefit of yoga is that it involves many isolateral movements- that is, movements that work one side of the body at a time, or both side independently.
These movements emphasize the neural component of exercise by making you work to balance the weight, and will fatigue your nervous system in a way that other workouts won’t.
Right before bed, you might also like to try out these restorative poses:
4. Use an acupressure mat
There's a reason that many people like to use the acupressure mats right before, or even in bed, as a tool for sleep induction.
Lying on an acupressure mat such as the Ajnamat will stimulate acupressure points that elicit a response of deep relaxation in your body. Improved circulation from the spikes promotes the release of endorphins which will help you to fall asleep faster, wake up refreshed, and with renewed energy!
5. Establish a Daily Routine
Our brains are quite good at picking up habits. Waking up and going to bed at the same time every day trains your mind to switch on and off at particular times of the day. This is why it's possible for some people to wake up at almost exactly the same time every morning even without the help of an alarm clock. Giving up certain habits especially before bed could be you answer to getting better sleep.
Bad habits include watching TV in bed or spending hours on social media while you should be asleep. Coffee and other drugs such as alcohol should also be avoided hours before bed time as they are known to affect sleeping patterns.
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