There are many components to a healthy state of mind, the importance of a good night’s sleep remains paramount in providing each person a sense of well-being and the ability to fulfill daily responsibilities. Such is the focus of National Sleep Awareness Week, which takes place during the first week of March each year and is now in full swing. Though people need anywhere from eight to 10 hours of undisturbed sleep to function at optimal levels, many do not achieve that total for a variety of different reasons. People have been shown to generally sleep fewer hours in modern times than in the past.
One common misconception is that people need less sleep as they get older. While differences in sleep requirements do exist for children, the necessities of a good night’s rest remain stable throughout adulthood. This is especially important when one considers that most people do not receive adequate rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep. This is both the deepest and most significant sleep stage, which allows new proteins to be created and for areas of the brain associated with learning to be activated. Even sleeping one hour less than the required amount will impair functioning to some degree.
How proper sleep or lack thereof affects the different systems of the body is being researched to provide a better understanding of the phenomenon. This includes how sleep habits affect the cardiovascular system, immune system, brain functionality and more.
The different stages of sleep
When a person first lies down for the night, the first stage of sleep to occur bridges the gap between being awake and the beginnings of rest. This is then followed by a second stage, which is considered to be a moderate phase of sleep. An estimate of half the night is spent in this sleeping stage overall. This is followed by a third stage, which is the deepest stage of sleep. The fourth and final stage is known as REM sleep, which is when rapid eye movement produces dreams. Therefore, when one is awakened from a dream, there are greater odds of having had sufficient sleep for the night.
Benefits versus disadvantages
The advantages of getting a good night’s rest are both wide ranging and natural. Those that do will have a greater likelihood of making appropriate decisions and being more creative as needed. Concentration is said to improve, as well as the ability to learn.
The disadvantages associated with deficient sleep naturally contradict the positive effects. The person may instead have greater difficulty with concentration or properly resolving conflicts. Adjusting to new situations may prove to be a challenge. Sleep deprived people are also prone to unpredictable behavior or emotions. One of the more serious drawbacks include stronger instances of depression and suicide. There are also higher odds of risky behavior and consequences. In particular, children may be susceptible to angry or impulsive behavior. Sadness or lack of motivation may also occur.
Methods of prevention
There are many ways to increase the likelihood of a good night’s sleep. One is to maintain a routine sleep period nightly, so that the body may develop a natural circadian rhythm. It is also important to be sure that a room is kept dark to promote better rest and that one’s bed is adequately comfortable. Obviously, it will also be helpful to keep noise levels down to a bare minimum. Keep the windows closed in an area where noise is unavoidable, such as near a freeway. The sleeper may also use a fan or a noise machine to help create white noise if this promotes relaxation. A fan will also lower room temperatures, which have been shown to allow for better sleep. It may also help a person to play soft music before going to bed.
There are also a number of actions to avoid when pursuing a good night’s sleep. This may include avoiding eating meals too late at night, as digesting a large amount of food may be counterproductive to sleep. The person should also avoid substances such as alcohol or caffeine before bedtime, as both interfere with sleep patterns. Drinking too many liquids in general will only require one to awaken during the evening to use the bathroom. Cigarettes also act as a stimulant and will therefore keep even the most tired person awake.
Thankfully, there are many holistic methods people could try if they’re experiencing sleep deprivation or insomnia including using essential oils and meditation. And rather than resorting to sleeping pills, one natural supplement that has been shown to promote sleep without health consequences is melatonin. Other underlying health conditions may need to be addressed, such as sleep apnea. Cutting back on substances such as caffeine and finding new, appropriate means of coping with stress will also prove helpful. Those with more serious and extreme cases may undergo psychotherapy to learn how to better manage their behavior and rest their minds.