Sleep happens to be an interesting phenomenon. A lot has been observed and a lot learned about it, yet one primal facet remains unanswered. Why do we do it?
Over the years, although scores of scientists have speculated the reasons behind this activity (more like passivity), the exact purpose of sleep has not been deduced.
That, however, does not, in any way, undermine the importance of sleep. We all need sleep to function. Think of the last time you went without a good night’s sleep. Think of all the events that transpired as a result of it.
Does it really show you at your best? Some of us only need 4 hours a night, while some of us may need a little longer than that doubled. But in the end, we all need sleep.
Have you ever had the experience of sleeping through the whole night, yet waking up feeling restless and fidgety. This is where the difference between the quantity and the quality of the sleep that we get comes in.
We so often fail to recognize this – how it isn’t just important to get an adequate amount of sleep, but it is also to have a resting and rejuvenating sleep. Here are some reasons why quality sleep is essential.
Why is it important to go to bed in a good mood to get quality sleep?
1. Sleep is the power source we extract energy from
One reason why scientists think we sleep is to offer ourselves the renewed energy to face one day after the other. When we keep functioning without rest, we are bound to get tired and worn out.
Not just physically but even mentally, we start performing below par. We are unable to operate at our ideal level. Hence, we sleep. We rest to avoid fatigue and exertion and we try to recharge the social/functional battery within us by getting a few hours of sleep.
2. Getting good quality sleep helps keep us healthy
Insufficient sleep has been linked to a multitude of diseases and health problems. When we don’t get enough sleep, we are at a high risk of developing chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
It is also linked to other conditions like obesity, stroke, and depression. What is also interesting is that, not just insufficient sleep but also excess, i.e., sleeping for more than nine hours has been associated with implications on our health.
When we consistently don’t get enough sleep, the cells of our immune system and the antibodies are reduced, debilitating our immune system’s ability to ward off diseases.
3. Sleep keeps us alert and focused
When we fail to get enough/good quality sleep, our brains get fuzzy. You may have experienced this on many occasions. This isn’t just true for one day or two days.
When you are unable to get the optimal level of sleep regularly, your ability to focus may be affected on a larger level. For the longer term. As you keep putting off sleep and end up getting barely the amount of sleep you need, it affects your attention levels throughout the day. You cannot concentrate on your work and performance, and in several cases, sleep problems are associated with motor accidents.
4. Sleep helps in memory consolidation
Another interesting reason why good quality sleep is important is that sleeping helps in consolidating the information that you recently acquired.
That’s right. If you have learned a new fact or tried to peruse through your lessons, make sure you take a nap right afterward. The neural pathways that represent the new information will be formed, but will not have formed an enduring part of the brain. For this, for the assimilation of the information to take place, sleep helps greatly. It allows for the data to turn into memories.
As explained, the quality of sleep can determine a whole range of other things starting from how a person functions on a regular day to how healthy one remains in the long run.
What in turn determines the quality of the sleep we get? Among other determining factors – lifestyle factors (smoking, caffeine intake, physical activity), social factors (social relations and support), physical factors (pain) – the most glaring one has to be how our mood and mental health can affect our sleep.
What we feel when we go to bed can influence how we feel when we wake up. Hence, going to bed happy is vital for getting good quality sleep. How can we ensure this? How can we ensure that as our heads hit the sacred pillow at night, our brains are calm enough to embrace sleep and ready to venture out into the adventures in the dreams that accompany it? Here’s how.
What is sleep hygiene and can it put us in a good mood before bed?
Sleep hygiene refers to the broad array of techniques or practices that we can all incorporate into our routine, in order to enhance the quality of our sleep.
Practicing good sleep hygiene is highly reliable for preventing and dealing with sleep-related troubles like insomnia. Sleep hygiene definitely enhances our mood before bed, by setting the right tone for falling and staying asleep. Here are 7 good sleep habits that you can try:
1. Set a bedtime
The most simple sleep habit that can be followed is to establish a fixed time for sleep. Set a time or draw up a schedule of your nighttime activities and keep the time at which you go to sleep fixed. Hit the bed at that time every day.
As you practice this consistently and as this becomes a regular part of your routine, you slowly get accustomed to it and you will be able to fall asleep at this time. Your mind gets used to this routine and your moods along with a physical lethargy may set in naturally and ease you to sleep.
2. Engage in regular exercise
Try to dedicate at least 30 minutes of your time every day to physical activity or some form of exercise. When you exercise regularly, you become fit and your mental health, too, significantly improves. But other than this, getting physical activity can also help in improving the quality of your sleep.
Research indicates that sleep quality is enhanced when you exercise, by means of reducing sleep onset. That is, the time taken to fall asleep is minimized. This, in turn, reduces the time you spend in bed lying awake, improving the quality of your sleep.
3. Try to set up a relaxing environment
There are some environmental factors that you can tweak in order to enhance the quality of your sleep. Make sure that the environment you desire to fall asleep in is relaxing and calming. You cannot fall asleep in a brightly lit room with loud noises coming from all around.
Choose a dim-lit or a dark room to sleep in, this will reduce the amount of light reaching your eyes. You can also try setting the temperature at a level that you are most comfortable with.
4. Keep gadgets away
One sleep habit that may be the need of the hour is to put away our gadgets or electronic devices before going to bed. Try not to use any device in the last half hour you are awake.
The information you consume will keep you mentally stimulated and, thus, your devices can delay your sleep time by keeping you awake. The blue light emanating from the devices suppresses the release of melatonin, the hormone responsible for activating the sleep sensation within us.
5. Learn to attune your mind
Gradually, over time, try to tune your mind to have a positive attitude about sleep and bedtime. Learn to attune your mind. Try focussing on your breath, and how it goes in and out.
When you learn to calm your mind and remain relaxed, it enables the process of sleep to set in easily. Try to engage in the practice of imagery and visualization to guide you to sleep. Think of pleasant images that can calm and soothe you. You can also try listening to sleep stories that are dedicated to this very purpose.
6. Monitor your eating habits
Have a check on your food intake. Try to have a balanced diet that includes all components required for a nutritious meal into your food. Avoid caffeine intake at least 6 hours before you go to bed.
Try to limit the use of alcohol or tobacco as much as you can. You can also try and drink milk at night before you go to bed.
7. Restrict your bed for sleep alone
Make sure you restrict your bed for sleep and not other activities like eating or working. The more you restrict this, the stronger the association between your bed and sleep gets, enabling you to fall asleep easily.
In case you find yourself unable to fall asleep even after lying in bed for some time, it is said that it is best if you get out of bed and try something else, instead of twisting and turning, trying to fall asleep. Try to read a book or maybe incorporate a quick meditation session to help you fall asleep.
Related Article: 5 Breathing Exercises To Help You Sleep Better
Over time, we need to learn to be able to go to sleep at ease. The very idea of sleep should bring to us the joy and comfort that it is supposed to. Most of us have the habit of worrying over the things that we need to get done after we wake up.
We get so caught up in what’s to come that we fail to make sure we do what we’re supposed to do now, right. So remind yourself that when you’re in bed, looking to fall asleep, that is all you need to concern yourself with.
Let go of all your other thoughts and witness yourself slipping into sleep, slowly, with patience. Remember that only when you go to bed in a pleasant mood, looking forward to falling asleep, can you wake up and conquer.