Get Great Sleep

Get Great Sleep

Get Great Sleep

A cup of coffee may give us an energy boost in the morning, but caffeine can’t help us overcome the fatigue, drowsiness, and other effects of not getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep is essential to our bodies. Yet, if we don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis, it can affect our overall health.

One study found that just one sleepless night can impair a person’s performance as much as being drunk. Results from a study conducted by a research team at the University of California, Berkeley found sleep deprivation can cause people to overestimate threats, which makes them feel somewhat paranoid.

The research team was concerned over the impact the study’s findings might have on decision-making soldiers and police officers who work odd hours and others whose jobs require them to make subtle distinctions between friend and foe, threatening and nonthreatening.

Frida Rångtell, a sleep educator and science advisor at Sleep Cycle, which manufactures the Sleep Tracker application, says the amount of sleep we get is irrelevant “if the sleep is low quality.”

You may have low sleep quality if:

  • You don’t fall asleep fast or deep enough.
  • It takes more than 30 minutes for you to fall asleep after getting in bed.
  • You regularly wake up often during the night.
  • You lie awake for more than 20 minutes when you wake up in the middle of the night.
  • You’re chronically fatigued during the day.

Sleep experts say it is not hard to figure out whether you are getting enough sleep, the issue is why are you not getting enough sleep. Studies show that anxiety, stress, depression, and chronic health conditions are among the most common reasons for sleep disruption.

Age Determines The Amount of Sleep Needed

Infants and children need more sleep than adults because sleep supports their “neurological development and growth,” according to Dr. Tracey L. Stierer, an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University.
For adults, Dr. Stierer says that the general guideline is seven to nine hours of sleep for people 18 years and over, and seven to eight hours of sleep after age 65.

Michael Breus, a sleep doctor and sleep advisor at Oura, a sleep-health technology company based in Finland, proposes that the amount of sleep a person needs ultimately depends on the amount that makes them feel healthy and rested. In other words, believes “the amount of sleep you need is personalized to you.”

Breathing Exercises Help With Sleep

Breathing techniques, particularly deep-breathing from the diaphragm, is one of the best ways to help you get to sleep, according to sleep experts. This is because breathing exercises help to relax the body, replenish it with oxygen, and control the nervous system’s fight-or-flight response which is usually triggered by stress.

Besides helping you get to sleep, a 2011 article in Health Science Journal cites several health benefits of deep breathing. According to the article, deep breathing:

  • Decreases fatigue
  • Reduces anxiety and asthma symptoms of children with asthma.
  • Helps to improve management of acute stressful tasks.
  • Reduces hypertension.
  • Helps to improve management of aggressive behavior in adolescent males.
  • Helps to improve management of migraines and stress related to dental visits.

One of the most popular deep-breathing exercises is the “4-7-8” technique (also called the Relaxing Breath) taught by Dr. Andrew Weil, a celebrity doctor, author, and founder, and director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.

Weil believes that the 4-7-8 technique will help a person go to sleep, as well as reduce anxiety, manage cravings, and control or reduce anger responses, among other benefits.
The technique involves inhaling quietly through your nose and exhaling audibly through your mouth around your tongue; and if this seems awkward, try slightly pursing your lips.

To practice the 4-7-8 technique, Weil says to:

  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four (4 seconds).
  • Hold your breath for a mental count of seven (7 seconds).
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight (8 seconds).
  • Inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

If you want to see the benefits of deep breathing sooner, Dr. Weil recommends practicing the technique at least twice a day.

Ways To Improve Your Sleep Quality

For years, Dan Buettner, a journalist for National Geographic, has studied the lifestyles of people who live in what’s called Blue Zone regions, identified as; Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan, and Sardinia, Italy. People who live in these areas of the world are known to live over 100 years with their minds and bodies still working well.

It’s also common for people in the low-stressed Blue Zones to get eight hours of sleep each night. What contributes to their ability to sleep well is their pre-bedtime habits, such as:

    1. 1. Not consuming added sugar that causes the blood sugar to spike and drop.
    1. 2. Drinking green tea. Green tea has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and several cancers, according to the Blue Zones’ website.
    1. 3. Drinking red wine after 5 p.m. and in moderation. According to Buettner, “drinking a little bit of red wine along with a plant-based meal, will nearly quadruple the flavonoid or antioxidant absorption and lower cortisol levels at the end of the day.”
    1. 4. Eating right before bed. According to Whitney English Tabaie, a registered dietitian nutritionist and journalist based in Los Angeles, “eating too much or too close to bed could diminish your body’s melatonin production and make it harder to fall asleep.”
    1. 5. Eating breads made from whole grains. Grain breads have nutrients and minerals that help you to relax, and tryptophan which increases serotonin levels is a precursor to the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes healthy sleep.

Another way to improve your sleep quality is to replace a midday nap with physical activity, or eating lunch outdoors, or going for a walk to break up your workday.

Rångtell suggests an enjoyable way of improving sleep quality: Take a warm bath or shower in the evening. Not only is it relaxing, “it can make it easier to fall asleep and aid in deep sleep,” she says.

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