We all need it, we all do it, none of us can live without it but for many of us, a good night’s sleep is hard to come by. A study done in 2001 showed that 38 percent of US adults reported sleeping less than they were just 5 years earlier and nearly 60% reported having trouble sleeping at least three times per week.
Why Do We Sleep?
No one really knows. Researchers have long explored the question of why we sleep . They have examined, for example, what happens when humans or other animals are deprived of sleep. They have looked at sleep patterns in a variety of creatures to see if similarities or differences among species might reveal something about sleep’s functions. Yet, despite the many years of research the question of why we sleep has been difficult to answer.
We now know that sleep is an absolutely necessary for every mammal and bird and most reptiles, amphibians and fish need sleep to function normally as well.
What Goes On When You Sleep?
When you sleep, your body beings to release necessary hormones, your cells begin to repair themselves and your brain recharges. They have also discovered that while a person can live up to 14 days without food, they can only survive for 10 without sleep. Everything we do at night affects how we are during the day – our ability to learn, your reaction times are affected by our sleep, our stamina, health and especially our mood. Chronic sleep disruption appears to be the single biggest trigger for depression.
How To Get A Better Night’s Sleep
In order to be more productive, mentally sharp, healthier and more balanced, it is important to get between 6-8 hours of sleep a night. When insomnia rears its ugly head, however, what can you do to ensure a more restful night`s sleep?
- Consistency: Going to bed and getting up at the same time, even on the weekends
- Treat your bedroom as a sleep-only zone: Using it only for sleep and sex. Keeping it cool and dark without the distraction of television or computers. Remove alarm clocks and other electronics from your night table
- Things to avoid at least 2 hours before bed: Alcohol, exercise, caffeine, food, nicotine
- Create a bedtime ritual: Baths, massage, relaxation or meditation
- If you are struggling to sleep get up: Move to a different room and lie down or read until you are ready to fall asleep
Studies have also shown that by increasing light exposure during the day, by removing your sunglasses, spending lots of time outdoors, opening the blinds at home and at work and using a light therapy box can help suppress your body’s melatonin production during the day, which will help you feel less tired. At night, be creating a dark environment, you will boost your body’s melatonin production to help you fall asleep.
Although the exact reasons of why we need to sleep are unknown, research has shown insufficient sleep can result in a drop in performance, lack of concentration, reduced reaction times, decreased mood and greater risk of health problems. Increasing your sleep by as little as 15 minutes a night can drastically improve the way you feel and function. So make the committment to improve your sleep patterns. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.