Sleep, What Is It Good For?
You don’t need us to tell you that sleep is important…but we will anyway. For something that we spend one-third of our lives doing, it’s worth researching how we can make those precious hours that little bit better. Fortunately for you, we’ve done the groundwork. All you’ve got to do is sit back, relax, and try not to fall asleep as we discuss the sleep cycle and its function(s), as well as how to get a good snooze to reap its benefits. Psst, there’s more to it than switching off your phone!
The sleep cycle
Starting with the basics, there are five stages of sleep. These stages make up a full cycle which is repeated throughout the night (approximately every 90 minutes according to research). There are also two types of sleep, Non-REM, and REM. The abbreviation stands for ‘Rapid Eye Movement,’ but all you need to know is that REM = the place where we live out our fears and fantasies. The cycle goes as follows:
Stage 1, Drifting Off: Muscles relax, heartbeat slows, etc.
Stage 2, Further Drifting: Things continue to slow, and body temperature drops.
Stage 3 & 4, Deep Sleep: This is when the magic happens, we’re talking cell-regenerating, immune-strengthening kind of wizardry.
Stage 5, Dream time: The fifth and final stage of the cycle is where REM occurs. As well as visualizing falling off cliffs and giving presentations stark naked, our eyes go bats**t crazy and our body experiences temporary paralysis to ensure we don’t do any of the things previously mentioned.
It’s a wild journey.
The functions of sleep
Before waving your fist in the air, and cursing its inconvenience, hear sleep out. It does a lot for us. For a start, it’s restorative. Anyone who’s experienced a hangover will know that sleep is a true, and trusty friend — alternatively, anyone who’s ever been ill. Good sleep is also vital for brain function, especially cognition and concentration. More sleep = fewer errors, and better productivity. Additionally, long term memories, important for learning, and um, remembering, are stored during sleep. Other reasons for hitting the hay a bit earlier include: to build a stronger heart, maintain a healthier weight, and look after your mental health.
How can I get a better night's sleep?
Glad you asked. Let’s start with, go to sleep sooner! Instead of getting sucked into the black hole that is true crime documentaries, why not listen to a nice relaxing podcast, or meditate with a warm cup of chamomile tea before hitting the pillow? You certainly won’t be afraid to go to sleep. Tip 2 is to darken your surroundings pre-bedtime. In other words, “Baby lock the door and turn the lights down low.” Light a few candles, shut the curtains, or better yet, buy blackout curtains, and do whatever you do before bed. Tip 3, ignore what we said, STOP checking your phone. Tips 4, 5, 6, and 7 are, don’t drink alcohol, coffee, tea, or anything else with caffeine in it. At least not late in the day. And for our final piece of advice, we suggest a sleep routine. By that we mean, falling asleep and waking up around the same time every day. It’s a sure-fire way to prevent out of whack sleeping habits, which, let’s be honest, we’ve all developed over lockdown.
Photography by Ivan Oboleninov from Pexels
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