Getting a good night's sleep is one of the most important things we can do to support our physical and mental wellbeing - in fact, it's just as important as eating well and exercising regularly.
We've put together the answers to a few FAQ's around sleep and how to get the best nights sleep possible, so that you can get the most out of your day and support a healthy, balanced lifestyle. We hope these tips help!
A healthy lifestyle begins with a healthy home - if you'd like to find out how you can make your home as a healthy as possible, download your free personalised cleaning guide, below.
Why is sleep important?
A lot of key things happen to our bodies when we close our eyes and sleep each night, which all contribute to our health and wellbeing:
- Our muscles relax and blood supply to our muscles increases, allowing our tissues to grow and repair
- Natural hormones are released, including growth hormones that are essential for growth and development (especially in children and teens), as well us muscle development
- Our energy is restored to both our brains and our bodies that support our daytime performance
- Some studies suggest that our dreams during REM sleep support our ability to process our subconscious emotions and feelings, which can actually impact our mood.
That's why when we are deprived of sleep, we feel sluggish, physically exhausted and struggle to moderate our mood, attitude and even process complex emotions. A feeling we're sure we can all relate to!
What are the stages of sleep?
Throughout the night, we experience different stages of sleep that effect our brain and body in different ways. For the most part, these can be described in two significant stages:
You've probably heard of this one before. Known for the 'rapid eye movements' that occur during this stage of sleep, your body is entirely paralysed but the brain is active. Our eyes dart back and fourth under our eyelids, and we experience our most vivid dreams.
During non-REM sleep, our brain is mostly inactive and our body is still movable. Non-REM is further divided into stages based roughly on how deep the sleep is and how difficult it is to rouse someone from it. It begins when we first close our eyes, and progresses from a light sleep, to a deep sleep, and finally REM sleep. We spend approximately 75% every night in non-REM sleep.
The progression from non-REM to REM-sleep is called a 'sleep cycle'. It usually lasts about 90 minutes and we experience up to five sleep cycles a night.
How can you improve your quality of sleep?
It can be really difficult to achieve that 'good night's sleep' we all want. Sometimes, you can sleep for a really long period, and wake up feeling like you haven't slept at all. Other times, you might have a relatively short nights sleep, but wake up feeling well rested. This is because there are a number of factors that effect your overall quality of sleep - some of which, you can assist.
1. Increase exposure to light during the day
Everyone's body has an internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm. If you've ever wondered why naturally you feel more alert during the day time and drowsy when it's night - it's because of this circadian rhythm, which is signaled by daylight and darkness, telling your body when to be awake and when to go to sleep.
Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy, so if you're having a lot of trouble falling asleep at night, it could be that you need to readjust your natural sleep-clock.
If fact, in people with insomnia, daytime bright light exposure improved sleep quality and duration. It also reduced the time it took to fall asleep by 83%. This can be a little harder to do in the winter time, but wherever possible, get outside and soak up that vitamin D!
2. Reduce blue-light exposure at night time
Similarly to how your circadian rhythm can be helped in the day time, it can also be hindered at night time by over exposure to light when your body anticipates darkness. At night time, your body releases hormones like melatonin, which help you relax and get a deep sleep. These hormones are signaled to be released by darkness, which is why overexposure to light can inhibit the release of sleeping hormones.
The worst culprits for this are digital devices that are illuminated by 'blue-light', like computer screens, smart-phones and tablets. The best possible thing to do, is to stop using devices or watching TV at least two hours before bed time. If you can't do this, you can purchase blue-light blocking glass, or alternatively, a lot of devices offer 'dark mode' which turns off the blue light function on your screen.
3. Keep your routines as regular as possible
Perhaps you're the type of person who absolutely loves curling up for an afternoon nap, or maybe you're a bit of a night owl and find getting to bed at a reasonable hour almost impossible. No matter the reason, a lot of people struggle to go to bed and wake in a consistent routine.
Unfortunately, our bodies rely on routine to keep our circadian rhythm in check. Afternoon naps, late bed times, and unnecessarily early wake-ups can really throw off your body clock. In fact, in one study, participants ended up being sleepier during the day after taking daytime naps!
If you can (sometimes this isn't possible for shift workers) it's always best to try and keep some kind of regular sleeping routine, and push through your afternoon sleepy-spells and avoid napping. You'll find your quality of sleep during the night improves immensely.
4. Re-think your bedroom environment
Many studies have shown that the environment in which you sleep can heavily impact your quality of sleep each night. Factors such as external noise, lighting, the quality of your bed and bedding - even the arrangement of your furniture can all effect the way you sleep.
Wherever possible, we'd try and reduce the amount of light and noise you experience at night time. This could mean installing black-out curtains or wearing ear-plugs if you can't remove the external noise and light completely (think living outside a construction site in the city).
This even extends to the cleanliness of your room. As described by verywellhealth.com;
"The symptoms of allergic rhinitis and asthma often occur during the nighttime, having a detrimental effect on the quality of sleep."
That's why it's so important to regularly deep clean your home, and remove the possibility of dust, dirt and pet fur that harbour dust-mites and other allergens.
As we said earlier, a healthy lifestyle begins with a healthy home - if you'd like to find out how you can make your home as a healthy as possible, download your free personalised cleaning guide, below.
5. Exercise regularly - just not before bed
Exercise is one of the most well-known, science-backed ways to improve your quality of sleep. While getting a good amount of exercise in every day can be challenging to say the least (we know, we've been there too!) exercise has been proven to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep by 55%, reduce total night wakefulness by 30%, and lessen anxiety by 15% - all while increasing total sleep time by 18%.
However, it is really important to note that exercising right before bedtime probably isn't a good idea, as it increases alertness and hormones like epinephrine and adrenaline which will actually keep you awake. So make sure you're going for a morning run, rather than a late evening one.
A Healthy Lifestyle Starts with a Healthy Home
If you're feeling like it's time to focus on feeling healthy, energetic and positive, take a look at the other blogs in our healthy home, healthy life series.
Remember, it all starts with a clean and hygienic home, so if you'd like to find out how you can make your home as a healthy as possible, download your free personalised cleaning guide, below.