How to Sleep Better

By Angela Rightout , published Mar 24, 2019

Why Sleep is Important

The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep to be functional. There is only a small percent of the population-- around three percent that functions well with only six hours of sleep. Many people skimp out on sleep. Studies say this may cause long term physical and mental damage to the body and brain. Good sleep hygiene delivers many benefits without much effort. Learn more about the importance of sleep and what you can do to improve your quality of sleep.

Sleep deprivation

Good quality sleep just happens to be one of the most important activities you can partake in. Quality sleep can enhance your quality of life. Studies show that sleep increases productivity, emotional balance and supports brain and heart health, your immune system and your vitality.  While you’re sleeping, your body isn’t just shutting off. Your brain is overseeing your body’s biological maintenance. Without maintenance, it becomes difficult to work, learn and communicate at your greatest potential. Missing quality sleep is doing your body and mind a disservice.

Sleep Deprivation Facts

Signs of sleep deprivation can be quite subtle. Most people aren’t aware Sleep deprivation affects workthey are lacking sleep or how lack of sleep is affecting them. It’s also possible to be so used to sleep deprivation that you aren’t aware of how your body responds to a night’s rest of quality sleep. What may appear normal to you, like feeling sluggish mid-afternoon, dozing off in your morning meeting, or struggling to power through work after lunch, is only normal if you are sleep deprived.  Signs of sleep deprivation include:

• Daily usage of the snooze button

• Alarm clock usage

• Mid-morning or afternoon drowsiness

• Having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning

• Daytime Naps

• Falling asleep early evening while relaxing or watching television

• Making an effort to sleep in on weekends

How Much Sleep do you Need?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, these are the sleep hours needed for adults.

  • 18-25-year-old adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep.
  • 26-64-year-old adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep.
  • 65-78-year-old adults need between 7-8 hours of sleep.

ABC News reported that a study was conducted at the University of California, San Francisco. Researchers found that there is a gene that allows some people to function perfectly fine off six hours of sleep. But, the study determined that only three percent of the population had this gene. The other 97  percent of people needed minimally seven hours of sleep to function well and more for others depending mostly on age. The hours listed above may be increased depending on the person and may decrease if you are part of the 3 percent who functions well of less sleep.

The 5 Sleep Cycles

There are five sleep cycles. Our body takes roughly 90 minutes to go through all five stages.

The first four stages are classified as non-rapid eye movement sleep or NREM. The fifth and final stage is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

During NREM, we go from very light sleep in stage one to very deep sleep in stage four. There is little muscle movement through the four stages and our eyes almost never move. Although our muscle movement has substantial reduction all the muscles are still functioning as they should.

In contrast to NREM, as the name states, during REM your eyes have bursts of rapid motion.

This rapid motion is however not constant. But your eyes are darting back and forth and up and down. There is a theory that the eye movement is in due part to the visual images that you see while you are dreaming. But, this is still a theory and the reasoning behind rapid eye movement is still a mystery. During this last stage of the sleep cycle, the muscles that allow the body to move become paralyzed but the heart and diaphragm still work just fine.

There are five sleep cycles

But, sleep cycles can be complicated. Over the course of the night, the amount of time spent in each cycle varies. How much NREM and REM you get depends on a wide range of factors that include what time of night it is. Most people experience NREM earlier in the evening. REM is almost always experienced in later hours between 3 a.m.-7 a.m.

With all that said, the quantity of sleep you get is important, a minimum of seven hours of sleep being ideal. But, the quality of sleep is even more significant. The most important cycles are stage four and five. During stage four which is deep sleep, your body is under restoration.

During this time, your body is repairing itself. It is building up enough energy for the upcoming day. Also, this sleep stage serves to boost your mind. During REM, the fifth stage, your brain, and body are energized and dreaming occurs. It is thought that the brain is storing memories, learning as well as balancing your mood.  REM accounts for about 25 percent of your sleeping cycle. But to get more REM, studies suggest adding an extra 30 minutes of sleep because REM stages are often longer and occurring right before you wake up. Some studies suggest that lack of REM impairs your memory as you are less likely to remember things you learned right before heading to bed.

How Lack of Sleep Affects the Body

Lack of sleep can have severe effects on the brain and body. These effects may appear as normal day to day stressors or may even be normal life factors for you. But watch out for these signs if you are getting less than seven hours of sleep. Also, pay attention to these effects if your sleep is being disrupted during stage four and five. If these signs are familiar, it’s a chance you need more sleep and/or better sleep.  Some effects include:

  • Fatigue, lethargy, and lack of motivation and creativity
  • Moodiness and irritability; increased risk of depression
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Impaired brain activity; unfocused and memory problems
  • Lack of problem-solving skills; hard time making decisions
  • Inability to cope with stress
  • Premature skin aging
  • Weight gain

Some Crucial and less common effects:

  • Impaired motor skills and increased risk of accidents; hallucinations
  • Increased infections
  • Weakened immune system and frequent colds
  • Increased risk of serious health problems like stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

How to Improve Sleep Hygiene

There are some obvious methods to increase your sleep hygiene that may help. You can cut out caffeine, turn off screens, keep your bedroom the right temperature and keeping your room darker.

But for extensive tips, consider these options:

  • Rule out Medical Issues. Some medications can affect sleeping patterns and so can mental health problems. Talk to your physician about this.
  • Keep your sleeping schedule constant. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Yes, even weekends! This supports and trains your biological clock.
  • Exercise regularly and eat whole foods. This is on almost every list for every health factor for a reason. Studies say a healthy diet and exercise can help improve many sleep disorders

 



  • Manage your stress. Finding ways to manage your stress is imperative in improving your quality of sleep. Stress factors make it hard to fall asleep. Seeking help from family members, friends or professionals can help you support your sleep goals.

  • For those who don't want to go straight to sleep. It can also help to read a book 30 minutes prior to be. Reading induces relaxation.

Reading helps improve sleep hygiene

 

How Omega 3 Can Help You Sleep Better

Studies say that increasing your intake of the fatty acid Omega 3 can improve your sleeping patterns in children and adults. How exactly? Two ways. First, researchers discovered that Omega 3 releases the sleep hormone melatonin. Melatonin is important for healthy and longer sleep. Meaning, according to studies, your quantity and quality of sleep are improved with Omega 3. Researchers who published a study in the Journal of Nutrition also point out that a lack of this fatty acid will cause a reduction in melatonin. Without a proper amount of melatonin, normal sleeping patterns will be disturbed.

The second way Omega 3 helps with healthy sleeping patterns is by balancing norepinephrine in your body. Norepinephrine is a chemical released in your sympathetic nervous system in response to stress. But norepinephrine happens to be essential for quality sleep. Yet, too much of it can also interrupt your sleep and reduce your REM cycle.  This is another reason Omega 3 is so great. It regulates your norepinephrine levels promoting better, healthier sleeping and longer REM cycles. 

How Do you Improve Omega 3 Intake

Increasing your Omega 3 intakes can be done through diet. Many people get Omega 3 fatty acids from their diets through eating fatty fish. Yet, for vegans and vegetarians achieving sufficient amounts of this fatty acid can be challenging. But luckily, Omega 3 ALA which comes from plant-based sources can be converted to DHA and EPA within the body. In addition to many food sources, sea buckthorn seed oil is one of the best sources for plant based omega 3.

Keeping a good balance of Omega 3 and Omega 9 is important. Too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 is thought to cause inflammation. SeabuckWonders Sea buckthorn Seed Oil has an almost perfect ratio of 3:6 fatty acids, making it a great choice for anyone looking to improve their sleep. 

One Last Fact about Sleeping Better

Many people who are over-worked and stressed tend to stay up later dealing with stress factors and heavy workloads. It's important to remember, working added and longer hours at night is detrimental to health as it deprives you of much-needed sleeping hours. However, going to bed at a proper time and getting quality of sleep can help you be more productive during the day making it easier to put away the work and overcoming stress once bedtime is near.

 

The Takeaway

Most adults need a minimum of seven hours of sleep to restore and rejuvenate their minds and bodies. Sleep serves as a daily tune-up that aids in productivity, emotional factors and creativity. Although seven hours is optimal it's not as important as getting a sufficient amount of quality sleep in contrast to quantity. Out of the five sleep cycles, deep sleep, the fourth stage and REM sleep, the fifth stage is the most important. These two stages are when the mind and body learns, grows and restores itself. For those who struggle with sleep, they should incorporate different daily patterns to improve their sleep hygiene. Take away caffeine, electronics, and talk to your doctor about medical and mental issues. Also, learn to manage stress and keep consistent sleeping hours.

Written by Angela Rightout

author angela

Angela Rightout is an enthusiastic, innovative writer with extensive experience in content writing, journalism, videography and social media. She earned her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Loyola University Chicago. She is passionate about well-researched content.

Angela enjoys writing on a broad range of topics from health and wellness to food, technology, entertainment and news.

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