So what is the A to Z of getting a good nights sleep then? Well we spend more than a third of our entire lives asleep. For something so necessary and so time-consuming, you’d think the average person would know a whole lot more about a good night’s kip than they seem to. Sleep is a vital indicator of health and wellbeing. So, to live a healthy and happy lifestyle it is almost essential that we understand sleep, know our own sleep cycles and habits and do everything in our power to make sure that we and the people we love have sufficient and good quality sleep. Here’s everything you could wish to know on the topic!
How much sleep do we really need?
When it comes to knowing how much sleep we need, people tend to seem pretty clueless. We have been given so many varying facts and figures that it would be easy to think that people are merely plucking amounts of time out of thin air! But surely by now, we should have some sort of conclusive evidence determining the perfect amount of sleep. At the end of the day, everyone is unique. We are all individuals and the exact amount of sleep that make us feel best is going to vary from one person to another. But we can get an average and professionals seem to be in agreement that for a grown adult, this should be about eight hours a night. Babies and children should sleep more than adults. A new born should have between fourteen and seventeen hours a sleep every day.
We can’t blame them for this seemingly excessive sleepiness. They’re new to the world and it must be fairly tiring and overwhelming as an experience on the whole. Infants of four to eleven months should get around twelve to fifteen hours kip a day. While toddlers (any child between one and two years) should get a good eleven to fourteen hours of shut-eye a day. Bear in mind that when children become tired, they don’t wind down in the same way that adults do. If anything, they become overtired and react with hyperactive or irritable behavior. Don’t be tempted to think that they are full of energy. They are probably just in need of sleep but aren’t quite sure why they’re feeling drowsy and cranky. Help to soothe them to sleep by rocking them in your arms and creating a calm atmosphere around them. The amount of sleep that children need will slowly deteriorate as they grow older. When they reach around eighteen, they should aim to get the average amount of sleep for adults with seven to nine hours a night. Aim for a solid middle ground of eight hours, then a little less or a little more won’t be doing you any harm.
Benefits of Sleep
All of these recommended times must have a good reason besides tiding you over between working days. So what is the purpose of sleep and what are the benefits of getting enough of it? When you go to sleep, your body can shut down the prioritization of waking, conscious actions and focus on doing some deeper repair work. Essentially, it’s the time when your body rests and recuperates, getting ready for the next day. Your breathing rate slows, as does your heart rate. Your limbs relax and your body gets to work at repairing any damages, pulls or strains. This can include cuts, bruises, and muscle or tissue damage. All aspects of your body are repaired, restored and strengthened. Sleep is also vital for creating new pathways in your brain, allowing you to form new memories. A good night’s sleep allows our brain to solidify and process the day’s events, offering a chance for us to filter necessary information from frivolous facts. The important information is transferred from short term memory to long term memory. This process is referred to as consolidation. This all also explains why children need more sleep than adults. Their bodies and minds are still growing and developing at a comparatively rapid rate. They need more time to process their experiences and develop new matter in their body.
Preparing for a Good Night’s Sleep
To help ensure a good night’s sleep, you should prepare. Preparation is key to a sound slumber, as your environment and mood can have a profound effect on whether you nod off as soon as your head hits the pillow or lie tossing and turning for a restless night. The first step in this journey is to ensure that your bedroom is a comfortable space.
Start with the main feature of any bedroom: beds. Firstly, you should ensure that the frame of your bed accommodates the size of the people it is going to support through the night. If you are of small stature and live alone, you may only need a single. If you have a partner and you both take up a lot of room, you should opt for a Double, King or even Queen size frame. Divan beds are renowned for being particularly comfortable, solid and reliable. Many also have the added feature of lifting up from the base, giving you extra, discreet, under bed storage space. Make sure that you have a high-quality mattress. These should be changed every eight years. Consult a professional who will be able to analyse the way that you sleep and offer you the right mattress for your sleeping style. Some people prefer more support and will opt for a firmer mattress, while others prefer feeling like they are sinking into a cloud. Once these two aspects of your bed are sorted out, you are on the straight and narrow to a good night’s kip. For extra comfort and luxury, invest in high-quality bedding. Plump pillows and light duvets with luscious sheets will make all of the difference.
Light plays a major role in sleep quality. Some people will be able to nod off near enough anywhere. But lighter sleepers will wake early as the sun breaks through their curtains. If you find that you are particularly sensitive to light, invest in blackout blinds or curtains. These are specially designed products to keep your room completely dark, even in broad daylight. They are particularly perfect for night shift workers who may need to sleep through the day. For extra darkness, you could try out an eye mask which will cover your eyes while you sleep. There are so many cute designs available that even the hardiest sleeper may be tempted to buy some, purely for the aesthetic value.
We all know how frustrating it is when you’re trying to get to sleep but can just hear the thump of a blaring baseline through the wall. Whether it’s a noisy neighbour or housemate, they are probably naive to the levels of noise they are producing and don’t realize that they are causing a disturbance. Ask politely whether they could turn their volume down or avoid making excessive noise after a certain hour. Most will be apologetic and considerate in the future. If you find that you are struggling to sleep because of a snoring partner, things are a little more difficult. People can’t help snoring, and it’s a fairly difficult human aspect to alter. Situations like these are what earplugs were made for. So invest in a high-quality pair and pop them in your ears before hitting the hay.
Getting your eight hours tends to be easier said than done. We live in a world full of distractions, aimed at grabbing your attention and keeping you awake for hours on end. Major cities are particularly notorious for this. New York is even often referred to as the city that never sleeps! But as fun as distractions may be, it is important that you don’t let them get the better of you. Prime culprits for keeping people awake into the early hours of the morning are smartphones, laptops and televisions. So when you’re thinking of heading to the land of nod, or find yourself yawning and straining to keep your eyes open for the rest of the programme you’re watching, turn these devices off. You can always return to them in the morning. Turn your notifications off and put your mobile on airplane mode. This means that you won’t be tempted to pick your devices back up to reply to messages. There’s a deeper science behind all of this too. Screens on phones, TVs and computer devices emit blue light which trick your brain into thinking it is daytime. Your body works on circadian rhythms, which take cues from the environment to regulate your sleeping patterns. When you surround yourself with blue light, your body is fooled into thinking it should be firing up and getting on with the day ahead.
If you feel that you have tried everything and are still not getting a good night’s rest, you could be suffering from a medical problem. Thousands of people suffer from conditions like insomnia, night terrors, sleepwalking and sleep apnoea. Book an appointment with your local GP who will be able to help you further.