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By Dr Becky editorial

Good night's sleep

A good night’s sleep

Sleep is really important. It enables your body and mind to recover fully from everything that has happened during the day. This makes good sleep highly desirable, but it’s also really easy for a good night’s sleep to be disturbed. By following these sleeping tips, you ensure that you sleep better and more deeply, so that you wake up feeling refreshed the next day.

Why sleep is important

Sleep. Sometimes we put it off for a long time. For example, because you still want to watch a good film, you’re keen to finish that extra level in your game, you’re out with friends and having too much fun to go to bed or you want to get lots of things done in the evening. It doesn’t matter if you go to bed later, as long as you go through enough sleep cycles to be fully refreshed. But if you have to get up at seven the next morning then often this doesn’t happen. You wake up not feeling refreshed. Sleep is the way you bring your body and mind to rest and prepare them for the following day. All kinds of things happen in your brain when you’re asleep, too. The previous day’s events are stored away and waste products are disposed of. This means there’s more space available in your mind when you wake up again. Sleeping well ensures that you concentrate better, you feel positive and you’re able to handle whatever the day brings.

Sleep quality

Some people need more hours of sleep than others. This is partly to do with age: babies and children have far more impressions to process than adults. Sleep is also the time of day when your body can grow and develop. This makes it [extra important] for children and teenagers. The length of time you sleep (quantity) isn’t even that important here - what matter is the quality of your sleep. Your sleep quality is determined by the sleep cycles you progress through during the night. You start with the falling-asleep stage, followed by light sleep, then deep sleep and finally REM sleep (also known as dreaming sleep). Then you wake up again a little and enter the light sleep stage, following which you go through the stages of deep sleep and dreaming sleep again. This cycle takes around 90 to 120 minutes and you need about four or five cycles to restore your body and mind fully and recharge them for the next day. If you can’t get to sleep properly or can’t make the transition from light sleep to deep sleep, this can seriously disrupt the quality of your sleep.

Tips for a good night's sleep

If you sleep badly, this has consequences for the following day. For example, you may be moody, feel tired and lethargic and find it difficult to concentrate. That’s why it’s important to ensure you get a good night’s sleep. Try these tips:

  • Make sure you have a good bed, with a mattress that’s suited to your body and sleeping position.
    Some people sleep best on a soft mattress, while others only relax properly on a harder one. Each body is different. To be able to sleep well, you need proper support for your body. This enables your muscles to relax better. If you suffer from sleeping problems, try treating yourself to a new mattress or a complete new bed.

  • Keep your bedroom for sleeping only.
    Ever since you were a child, your bedroom has been your room. You do all kinds of things in that room. When you’re young you do your homework there and you dance and play in that room. When you’re older you start to associate your bedroom more with sleep only and perhaps with sex. Keep your bedroom for those activities only. Make sure it’s a comfortable space, where you feel safe and at ease. Don’t work in bed and, ideally, don’t watch television there either. This may be tempting, but try to resist.

  • A cool bedroom helps you to sleep.
    Warm, sticky summer nights remind you that you prefer to sleep in a cool room. If your bedroom is too warm, this may make you feel sleepy but it won’t help you to get to sleep properly. So try opening a window, even in the autumn and winter. Or use air-conditioning to keep it cool in the summer.

  • Turn off the television and other screens half an hour to an hour before you go to sleep.
    The blue light emitted by the screens of your mobile phone, tablet, games computer and television can disturb your sleep. It prevents the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone). Having difficulty getting to sleep? Turn screens off and spend this time on a good sleep ritual instead.

  • Listen to your body.
    It might seem antisocial if you’re already too tired to spend time together on the sofa at nine in the evening, but if you’re really tired then go to sleep. Your body is asking you to do this, so listen to it.

  • Don’t eat a heavy meal just before going to bed and don’t drink alcohol or caffeine.
    If you eat something substantial or have a lot of snacks before you go to bed, then your body will still be busy processing this, making it difficult for you to fall asleep. Alcohol may make you sleepy, but it also disrupts your sleep cycle so that you’re not able to enter deep sleep or dreaming sleep properly. Caffeine is known for its ability to perk you up. You don’t need this before going to bed.

  • Make sure you have a good sleep ritual.
    When you were a child, your parents prepared you for going to bed. Brushing your teeth, perhaps a bath, having a story read to you in bed and then snuggling up under the covers. This regular sleep ritual helps the body to sleep well. Teenagers and adults also benefit from a regular sleep ritual. For example, do some relaxing yoga exercises, take a hot bath, meditate or read a book.

  • Go to bed at fixed times and get up at fixed times, even when you have the day off.
    Routine will improve the quality of your sleep considerably.

  • Take plenty of exercise.
    Exercise is important for a good night's sleep. Ideally, don’t do it too close to bedtime. Walking, cycling, swimming, going to the gym... it doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you do something.

  • Can't sleep? Then don’t just lie there worrying, get out of bed. You’ll be better off reading a book, writing down whatever you’re worrying about or drinking a cup of herbal tea.

Melatonin, the sleep hormone

When it’s dark outside, melatonin is produced in the brain. Melatonin is our sleep hormone, which gives us the signal to go to bed. Often, we tend to ignore this signal, with the result that we end up getting past the point of going to sleep. Artificial light and blue light from screens also disrupt the production of melatonin in the brain. This makes it more difficult for you to get to sleep. Food supplements containing melatonin are available. This form of melatonin works in the same way as the substance produced by the body itself. It encourages this production, making it easier for you to fall asleep and sleep more deeply. Products with hops extract, camomile extract and lemon balm extract can also provide assistance with falling asleep easily and, in particular, sleeping through.

Sweet dreams!

Information
The information provided is written by our editors, acquired and processed in collaboration with a network of professional expert sources and copywriters. In case of complications, contact an expert.

Source: Editorial, Mayoclinic.org, Healthline.com.