Sleep is an essential part of our lives that is taken for granted in this day and age. We spend about one third of our lives sleeping, and during this time, our bodies repair cells, restore energy, and release hormones and proteins. In order to function at your best, you should be getting seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
If you have trouble falling and/or staying asleep at night, keep reading to learn more about what you can do to improve your sleep!
What Happens When You Sleep?
Sleep is a period during which your body undergoes a number of activities that are vital to your overall health. When you sleep, your body and brain slow down and experience restorative biological processes. Energy is conserved, cells repair and regrow, and your brain gets rid of toxic waste and stores new information.
A normal sleep period usually entails four to five sleep cycles that are each made up of four individual sleep stages. These sleep stages fall under two categories: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep. Here is what happens during each stage of sleep:
- Stage 1: This short stage involves “dozing off” and transitioning into sleep.
- Stage 2: Your body and mind slow down as you settle into your sleep.
- Stage 3: Your body goes into recovery mode, and your breathing, heart rate, brain activity, and blood pressure are at their lowest levels. This stage is also known as deep sleep.
- Stage 4: You enter REM sleep, a period during which your brain activity increases and you may have intense dreams. Your breathing and heart rate also increase during REM sleep.
What Affects Sleep?
There are many factors that can affect the quality of sleep you get. Some of the most common factors that can affect your sleep include:
- Stress: Worrying about problems can keep you up at night.
- Your environment: Things like room temperature, how relaxing your environment is, and how much light you are exposed to during the day and close to bedtime can affect your sleep.
- The foods you eat: Consuming caffeine or alcohol in the afternoon or evening can impact your sleep.
- Your relationships: Feeling irritated with a loved one can make it more difficult to sleep.
- Chronic medical conditions: Medical conditions, such as arthritis, heart disease, and cancer, can affect your quality of sleep.
Another thing that can drastically impact your sleep is menopause. Studies have consistently shown an increased likelihood of sleep issues in the years leading up to and during menopause. Many women also experience sleep problems during perimenopause and postmenopause. The causes of these sleep problems include hormonal changes and hot flashes, which are both caused by a decrease in reproductive hormones.
How to Improve Your Sleep
If you are struggling to sleep at night, here are some lifestyle changes you can make to turn things around:
1. Turn Off All Devices
Devices like iPads, laptops, TVs, and even e-readers emit blue light that can impact your sleep-wake cycles, also known as your circadian rhythm, and trick your brain into thinking it is daytime. This, in turn, reduces the production of melatonin, which is a hormone that is released in response to darkness and helps regulate your circadian rhythm.
To ensure you get a restful sleep, it is best to turn off all devices at least an hour before bed.
2. Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Having a relaxing bedtime routine can improve the quality of sleep you are getting. In fact, relaxation techniques have proven to be effective with individuals who have insomnia.
Doing things like meditating, deep breathing, reading a book, and/or listening to relaxing music before you go to bed can make a big difference when it comes to your sleep!
3. Refrain from Consuming Caffeine
While caffeine can make you feel more energized and help you focus during the day, the effects of this stimulant are not ideal at night. When caffeine is consumed in the afternoon or evening, it stimulates your nervous system. This can prevent your body from naturally relaxing before bed.
One study found that consuming caffeine six hours prior to bedtime can have a significant effect on sleep quality. Ideally, you should refrain from consuming caffeine past 1 PM to get optimal sleep.
4. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
Consistently waking up and going to bed around the same time can help with long-term sleep quality. This is particularly important since your body’s circadian rhythm occurs in a set loop. When your circadian rhythm is properly aligned, it can promote consistent and restful sleep. When it is thrown off, significant sleeping issues can occur.
To prevent your circadian rhythm from being altered, try to make a habit of waking up and going to sleep at similar times every day.
5. Use Sleep Aids
There are also various natural sleep aids that can help you fall asleep at night. Some supplements and teas you may want to consider using if you have trouble sleeping include:
- Melatonin: A hormone that is naturally produced in your body. Melatonin supplements can reduce the time you need to fall asleep as well as increase the total amount of time you sleep.
- L-theanine: An amino acid that is believed to help improve sleep and relaxation.
- Magnesium: An essential mineral that may make it easier to fall asleep by relaxing muscles and regulating the production of melatonin.
- Glycine: This amino acid is thought to signal that it is time to sleep by lowering body temperature at nighttime.
- Valerian Root, Passionflower, and Chamomile: All of these ingredients can be consumed in tea form. Valerian root is a sleep promoting herb that has been shown to improve sleep quality in menopausal women, passionflower has been linked to sleep improvements in people with insomnia, and chamomile tea was found to improve the sleep quality of postnatal women in a 2016 study.
At Revivele, we have always believed that sleep plays a big part in your overall health, and we hope that you will prioritize your sleep now that you know how important it is! We will be coming out with our very own line of products that have been created, in part, to help you sleep better at night in the near future. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn for more health-related information and to find out when our products are being released!