How to improve sleep quality
(and why it is important)
We realize how important it is to sleep well (and how difficult it is to do it) only when we are no longer able to.
Sleep, in fact, is a natural mechanism, as mysterious as it is delicate, easily subject to disturbances by organic, psychological, or environmental factors, and represents for living organisms a fundamental moment of pause and regeneration, both physical and mental.
During sleep, in fact, biological rhythms slow down, the organism recovers the energies spent during the day and the brain minimizes its activity, mainly dealing with reworking the experiences made during waking.
The purpose of this post is to guide you on how to improve the quality of sleep, I hope these tips can be useful for leading a healthier lifestyle.
How many hours do you need to sleep?
On average, adults need 7-8 hours per night, while children can sleep up to 10-12 hours a day.
Having said that it is also true that the need for rest is an individual characteristic.
The transition from wakefulness to sleep is regulated by timing that changes from individual to individual and even in the same person, it can vary according to age and time of life.
The first rule to improve your sleep quality is precisely to identify your needs and then do everything to respect them, because the variations (early awakenings or long nights without sleep) constitute an alteration of the natural balance and can lead, in the long run, to suffer from sleep disturbances and insomnia.
This is amply demonstrated if one thinks of those people (shift workers, show business people, young people with ‘wild’ lives) who lead for a long time, by force or by choice, a lifestyle that distorts the natural rhythms of sleep-wake and they often find themselves suffering from insomnia and unrefreshing sleep.
Following the rules of sleep hygiene is essential to not find yourself awake, tired and suffering from drowsiness already in the early morning, thus risking your life behind the wheel and at work and compromising your mood and social relationships.
What happens during sleep
During sleep, the body slows down its physiological functions.
The temperature drops, the metabolism slows down, the blood pressure stabilizes and the tissues regenerate. Good hours of sleep also allow you to give new life to your memory and make us more alert and attentive.
If it is true that afternoon naps can be valid support, it is essential to sleep well at night.
Our body, in fact, is programmed to sleep right at night, which is why when we are late for various reasons and we believe we can recover “lost” sleep perhaps on the weekend, this does not actually happen.
Indeed, according to some research, sleeping too much on the weekend would even endanger health.
When you do not sleep well too often, other pathologies can be triggered, far worse.
These include diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and obesity.
In addition, insomnia is among the causes of cardiovascular disorders, such as stroke and heart attack.
A problem that really affects everyone but that affects 60% of people in the elderly.
According to numerous scientific studies, in addition to the number of hours in which you sleep, the quality of sleep is also important.
Sleeping for many hours is not the only useful parameter to say that you have “slept well”.
If sleep is interspersed with frequent unconscious awakenings (called micro-awakenings), night rest will not be sufficiently refreshing.
For all these reasons, it is good to treat your sleep disorder early, by contacting your general practitioner and, if this persists, even a specialist.
In fact, it is useful to say that many insomniacs are not aware of their discomfort, because they do not remember the progress of the night, and therefore cannot understand why they are tired and irritable even though they think they have made a long night’s rest.
Some voluntary factors can alter sleep, such as eating habits; but there are also involuntary factors, over which we have no control, such as genetics or age, which affect the quality of our sleep. Let’s see some:
Sleep patterns change with age. As we get older, we find it increasingly difficult to reconcile sleep and we wake up more frequently during the night.
The sleep-wake state is more abrupt with the passing of the years and this makes the phases of deep sleep lighter.
Studies show an important genetic factor in relation to sleep disturbances, which are often similar to those of one’s parents.
Humans regulate themselves through 24-hour circadian rhythms during which phases of concentration, idleness and rest are distributed. Respecting these rhythms increases the quality of our life as we dedicate a the right time to each need.
The CLOCK (Circadian Locomotor Output Cycles Kaput) protein regulates the circadian rhythms that control, among others, the hormones involved in the sleep process. The alteration of this protein has an immediate negative effect on insomnia, fatigue, or the famous jet lag.
A correct and balanced diet will make the rest easier and better.
Digestion is much slower during sleep.
This is why going to sleep immediately after eating hinders it and promotes the onset of abdominal pain and insomnia.
Noise reduces sleep quality. It puts the body on alert, even if we continue to sleep. If we can’t control this, we can always use earplugs.
Sleeping more than 9 hours a night.
A study comes from researchers at the University of Sidney in Australia.
Sleeping more than nine hours a night, sitting more than 7 hours a day, and practicing less than 150 minutes of physical activity a week could shorten your life span, according to Plos Medicine.
A beastly mix made up of a sedentary lifestyle, too much sleep, and little exercise that according to scholars could even put health at risks, such as smoking or alcohol.
Sleeping too much on the weekend.
As already mentioned, it is not healthy to think of recovering the sleep lost during the week by long sleeping in bed at the weekend.
Indeed, this may even increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease. This is evident from a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh (USA), coordinated by Patricia Wong.
“The social jet lag consists of the mismatch between an individual’s sleep and the rhythms that are imposed by society – explains Dr. Wong -.
This is the first study to show that even in healthy adults, social jet lag can contribute to the development of metabolic problems.
In turn, these changes can cause the onset of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Tips for sleeping well
Now that we know how important it is to improve the sleep and what factors are involved, some good habits need to be remembered for quality sleep, such as the following:
- The room must be in the dark all night.
- The ideal temperature is between 18 and 20 degrees centigrade.
- Avoid harmful habits, such as alcohol or tobacco.
- Try to establish a sleep routine: go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
- Limit the time of the afternoon rest.
- Remove any electronic device from the chamber.
- Decrease drinks with caffeine.
- Do training regularly.
Good sleep and the benefits that come with it
Sleep, like appetite, sexual instincts, or intellectual performance, is regulated by our biological clock, present in the hypothalamus. By activating, this clock begins to secrete melatonin, the hormone that prepares the body to begin the sleep phase.
If we get enough sleep and sleep has been refreshing, the benefits for our health are manifold. If we drastically change our routine, it is common to experience fatigue, stress, and bad mood.
Improve your mood.
Lack of sleep has a negative effect on the mood. If we don’t get enough rest, we will feel stressed, apathetic and mentally exhausted. We may also feel sad and unable to complete our tasks.
As soon as we resume our sleep routine, we recover our energetic potential, thus improving our mood. We will feel in a good mood, cheerful, and with an initiative to start the day.
We hold information better.
Deep sleep helps to retain information better and promotes memory capacity. A study published in Psychological Science says that sleeping well helps retain long-term information better.
On the other hand, if sleep is light or interrupted during the night, our ability to consolidate memories decreases, since while we sleep the brain works and orders what it has processed during the day.
Sleep regenerates and tones the skin. If we get enough rest, we will reduce the likelihood of bags and dark circles and our overall appearance will improve.
It prevents diseases.
The immune system uses hours of sleep to regenerate itself. This allows us to effectively counteract the toxins and germs that habitually threaten us. With a weak immune system, however, we have less chance of successfully fighting disease.
The production of melanin and serotonin occurs during sleep. These hormones counteract the effects of stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) and help us feel happier and emotionally stronger.
If you liked this post, you’ll definitively appreciate this video, it is a guided meditation which will help you to sleep well:
I’d like to suggest you read this post that can be relevant if you found this topic interesting:
I hope that these tips gave you some good ideas on how to improve sleep quality.
Maybe I motivated you to do so.
Please share this post with your family and friends.
I’d be glad to read your comment on it.
I’d appreciate it if you would like to ask some questions or simply share your experience.