There’s nothing quite like waking up after a fantastic night’s sleep, feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
Whether we’re suffering from a cold or preparing for a busy day, we know that sleep tends to help. But why?
Have you ever wondered what happens to your brain while you’re asleep? Or why baths can help you doze off more quickly?
If so, read on! Here are four things you need to know about sleep.
1. You might need more (or less!) sleep than you think
The amount of sleep you need varies based on lots of things. Age, health, and daily activity can all influence how much sleep is necessary to feel our best.
You probably know better than anyone what the right amount of sleep is for you. Everyone is different, and there’s no-size-fits-all. But if you’re not sure, the infographic below offers a rough guide.
Whether you function best on seven hours sleep or nine hours sleep, you don’t need to worry about sleeping continuously through the night. In fact, most people wake up two or three times.
However, it can become a problem if you wake up and find that you can’t get back to sleep. Generally, if you can’t get back to sleep after 15 minutes, it’s recommended that you do something relaxing, like reading a chapter of a book, until you feel tired again.
2. There are four stages of sleep
NREM. REM. You’ve probably seen the acronyms in the headlines. But what does it all mean? Here’s a brief overview.
There are three categories of NREM sleep, which stands for non-rapid eye movement. The first stage of NREM can be easily disrupted. If you ever experience muscle spasms or feel like you’re falling, this probably happens during the first stage of NREM sleep.
During stage 2 of NREM sleep, you are less likely to wake up. You sleep even more soundly during the third stage.
REM sleep is the fourth stage. REM stands for rapid eye movement. During this stage, your brain is almost as active as it is when you’re awake. It’s also quite easy to be woken up during this stage and if you do wake up, you’re likely to feel groggy or sleepy.
3. The clocks changing can play havoc with your sleeping pattern
Yes, we know it’s only an hour difference. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t feel the affects of the the time change.
This is especially true in the spring, when we lose an hour of sleep. If you’re already a bit sleep deprived, an hour can make a big difference.
There’s also science behind it. Sunlight stimulates the production of certain hormones in the brain. It also impacts the hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that regulates your internal body clock. Altered hours of sunlight can disrupt your internal circadian rhythm and make you feel like you’ve got a mild case of jet lag.
Fortunately, you should be able to adapt after a few days. To help your brain and body make the shift, try going to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier in the days leading up to the time change.
4. Alcohol is likely to make you sleep worse
Lots of people think that alcohol will help them sleep at night. That’s because a drink before bed can help you drift off more quickly.
But while it may make it easier to fall asleep, alcohol disrupts your sleep cycle. It can reduce the quality of your sleep and leave you feeling more tired.
If you drink alcohol before going to bed, you tend to quickly fall into deep sleep. But spending more time in a deep slumber means you spend less time in REM sleep, which can leave you feeling sluggish and tired the next day.
If you don’t want to give up your nightly tipple, avoiding alcohol just before bed could improve the quality of your sleep. On average it takes an hour to process one unit of alcohol, so make sure you allow plenty of time for your body to process your evening drink.
5. A hot bath can help you fall asleep
If you find it hard to get off to sleep, a bath can calm your mind and help you forget the stresses of the day. But did you know that a bath can also prepare your body for bed?
That’s because a warm bath increases your overall temperature. When you get out of the bath and begin to cool down, your core temperature will drop slightly. This indicates to your internal body clock that it’s time to wind down.
The best time to have your bath is around an hour and a half before you want to fall asleep. That way, by the time your head hits the pillow, your body will have cooled down.
If you want to make your bath even more relaxing, try adding a few drops of a calming essential oil to your bath water. Lavender is believed to slow your nervous system and decrease your blood pressure, while vanilla may reduce stress and ease breathing problems.