Better sleep is one of the most important parts of your day. During your sleep, your body gets time to recover, so that you can start the next day fresh and fruity. If you're having trouble falling asleep or sleeping through the night, you can suffer from this in the long run.
In this article, we'll look at the reasons why we need sleep, the consequences of a poor night's sleep, and give you some tips on how to quickly improve your sleep. We also consider the times when it is useful to call in the help of a general practitioner. Are you ready for it? Then read on quickly!
Why do we sleep?
Adults generally need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Some can handle a short night better than others. However, children and teenagers need more sleep because their bodies are still growing and they get more stimulation during the day. It is therefore not crazy for a child of three to take a small nap in between.
How do you know when to sleep?
Everyone has an internal clock. This is also known as the Circadian rhythm. This is a cycle of approximately 24 hours during which your body wakes up, is active, and begins to get ready to go back to sleep. This repeats every day. It is nature that tells you when to go to bed.
Many factors are influencing this Circadian rhythm today. For example, artificial light makes us feel more awake, and foods such as caffeine can prevent us from making enough sleep-promoting substances. You can think of the substances “adenosine” and “melatonin”.
What are the sleep phases?
Sleep phase 1: Falling asleep
During this phase, your body prepares to fall asleep. Your muscles begin to relax, your breathing and heart rate are reduced and the movements of your eyes become calmer.
Sleep phase 2: Light sleep
During this sleep phase, your body temperature drops, and your breathing and heart rate become even calmer. Your brain also comes to rest during this phase, so that little activity is visible. During your sleep, you are most in this phase.
phase 3: Deep sleep The deep sleep phase is very important for better sleep. During this phase, all your muscles, brain, heart rate, and breathing are at their quietest and you will have a hard time waking up. This is important for feeling cheerful the next day. During this sleep phase, your body gets the chance to recover. Muscle tears are repaired and your immune system can strengthen itself again.
Sleep phase 4: REM sleep
After the deep sleep phase, comes REM sleep. Unlike the sleep phases above, a lot happens to your body during this final sleep phase. Your brain activity peaks, your eyes begin to move, your heart rate and breathing increase, and your muscles can tense up again. During this phase, your experiences are processed and stored in your long-term memory. You also remember most of your dreams from this stage.
Except for the first phase, these phases repeat several times during the night. This happens in cycles of about 90 to 120 minutes. Sometimes you wake up briefly, but in many cases, you don't remember it the next day.
Consequences of a bad night's sleep
A few bad nights can't hurt, and will only cause some fatigue. In the long term, however, poor sleep can have greater consequences.
Fortunately, tips for sleeping better can help prevent these problems. Before we go into that, first read something about the consequences of too little sleep.
A bad night's sleep weakens your immune system.
When you get too little sleep and especially deep sleep, your immune system does not have enough time to recover, so that it can protect you less well against harmful substances. As a result, you get sick faster and stay sick longer.
You have trouble thinking and concentrating
Because your brain has not been given enough time to process information, it is more difficult to absorb new information during the day. This makes it more difficult to focus on new tasks and conversations, and you feel like your head is full.
You become forgetful due to too little sleep
Processing information is necessary to be able to remember things better. When your brain has not had enough time for this, you store less information, making it difficult for you to remember things. You then become forgetful and you lose track faster.
gain weight because of a lack of sleep. Sleep helps to relax and to lower your cortisol level. Cortisol is a substance that is released when you are under stress. It also ensures that you eat more: stress-eating that is. If this substance stays in your body for too long, there is a good chance that you will reach for some snacks. As a result, you will most likely gain weight more.
You are more prone to accidents
Since fatigue reduces your concentration, the chance of accidents is greater. If you don't process enough information when you're behind the wheel, you can easily miss something. This may lead to an accident where you can sustain a lot of physical and material damage.
You suffer from mood swings.
Too little sleep can make you more irritable. You may start snapping faster, get angry faster, or start crying faster. In the long term, a lack of sleep can also cause symptoms of an anxiety disorder or depression.
Tips for getting a better night's sleep: adjusting diet and lifestyle
1. Get more light in
Because your body runs on a Circadian rhythm, it is important to take in enough daylight during the day. During the winter, or on a drizzly day, it is, therefore, best to use a daylight lamp. This will get your body into a better rhythm and you will feel more tired in the evening, which is beneficial before going to sleep.
2. Reduce Blue Light Exposure
Blue light also stands for the light that comes from electronic screens. While this can be effective for staying awake during the day, it can make it harder for you to fall asleep at night. So make sure you use a “blue light filter” or simply don't use any electronic devices right before going to bed.
3. Avoid Naps
While naps are very effective for small children or people with chronic illness, they can also be detrimental to your sleep. A nap can disrupt your rhythm, causing you to produce too little melatonin in the evening to fall asleep quickly and easily.
4. Sleep better by moving more
Sport is not only good for your body but also your sleep rhythm. For example, several studies on the relationship between sport and sleep have shown that sport can reduce the symptoms of insomnia. During the day it ensures that more adrenaline is released, which makes you feel more cheerful. This makes it easier to relax in the evening. However, make sure you don't exercise right before bed, as this can be counterproductive.
5. Avoid coffee
Caffeine blocks the neurotransmitter “adenosine”. This is a substance that makes you feel a bit more tired. Consuming too much caffeine, or drinking it too close to bedtime, can prevent you from falling asleep, leading to a poor night's sleep.
6. Avoid alcohol
Although alcohol makes it easier to fall asleep, it prevents your body from falling into a deep night's sleep. You, therefore, sleep better by avoiding alcohol and, if you do drink it, not just before going to bed. Leave at least 2 hours between your last glass and bedtime.
7. Take a warm bath/hot shower
Warm water will help you relax and get your body ready for bed. In addition, the use of better sleep aids – such as an appropriate shower foam or bath oil – to promote your sleep. For example, lavender oil helps to relax you, so that you fall asleep more easily.
8. Do some relaxation exercises before bed
You can also achieve better sleep by following relaxation exercises. It is not for nothing that yoga is so popular. Other exercises, such as meditation and muscle relaxation exercises, can also relax your body so that you can relax more easily when you lie down in bed. After all, these exercises help to lower your heart rate during the day, which is an important step in the process of falling asleep.
9. Don't eat too late
Everyone feels like a late-night snack from time to time, but this can lead to poorer sleep. Eating a large meal just before going to bed certainly does not contribute to a better night's sleep. Many carbohydrates can ensure that your body has the idea that you are still going to burn them with exercise and eating a lot of fat can cause heartburn, which keeps you awake due to nausea.
10. Use Supplements for Fast Sleep
You can also use some natural deep sleep supplements to improve your sleep. For example, melatonin is a natural substance that your body produces itself. If you take a supplement of this, your body will receive an extra dose of melatonin, which makes you feel tired faster. In addition, valerian is an herb that improves your sleep, and lavender and chamomile also help to relax your body. Try, in moderation, what works best for you.
When should you see a doctor?
However, if you have not been able to sleep well for a long time, and the above tips also do not help you fall asleep, it is useful to contact your doctor. They can help you find the cause of your bad night's sleep and give you appropriate advice. Sometimes GPs can also prescribe better sleep medication so that you sleep better during the night.
If you want to start using supplements but are already taking medication for other complaints, it is important to contact a medical specialist. He or she can map out your situation and can advise you on sleep supplements based on that.
Summary about sleeping better
Your body needs sleep to recover and process information. An adult person needs about 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. During this sleep, you enter cycles of different phases, in which your body slowly recovers.
If you don't get enough sleep for a long period, it can have negative consequences in your daily life. For example, it takes more effort to concentrate and you are more forgetful. In addition, your immune system is weakened and you run the risk of more accidents because you are less alert – for example in traffic.
Fortunately, there are some useful tips about your lifestyle and diet to promote better sleep quickly. You can do this by paying better attention to your diet, your exercise, or by performing various relaxing exercises. Something different works for everyone, so give it a try.
If the above tips do not help and you continue to suffer from a bad night's sleep, it is wise to contact your doctor. Your doctor can give you tailor-made advice and also prescribe medication if necessary.