It may come as no surprise that I have many projects on the go at any one time. Blogging, working, parenting, and self-improvement all have various micro-projects that I need to juggle in a given day. In my quest to become more efficient I would read and listen to the advice of others for life hacks and productivity tips. At one point, soon after I read Arnold Swarzeneggars’s autobiography I got the impression that sleep was a waste of time. Arnie stated that he slept for five hours only so he could use the other 19 more efficiently. I used this as justification to work until 1 am every night, wake at 6 am, and start all over again. Family and friends advised against my newfound time management so I set out to learn more about sleep.
My first port of call was the book ‘Why We Sleep‘ by Dr. Matthew Walker, followed shortly by the work of Dr. Guy Leschziner. It was fascinating to hear that sleep affects all aspects of our physical, mental, and emotional health, including our creativity and longevity. To help save you time, I have outlined some of the benefits of sleep as well as ways that you can improve your sleep.
The Benefits of Sleep
Improvements in the Brain
A good/regular sleeping pattern benefits the brain in three major ways. Firstly it has been proved (in this book) to improve your memory. Secondly, sleep can drastically improve motor task proficiency or “muscle memory” as proven by various tests conducted with both tired and awake participants. And finally, sleep can improve your creativity by connecting your different memories, experiences, and skills to create new ideas and insights.
Improvements in Understanding
When we dream, we organise the events and emotions of the day which can deliver surprising benefits. Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep is when we dream. When in this state dreams can reduce the emotional pain from traumatic events. Similarly, it can also help us decode facial expressions accurately and make more sense of the day’s events. Like above, REM sleep also improves problem-solving and creativity meaning you are better equipped to tackle your previous problems with a new approach.
Improvements in Metal Health
Sleep deprivation harms the brain by impairing your memory, reducing focus/concentration, and worsening emotional control. As such, it can stop you from remembering your goals, and having the motivation to achieve them and cause increased emotional damage when you miss them. All of which can play a pivotal role in mental illnesses from psychiatric conditions to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Improvements in Physical Health
Sleep deprivation can damage many aspects of our physiology and is linked to a shorter lifespan, as well as a plethora of diseases such as cancer and heart diseases. Lack of sleep can have a negative impact on your cardiovascular system, metabolism, reproductive system, immunity system, cancer growth and inflammation, and even genetic activity and makeup. At the very extreme, sleep deprivation can also cause death.
How to Improve Your Sleep Quality & Quantity
There are a variety of simple changes that you can make which are proven to improve your sleep quality and quantity that avoid the use of drugs or therapy.
Blackout Blinds or Curtains
Making your bedroom completely dark helps to set your circadian rhythm of day and night forcing your body to regulate its melatonin levels.
100 % Cotton sheets are perfect for helping you sleep well as they are naturally cool due to their breathable fibers and are considered to be a great thermo-regulator for both hot and cold evenings. Pizuna Linens has been a leader in cotton sheets for over 25 years ensuring each product is meticulously handmade by skilled artisans and well worth checking out if you are looking for a good night’s sleep.
A Hot Bath
By warming your hands and feet before bed you draw heat to the skin’s surface and reduce your core body temperature.
Cut Out The Alcohol
Don’t shoot the messenger, but it is advised to avoid alcohol close to bedtime. Alcohol is actually a sedative that can disrupt REM sleep and causes you to wake up during the night.
In short, sleep is absolutely essential as insufficient sleep reduces our learning, memory, and cognitive abilities. Lack of sleep can cause brain impairment and increases the risks of various diseases from cancer to diabetes, coronary heart disease, and even death. Sleep is REALLY GOOD for you as it boosts your mental, emotional and physical health, and capabilities in ways that no amount of drugs or medical interventions can provide. Take care of yourself by making time for sleep.