Better Sleep

A guide to sleeping better

How is better sleep defined?

Getting better sleep does not mean spending longer in bed but obtaining a higher quality of repose. Usually, this will mean being asleep for a set number of hours in each 24-hour period, but the degree to which people need sleep varies from individual to individual. Therefore, obtaining better sleep is about quality rather than quantity for most people. In sleep, there are two known phases, REM sleep and non-REM sleep. To get better quality rest, you need both periods to occur. Non-REM sleep is when the brain lowers its activity, and your heart rate will drop. This is what most people call deep sleep. REM sleep is so-called for the rapid eye movements that go with it. Brain activity picks up at this point, and we tend to dream at such times. Although not yet fully understood, dreaming appears to help us process our waking lives at a subconscious level. Without both types of sleep, we don't get the quality we need to function normally in the day time.

 What are the benefits of better sleep?

One of the main benefits of better sleep is feeling more rested the next day, which can impact on emotional health as well as productivity. You are usually more alert after some good quality sleep which is important for carrying out certain tasks. Sleep scientists also note that people who obtain better sleep regularly are less susceptible to certain conditions, such as cancer and inflammations. Some scientific studies show that improved sleep also leads to better memory function and heart health.

How can you help children to get better sleep?

Darker rooms are better for children since their eyes are less stimulated. Try to wean children off night lights by gradual reductions in their brightness. Better sleep will also often be obtained by relaxing before bedtime. A story in bed is a good idea, especially if you read slower and slower as the book progresses. Children who require naps should be able to enjoy them but don't let them run on so long that the bedtime routine is put off. Stick to the same bedtime wherever possible. Block out sunlight from children's bedroom windows, too, so they are not awakened too early.

What do adults do to enjoy better sleep?

Not drinking alcohol and avoiding caffeine are two of the main ways you can enjoy better sleep at night. If you are feeling stressed about something before bed, then make a note about it for tomorrow. This will help you compartmentalise it and stop you from dwelling on it. A milky drink before bedtime has a soporific effect, so try this out. Allow your bedroom to be lower in temperature than your body. This is known to help people fall asleep and then to go on to enjoy less interrupted, better sleep.

Which disorders make obtaining better sleep harder?

Insomnia is known to have an effect on sleep health, but you may not have it even though you think you do. Try some of the aforementioned remedies to deal with sleeplessness rather than diagnosing it in yourself. Ageing, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea are all conditions which block usual pathways to better sleep, too.

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