Your Guide To Healthy Sleep: Tips and Recommendations
Each of us has experienced problems with sleep, such as insomnia. The reason for this may be stress at work. In some cases, even the dim light of a lamp or a late dinner can interfere with sleep. For healthy sleep, it is important to consider all factors
What is sleep for? For many years, the processes that occur during sleep remained a mystery to science. But recent research has shed light on what happens in the brain while we are in the realm of Morpheus. As it turned out, at this time, the nerve cells of the brain are cleared of harmful substances. They are washed out by brain fluid, which seeps into the spaces between neuroglia cells (a special type of cell in the brain). Lack of sleep can reduce immunity and a person becomes more susceptible to various diseases. Sleep deprivation reduces brain function. If you do not sleep one night, concentration and reaction speed are sharply reduced. In the absence of sleep for two nights, memory lapses occur. After the third sleepless night, hallucinations may appear.
What are the best hours to sleep?
It is believed that an adult needs at least 8 hours of sleep for proper rest and recovery of the body. Sleep is a cyclic process, where each cycle consists of alternating phases of REM and non-REM sleep. The duration of one cycle in total is 1.5 hours. If you wake up exactly at the end of the cycle, then the awakening will be easy. But if you wake up in the middle of the cycle, you will still feel sleepy and tired, even if you slept for about 6 hours.
According to somnologists, the average duration of sleep should be about 5 cycles. But the number of hours needed for proper sleep is individual and increases with increasing load, as well as with stress. Sleep duration also changes with age. In infants, it ranges from 12 hours to 17 hours a day and gradually decreases as they grow older. By the age of 17-18, the norm of sleep is already equal to that of an adult – 8-9 hours.
The best time to start sleeping is between 10 pm and 2 am. With the onset of darkness, the human body produces melatonin, the sleep hormone. Therefore, the time of sleep should be consistent with the dark time of the day. When light hits the retina, the production of melatonin in the brain decreases and the hormone of vigor, cortisol, begins to be released into the blood. This hormone helps to cheer up and quickly move away from sleep.
Which posture is right for sleeping?
The position in which you sleep affects how you feel during sleep and its quality. Doctors consider the position on the back to be the most correct. This posture should be deliberately adopted when preparing for sleep. Lying on your back reduces the load on the heart, straightens the spine. Therefore, this position is preferable for people with heart disease and curvature of the spine. Do not sleep on your back if you are a pregnant woman or if you have respiratory problems and snoring.
Sleeping on your side is suitable for most people. In this position, the spine acquires a physiological bend, the back muscles relax. However, those who are concerned about heart disease should refrain from sleeping on their left side. This increases the workload on the heart. Persons with complaints of heartburn and belching with stomach contents should refrain from sleeping on the right side. The disadvantage of the pose on the side is the numbness of the hand and its fingers due to pinching of blood vessels and nerves.
The pose on the stomach is perhaps the most harmful. This position increases the pressure on the chest, which makes it difficult to breathe. A forced turn of the head on its side can disrupt the blood supply to the brain. In the prone position, the curvature of the spine in the prone position is straightened, and the load on the muscles and joints increases.
Choosing sleep accessories
What we sleep on is equally important to the quality of sleep. This is a mattress, a pillow and a bed.
According to studies, the mattress should be changed every 7 years. But, unfortunately, almost no one follows this rule. The thing is that in the first few years, under the weight of our body, the mattress sags by 25% and continues to wear out more and more every year. Such a mattress leads to an incorrect location of the spine, hips and, as a result, pain in the back, neck, etc. Sleeping on such a mattress provokes an incorrect redistribution of weight on the muscles. Some of them are relaxed, while others are tense all night.
In addition, mattresses can be made from toxic materials and synthetic fabrics that are treated with chemicals to slow down combustion. These chemicals give off gases and can adversely affect health. Manufacturers abandoned their use after the harmful effects of chemicals on the thyroid gland, nervous system and liver were established.
The pillow on which you sleep should not be too soft so that your head does not sink into it. But it should not be too hard – in this case, the neck will tense up. The most useful pillows for sleeping are orthopedic pillows. Their shape follows the natural curve of the neck and makes our sleep comfortable. The filling of the pillow is equally important. Orthopedic pillows are filled with a special foam that gives a certain shape. Other well-known fillers include down, wool, feathers. However, such pillows are contraindicated for allergy sufferers.
The height of the pillow should be no more than 10-14 cm, and the width should be equal to the size of the shoulders.
We spend about a third of our lives in a dream, so the bed must be chosen carefully enough. The size of the bed in length should be 15-20 cm more than your height. The width of the bed you need can be checked in the following way. You need to lie down and put your hands behind your head. In this case, the elbows should not hang down but should be placed on the bed. This will give you an idea of what size bed you need.
The size of the mattress must exactly match the dimensions of the bed frame. Otherwise, it will move out or stray, and it will be uncomfortable to sleep.
What else can affect sleep?
The quality of sleep can be affected not only by accessories but by indoor air, nutrition and other factors.
Fresh air in the bedroom is the key to healthy sleep. During sleep, the brain continues to work, process information, and restore the efficiency of body cells. This work requires oxygen. High levels of carbon dioxide in the room reduces brain activity and makes it difficult to breathe. And this negatively affects the quality of sleep. Therefore, before going to bed, the bedroom must be ventilated. The air temperature in the sleeping room should not exceed 72 °F. Doctors recommend taking walks in the fresh air before going to bed, for example, in a park or square. This will ensure you a healthy sleep.
Before going to bed, it is not recommended to consume fatty foods, drinks with a high content of caffeine, and alcohol. Eating heavy fatty foods at night will force your intestines to work all night and keep you awake. And calories will inevitably be deposited on your figure in the form of extra pounds. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks and alcohol will also keep you awake, but for a different reason. Caffeine increases excitability by increasing blood pressure and heart rate. It is better to drink the last cup of espresso before 14.00.
Alcohol helps to fall asleep quickly, but negatively affects the phase of REM sleep. As a result, the next day you feel sleepy and often with a headache.
An ideal dinner can be low-calorie, easily digestible foods. For example, yogurt, cottage cheese, bananas, eggs, chicken or turkey meat, various cereals.
Popular questions and answers
We talked with a cardiologist about the need for proper sleep, normative values, sleep disorders and the use of various supplements.
Are 8 hours of sleep good for everyone?
It is believed that an adult needs to sleep about 6 to 9 hours a day. However, this indicator is quite individual and depends on many factors, including health status, habits, quality of sleep, time of day at which sleep begins.
The standard recommended 8 hours of sleep that we usually hear about is an average and varies significantly based on the factors described above.
As a rule, with age, the need for sleep may decrease, so children sleep more, including during the day, and an adult sleeps less. The individual need for sleep can also change – it is also subject to annual cycles: in winter, a person sleeps, on average, a little more than in summer.
The need for sleep more or less than the average values (6 – 9 hours) may mask certain diseases. The total duration of sleep can decrease with excessive thyroid function, anxiety disorder, diseases of the lungs, heart, urinary organs, etc. Typical symptoms of these disease are: sweating, frequent urination, arrhythmia, shortness of breath.
Conversely, an increased need for sleep is often due to hypothyroidism – insufficient thyroid function, hypovitaminosis, a period of recovery after serious illnesses and major surgical interventions.
It is important to note that a large number of diseases can lead to sleep disorders. Sometimes diseases are latent, and the appearance of sleep disorders is one of the few symptoms, so it is necessary to pay attention to changes in the need for sleep.
Taking certain medications is of some importance – they can disturb sleep. If you suspect that the drug prescribed by your doctor affects the duration and quality of sleep, then you need to contact your doctor with this question and discuss the possibility of correcting prescriptions. It is not recommended to independently cancel or add drugs without informing your doctor.
What can disrupt sleep?
In addition to obvious or hidden diseases, which include hypovitaminosis, sleep disturbance is caused by many bad habits and an irrational lifestyle.
For example, smoking and an excess of caffeine have an activating effect, and their combination enhances the effect of each other in relation to sleep disturbance. That is why we recommend quitting smoking and drinking coffee and strong tea in the first half of the day.
Overeating and eating at night activates the work of the gastrointestinal tract and the cardiovascular system (provides increased blood flow to the actively working organs of the digestive system), contributes to gastroesophageal reflux disease (may be felt as heartburn), snoring and hypertension, which, of course, worsens the quality of sleep.
Healthy sleep is also hindered by reduced air humidity (it is necessary to moisturize the respiratory tract and mucous membranes of the eyes) and too low or high temperature in the room where a person sleeps. Stuffiness, loud noises, pungent odors, bright lights also negatively affect the process of going to bed and the process of sleep itself.
The main recommendations for normalizing sleep (sleep hygiene) are airing the room, curtaining curtains, and maintaining cleanliness.
Separately, it is necessary to discuss the negative side of using gadgets before bedtime. Bright screens, loud sounds (from audio and video materials), exciting news can significantly disrupt sleep. This is primarily due to a violation of the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
It is also important to note the need to use the bed on which the person sleeps just for sleeping. Working, reading, playing games and using gadgets can interfere with the perception of the bed as a place to sleep and lead to insomnia as well.
Is it worth taking supplements to improve sleep?
There are various non-drug drugs – dietary supplements – that help improve sleep.
For example, taking melatonin (one of the most popular dietary supplements) makes up for the lack of effects of this substance in the brain. Tryptophan, gamma-aminobutyric acid, certain amino acids (such as glycine), sedative herbal preparations, and magnesium preparations also have a positive effect on the quality of sleep.
A hidden positive effect on sleep, its duration and quality can also be provided by vitamin and mineral preparations in case of replenishment of a deficiency of one or another microelement, for example, many patients taking vitamin D prescribed for its deficiency (according to the results of a laboratory study of its content in the blood ) note an improvement in sleep and, accordingly, general well-being and an increase in working capacity.
However, you can use certain drugs and dietary supplements only after consulting a doctor!
Category: General Wellness
Tags: Sleep, sleep disorders, sleep loss, sleep quality