Sleep: Your questions answered

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Great sleep starts with a great bed. But why is sleep so important? We’ve partnered with The National Bed Federation and Sleep Council to promote the physical and mental health benefits of a good night’s sleep, by answering a few common questions – and sharing some sleep facts you might not know.

Why do we sleep?

It might seem like our bodies are simply ‘powering down’ for the night so that we’re not tired the next day, but sleep is actually crucial for our body and mind in many ways.

Anyone who’s suffered from insomnia, or even just had to get up early after a sleepless night, will know first-hand how important sleep is for our well-being. Not only does it restore energy and help us avoid exhaustion, but sleep repairs our bodies and refresh our muscles. And equally as importantly, as we sleep our brains take the opportunity to organise and store thoughts and memories from the day before.

The Power of Sleep

We know that sleep refreshes our bodies and minds, providing energy for the day ahead. But sleep has a lot of hidden benefits you may not know about: we’ve picked out a few of the best ones, to inspire you to get an early night!

Sleep helps you with big decisions

There’s a reason people tell you to ‘sleep on it’ when you’ve got a tough decision to make. Getting enough sleep is the best way to ensure you brain is firing on all cylinders, boosting your creativity and helping you to think well, so that you find the right solution to your problem.

Sleep boosts your willpower

If you find it difficult to say no to the office biscuit tin, it could be because you’re not sleeping enough. Studies have shown that people eat almost 300 fewer calories a day when they’re well rested. This is because the part of the brain that controls sleep also helps control appetite and metabolism. When you don’t get enough sleep, your hormones are out of whack: you make more hunger hormones, and less leptin – which tells you when you’re full.

Sleep makes you more intelligent

While you’re sleeping, your brain is busy sorting through the new information you learned that day. The longer you sleep for, the more time it has to decide what to keep hold of, and what to forget. If you’re trying to learn something important, a good night’s sleep increases your chances of retaining it.

How much sleep do I need?

You’ve probably heard that adults need around 8 hours of sleep a day, and although this is a good baseline, we all have slightly different requirements. You’ll need different amounts of sleep throughout different stages of your life, depending on lifestyle, health and environmental factors. Listen to your body: You may find yourself consistently feeling refreshed after less than 8 hours – or it could take a little more shut-eye for you to be firing on all cylinders. 

Why do I wake up feeling tired?

Sleep is split into Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep, which is divided into three stages (NREM 1, 2 and 3) and Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM). We cycle through these four stages throughout the night, starting with NREM 1 – which is a light sleep we can be easily woken from, and ending with REM sleep; the stage of sleep where we dream (this is why you can often remember your dreams as soon as you wake up).  We need around one and a half hour of each stage to wake up feeling fully refreshed.

Source: http://www.sleepcouncil.org.uk/

If you consistently wake feeling groggy despite having an uninterrupted night’s sleep, you’re probably not sleeping for long enough to experience all four stages. And if you find yourself feeling particularly drowsy and disorientated when you wake, it’s likely your alarm is going off during NREM 3 – a deeper stage of sleep, which is difficult to wake up from.

If possible, try sleeping for longer to ensure you’re getting all four stages in. Allow yourself to wake up naturally, or in a gentler way, so as not to interrupt NREM 3. There are even apps that monitor your movement throughout the night to determine when you’re no longer in deep sleep, and wake you (within a specified window) at the point where you’ll feel most refreshed.

How do I know I’m getting enough sleep?

Feeling consistently tired, napping during the day and constantly reaching for caffeinated drinks are the most obvious clues you’re not sleeping enough. You might also find yourself becoming more irritable, short tempered and unreasonable, or have trouble focusing on and remembering things that usually come easily to you.

Finally, although this seems counter-intuitive, one symptom of not enough sleep is actually insomnia – trouble falling or staying asleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, The Sleep Council has some great resources to help you into the Land of Nod: from making sure your bedroom is a restful environment, to creating your perfect sleep routine.

Published Date: 27th April 2017
Category: Sleep
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