Steep cost to sleep loss
“Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care… balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, chief nourisher in life’s feast.”
Shakespeare knew what he was talking about when he wrote those lines in the play Macbeth.
In a study published last month, German researchers showed for the first time, that sleep “resets” our brains and is crucial for remembering and learning.
The loss of a single night’s sleep was enough to block the brain’s natural reset mechanism, the scientists found. Deprived of rest, the brain’s neurons became so muddled with electrical activity that new memories could not be properly laid down.
“This work shows us that sleep is a highly active brain process and not a waste of time. It’s required for healthy brain function,” said Christoph Nissen, lead psychiatrist on the study.
So we need to sleep – but how many of us actually get enough?
According to our employee assistance program provider Shepell, sleep deprivation – sleep lacking in quantity, quality, or both – is a global epidemic. It is now acknowledged that the majority of us are actually sleep deprived.
Sleep affects our quality of life on all levels; from productivity at work to mental health to the strength of our immune systems. A lack of sleep can even contribute to public safety, as people who are severely sleep deprived are more likely to get into car accidents, for example.
So how can we improve the quality of our sleep? Many aspects of contemporary life are stacked against us: around the clock access to communication by way smartphones, the reigning presence of television, and the lights and sounds of urban life are all obstacles on the road to quality sleep.
But there are some simple changes you can make to improve your sleep – here are seven easy ways to improve your sleep:
- Create a space for sleep. Make your bed into a place that’s only for sleeping. This means watching TV, eating, working, and looking at your phone while in bed, are no longer permissible activities.
- Make time for sleep. Don’t do things right before bed that can interfere with sleeping, such as working, eating or having heavy emotional conversations.
- Stick to a schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Weekends often interfere with this, but it is very important for longer and better quality sleep that you create and maintain a good routine.
- Don’t lay awake in bed. If you don’t fall asleep within 10-15 minutes of shutting the lights, don’t linger there watching the clock. Get out of bed, read a book or listen to some calm music in dim light until you feel tired and then try again.
- Avoid naps. Naps are tempting, especially when you aren’t sufficiently rested. However, to get better sleep at night, don’t sleep during the day.
- Cut down on caffeine and alcohol. Decreasing your daily caffeine intake will greatly improve your nightly sleep. Alcohol, though it may feel like it helps you fall asleep, actually makes your sleep less restful.
- Exercise. Regular exercise is a great way to boost your sleep time and quality. For best results, exercise early in the day, as doing so before bed can actually have the opposite effect.
Get more information and advice on a wide variety of topics from Shepell’s website Work Health Life.
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