Sleeping is awesome. It’s one of the bodily functions that, like eating and drinking, is a daily cyclical constant. It’s a trait that persists across the animal kingdom. Some animals are really, really good at sleeping too. Housecats, for instance, sleep for up to eighteen hours a day. Meanwhile, some animals, like bears, sleep their way through entire seasons in order to conserve energy.
In short, the fact that so many species have converged via evolution (or else are offshoots of an ancestor who first developed sleep) shows how primordial this function of our bodies is. If we share a trait with lobsters, you’re gosh-darned right that it’s probably important! As important as Sloto Cash online casino, AT LEAST.
The science backs this up too. Getting a healthy amount of sleep increases your well-being across the board. As an adult, you should be aiming for about seven to eight hours of sleep every night. If you’re a teenager, you should be aiming for as much as eight or even nine hours of sleep every night.
Now, I know that most students resent the fact that school makes them get up so early… but let’s be honest. It’s not your school that’s keeping you on YouTube, or else going for another late-night gaming binge, is it?
Getting a good night’s rest affects your health in more ways than you probably think! Obviously, it affects your energy and mood throughout the day, but did you know that it also affects your immune system?
It’s true. Getting high-quality rest keeps your immune cells in fighting shape and improves your body’s ability to beat back colds, influenzas, and other infections. More relevantly, they even make certain vaccines more effective!
Did you know, however, that getting enough sleep can help prevent you from packing on extra unwanted (as if fat is ever wanted) pounds? Yup. Studies show that sleeplessness increases your body’s production of ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite and decreases the production of leptin, which makes you feel full. It also doesn’t help that sleeplessness makes you low energy and stress-prone, making it harder for you to fight off food cravings.
More dangerously, sleep deprivation can also lead to increased cardiological problems, from high blood pressure to heart attacks. Lack of sleep leads to an increase in stress hormones like cortisol, which compels your heart to beat more and rest less. Your heart is a muscle that needs its rest days as much as it needs to work out.
I find, however, that the most fascinating benefit of sleep is what it does while it’s asleep. You might have heard that the human brain is the most powerful computer on Earth- and that comparison is a lot more valid than you might initially think. Sleep, as it turns out, is vital for storing memories in the long term.
There are three types of memory processes:
The first and third of these processes are what we do when we’re awake. We acquire new memories from what we see and do every day. We also recall memories all the time, whether it’s recalling the information you need for a test or else recalling that awkward moment where you tripped and fell in front of your crush in the middle of class twelve years ago.
However, the second is arguably one of the most important steps. Sleep is required for the consolidation of memory, where memories that you acquired throughout the day get processed during the night into long-term memory. Lack of sleep disrupts this process, making it harder for you to acquire and recall anything in the long term. Or the shorter. Studies involving memory tests show vast improvements after a good night’s rest or even a good nap!
How to get Asleep Faster
So now that we know why we should be striving for a good night’s rest, the question becomes, how do we get a full night’s rest? Especially those of us that have trouble falling asleep. Luckily, there’s some pretty good advice on the matter that hopefully is a little more effective than drinking warm milk.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Getting your body into a good cycle of sleep is extremely beneficial for future sleep. So even if you don’t feel tired yet, lie down, turn on some white noise, soft music, or an audiobook, and relax. Don’t, however, just lie in bed awake! If you’re not falling asleep, lying in bed worryingabout not falling asleep will paradoxically keep you awake. Get up and do something boring and / or relaxing until you feel sleepy.
- Get regular exercise. Obviously, exercise, in general, is good for you, but doing it about three hours before you intend to go to sleep will actually help you fall asleep. Any later than that, however, and the increased adrenaline and energy from your workout will actually keep you awake. You have to give some time for your body to wind down.
- Keep it cool. Sleeping in a hot environment could actually keep you awake. If you can afford to, try and keep the temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (or 18 to 23 degrees Celsius). I recommend taking a hot bath too. It might seem counterintuitive- after all, did I just tell you to keep things cool? However, weirdly enough, it’s actually the act of coolingdown that helps induce sleep. Taking a hot bath before entering a nice cool room, thus causing you to cool down too, can help pull you to a lovely sleep.
- Avoid Caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine before bed… although I’d avoid that last one in general, although if you’re a smoker, you probably already know that you shouldn’t smoke. So whatever. Also, a surprise addition: Chocolate. Yup, it’s a stimulant too, so sorry- no chocolate cake for you before bed!l
- Don’t use the computer or your phone before bed- or in bed. Harsh screen light stimulates your brain similar to how sunlight does and will disorient your body, making it think that it’s time to get up.
- Through a similar premise, make sure that you’re actually getting enough sunlight during the day. Getting at least thirty minutes of sunlight every day (which also fills up your daily vitamin D requirements) helps fix your body’s sleep cycle to understand when it’s daytime versus when it’s nighttime (AKA: Sleepytime).
- Don’t keep a clock visible near your bed! As it turns out, one of the things that can cause you to stay awake is worrying about the fact that you’re still awake. The ability to look at a clock and panic about how much sleep you’re notgetting only adds to the stress and keeps you awake more. To remove the clock and fall asleep on the dot!
If you have done all of that and you’re still having trouble, there are some techniques that could help you to fall asleep.
For instance, there’s a technique developed by the United States Navy. Supposedly, according to studies that aren’t for public viewing, this technique allowed 96% of Naval pilots who learned it to fall asleep within two minutes. The Navy wanted this so that pilots could fall asleep anywhere and stop making potentially fatal mistakes while in the air.
You, of course, are going to use it to get some gosh-darned sleep already.
It works like this:
You first have to systematically relax each and every part of your body, starting with your face. Let all your facial muscles relax and “power down”. If it helps, tense your face first, and then let it relax. Even imagine your eyes sinking into their sockets! Then, move to the next part of your body, like your shoulders, arms, hands… all the basic muscle groups, until you reach your feet. Tighten and relax. Tighten and relax.
With your body relaxing, you need to relax your mind too. Try to enter a sort of meditative state, where thoughts and memories of your day simply pass through without being dwelled upon. In one ear, and out the other, so to speak. Breathe in and out. Imagine yourself in a calm location, if it helps.
Be warned. This isn’t a magic cure: It takes practice, and, anecdotally, it apparently works if you dedicate time to it. It couldn’t hurt to try, right?
The 4-7-8 technique
If a two-minute military technique isn’t up your alley, then maybe this one is. This a seven-step technique that hopefully will lull you to sleep. Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil and based on a yoga technique called pranayama, this technique, when practiced, helps pull you to sleep through the art of breathing.
- You first put the tip of your tongue by the roof of your mouth.
- Exhale through your mouth completely.
- Close your lips, and inhale silently through your nose for four seconds (count them out in your head).
- For seven seconds, hold your breath.
- Exhale again for another eight seconds.
- Repeat four times. When you inhale, you begin a new full breath. You eventually can work your way up to eight full breaths, which will put you in a very relaxed state.
So, did any of these tips help you? Did you learn something new? I sure did while researching this subject. Getting to sleep is one of the most important things you can do every day, right behind the actual act of sleeping. So grab your teddy bear, turn on the AC, and catch so