How To Improve Your Sleep
To improve your sleep, you need to focus on developing good sleep habits. Often these sleep habits are referred to as sleep hygiene.
The number one thing you can do to improve your sleep is to make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to sleep. This means going to bed early enough so that you have time to fall into a deep sleep before your alarm buzzes in the morning.
The second most important thing you need to do to improve your sleep is to establish a good sleep routine that makes it easy for you to fall asleep.
Unfortunately, most of us are so rushed and busy that giving ourselves enough time to sleep and establishing a good sleep routine are huge challenges.
In this article we highlight 7 key ways you can improve your sleep – making it easier to give yourself enough time to sleep and to establish a good sleep routine.
Why Is Sleep Important?
Sleep is important because it impacts the strength of your immune system.
Recent research shows that people who are short on quality sleep are more likely to get sick and have trouble recovering from illness.
When you sleep, your immune system releases cytokines. Cytokines are one of four key players in your innate immunity, acting as your first line of defense against illness:
- Cytokines: chemical messengers that help immune cells communicate and coordinate an immune response.
- Natural killer (NK) cells: white blood cells that recognize and destroy infected or abnormal cells by injecting granules into them, causing them to explode.
- Macrophages: white blood cells that engulf and ingest bacteria and cellular debris.
- Dendritic cells: white blood cells that present foreign substances to B and T cells, initiating an adaptive response.
When you are sleep deprived, your body doesn’t release enough cytokines. Some of these cytokines actually help promote sleep and other cytokines are needed to help fend off illness and trigger an immune system response.
When you miss out on sleep, your body is low on the resources it needs to help encourage good sleep and to protect you from illness. In other words, sleep directly impacts the strength of your immune system.
How Much Sleep Is Enough?
The amount of sleep each of us needs varies based on our unique individual needs.
However, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has established the following sleep recommendations:
- Infants aged 4-12 months: 12-16 hours a day (including naps)
- Children aged 1-2 years: 11-14 hours a day (including naps)
- Children aged 3-5 years: 10-13 hours a day (including naps)
- Children aged 6-12 years: 9-12 hours a day
- Teens aged 13-18 years: 8-10 hours a day
- Adults aged 18 years or older: 7-8 hours a day
Sleep loss is cumulative, if you regularly lose 2 hours of sleep a night, your weekly sleep debt is 14 hours. This is equivalent to missing out on 2 days of sleep.
If you’re not sure you’re getting enough sleep, there are a number of free sleep trackers you can use, or you can simply make notes about your sleep:
- When did you go to bed?
- Approximately how long did it take for you to fall asleep?
- How many times did you wake up during the night?
- How many times did you physically get out of bed during the night?
- Approximately how long did it take for you to fall asleep again?
- When did you wake up?
- Did your alarm wake you up? Or did you wake up before your alarm?
- How do you feel during the day – energized or tired? Do you nap during the day?
This information can help you understand your sleep quality and make it easier for you to actively change your sleep habits and sleep hygiene.
What Happens When You Sleep?
When you’re sleeping, your body is using this time to recover and heal from the day’s activities and stressors.
Sleep is a critical component to your health, well-being, and immune system strength.
There are two stages of sleep:
- Non-REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep: this is the first stage of sleep and involves four stages of sleep. In stage one, you’re awake and gradually falling asleep. In stage two, you’re in a light sleep, this is when your heart rate drops, your body temperature lowers, and your breathing slows. In stages three and four, you enter the deep sleep stage. Research reveals that non-REM sleep is the most important sleep phase for your learning and memory and this sleep gives you the most in the way of relaxation and restoration.
- REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep: this second stage of sleep is when your eyes become active, your brain activity is similar to when you’re awake, your breathing rate increases, and your body becomes slightly paralyzed when you dream.
When you sleep, you cycle through these two sleep stages on average four or five times. With each cycle, you spend less time in the non-REM deep sleep stages (three and four) and more time in REM sleep.
7 Ways to Improve Your Sleep
To improve your sleep, you need to focus on giving yourself enough time to sleep and on establishing a good sleep routine.
These are directly connected to the National Sleep Foundation’s four key determinants of sleep quality:
- Sleeping more while in bed (at least 85 per cent of the time)
- Falling asleep in 30 minutes or less
- Waking up no more than once per night
- Being awake for 20 minutes or less after initially falling asleep
With these sleep quality determinants in mind, we want you to focus on these 7 ways to improve your sleep:
- Don’t nap: it’s tempting to nap in the afternoon or to fall asleep while watching television, but this can make it harder for your to fall asleep when you go to bed. If you feel like you need to nap, think about going to bed earlier and tracking your sleep to learn where you’re losing sleep.
- Read: one of the best ways to settle kids is to read them one, two, or even three bedtime stories. The same holds true for adults. Reading helps clear your mind, making it easier to enter the first stage of non-REM sleep.
- Daily exercise: not only does exercise help strengthen your immune system but it also tires you out. However, don’t exercise right before going to bed, this can have the opposite effect, and make it hard to fall asleep.
- Keep the evening meal light: your body needs time to digest. When you eat a big meal or drink alcohol late in the evening, you strain your digestive system. This can cause indigestion and make it uncomfortable to lie down in bed to sleep.
- Room temperature: according to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal room temperature is 65 degrees (18 C). Some people like to sleep with a fan blowing on them, this help circulate air and it creates a white noise effect that can block out noise.
- Dark room: a dark sleeping room helps your circadian rhythm stay consistent. Use dark curtains that block the light, don’t watch television in bed, keep the overhead light off, and leave your smartphone and other mobile devices in another room.
- Schedule sleep: when you were a kid you had a set bedtime – keep this habit up as an adult. Your body gets used to going to sleep at the same time and correspondingly, try to wake up at the same time each morning. It is tempting to sleep-in on the weekends, but this throws off your body’s internal clock, making it harder to stick to your normal bedtime.
Your body needs consistent and regular sleep. When you miss out on sleep or don’t sleep well, you begin to suffer. Quality sleep is one of the best and easiest ways you have of keeping your immune system healthy and staying energized and motivated.
Just like taking your AHCC daily, you need to make sleep a habit. Remember, everything works together to support a healthy body and brain: quality sleep, immune system health, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and keeping stress low.