Paid post by gutschlafen
How many of you think that quality sleep is an indulgence? I used to think like that until a few years ago, when I came upon Arianna Huffington´s TED Women talk: How to succeed? Get more sleep. Until that moment I’ve never thought of sleep as the number one self-care tool and since I am a do-er, I don’t see much point of sleeping? You can’t do much while you are sleeping, right! Wrong!
First let me tell you that if you are an average person you will spend 36% of your life asleep. This means that if you live for 90 years 32 of them will be spent asleep.
That means 1/3d of your life is spent asleep, which I guess tells you that sleep must be a pretty important thing in our lives. Exactly why we sleep still remains a mystery, but there are several theories and the main ones tie sleep to brain plasticity, restoration and conservation.
The most fascinating theory about brain plasticity is relatively new and it connects sleep with the structure and the organization of the brain and the way we process all the information from our day. According to neuroscientists, when we fall asleep, the brain does not merely go offline, as implied by the common phrase “out like a light.” Instead a series of highly orchestrated events put the brain to sleep in stages. Even when the brain technically starts to sleep, the so-called Rapid Eye Movement (REM) begins too. “This mode is bizarre: a dreamer’s brain becomes highly active while the body’s muscles are paralyzed, and breathing and heart rate become erratic. The purpose of REM sleep remains a biological mystery, despite our growing understanding of its biochemistry and neurobiology” (more read here)
Another effect sleep has is that it allows the brain to process and store all the information we take in on an average day. Overnight, bits and pieces of information are transferred from more tentative, short-term memory to stronger, long-term memory—a process called “consolidation.” Researchers have also shown that after people sleep, they tend to retain information and perform better on memory tasks. Better sleep also means more focus, mental clarity and finally even better creativity thanks to specific hormones released that are related to the levels of stress in our bodies.
The other theory about why we sleep is connected to our bodies: “Sleep ties health to our bodies”. The human body requires long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate; to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones. In addition, protein synthesis and growth hormone release occur and in some cases only during sleep.
One more theory around sleep is energy conservation. The energy conservation theory suggests that the primary function of sleep is to reduce an individual’s energy demand and expenditure during part of the day or night.
My feeling is that there is truth in every theory and that understanding sleep can help me and many other sleep deprived mums to take this “activity” more seriously.
Today people sleep a lot less than 50-60 years ago and the results are obesity, high stress levels and addiction to all kinds of stimulants. We treat sleep as an enemy when it is our best tool in self-care. We don’t need expensive holidays and spa treatments, sometimes the answer to our exhaustion could very simply be a lack of a good night´s sleep. And as annoying as such advice may sound for any modern mother out there: you have to treat your sleeping hours as a priority. It is a matter of discipline.
Do you feel you are getting enough sleep? How do you know you are getting enough sleep? …..Listen to yourself – if you need more time in the morning and you need stimulants in the day you are probably sleep deprived.
I already wrote a post on how to prepare for, and get a better sleep, but here are a few more tips:
– Ambiance is extremely important: Reduce light exposure before going to sleep
– A cool and dark place is best for sleep
– Turn off all gadgets that can excite the brain such as the computer and the phone at least an hour before sleep
– Choose a good quality mattress (link gutschlafen) so your body can feel deeply relaxed while asleep and actually be able to restore its energy.