My alarm clock is possibly one of the worst sounds I hear in my day. I would say darkness and
noise are perhaps the worst morning combination, making getting up in winter borderline
torturous (perhaps a slight exaggeration depending on how I've slept the night before!). I know I
am not alone, the morning commute is filled with zombie's - people who are just trying to get an
extra 5 minutes sleep (mouth open, snoring etc!).
I know that it may be a common belief that sleep is a significant waste of time, when we have so much to do. Yet we have to spend, on average, 7 hours doing nothing. Surely with a little more (or a lot more!) caffeine we could survive on less? World leaders pride themselves on little or no
sleep - they are bigger and better than bedtime. However, if sleep wasn't really important surely
we would have evolved without it. Those micro sleeps where you drift off just for a few seconds
or have an uncontrollable urge to close your eyes, suggest that regardless of what you think or
want, your body and brain are demanding you sleep.
So why do we sleep and what is actually going on in the hours of doing nothing?
There are 5 stages of sleep: stages 1-2 are known as light sleep, stages 3-4 are known as deep sleep, as the brain is not as active and restoration is taking place. Stage 5 is known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) - our eyes and brain become active and this is now seen as the stage for deep brain restoration. You can dream in any stage of sleep but some research has suggested you predominantly dream in REM. While in REM we are completely paralysed, this is a protective mechanism. You go through the stages of sleep in order (1-5) and experience cycles throughout the night that last around 90 minutes.
When we are awake the intense electrical activity in the brain means it uses up a quarter of the
body's entire energy supply, even though the brain accounts for only about 2% of the body's
mass. While we are asleep, the most recent research suggests, cerebrospinal fluid enters your brain and removes waste products that have built up over the day (I have simplified this process quite a lot). This process only happens when we are asleep. Your brain is your only organ that doesn't have its own drainage system (lymphatic system). That foggy, sleepy brain is actually caused by a build up of waste no amount of caffeine or sugar will help, you just have to sleep.
No one likes to be told what to do but these tips may help...
1. An hour before bed, slow down, dim the lights or use side lamps.
2. Try to limit (or stop) using technology an hour before bed, the screen lighting on mobile devices have an impact on our internal biological clock, keeping us awake.
3. Write a list of things you need to do the next day this will stop the 4am busy brain wake-up.
4. If you're not a good sleeper, try some herbal sleeping remedies - melatonin tablets will promote sleepiness. There are some good herbal drinks you could try around 2 hours before bed.
5. Try not to consume caffeine after 5pm.
6. Try and go to bed earlier :)
Remember, a good night's sleep solves everything...pretty much.
Miss Hypno Health, a psychology teacher with over a decade worth of experience in under standing mental health and improving well-being. She is passionate about empowering people to learn more about their remarkable bodies and minds and using this knowledge to help heal themselves and experience more joy. In her own words "I am now certain that there is no magic wand, no one treatment or ritual that will lead to inner peace; it stems from a culmination of techniques and everyday choices".
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You can find more information here:
Great TED Talks on sleep -
Craving sunlight and feeling SAD? Learn more about Seasonal Affective Disorder here
Learn more about your biological clock here