The importance of a good night’s rest can’t be overstated. There is a reason why depriving someone of sleep is a form of torture.
Humans need regular periods of quality sleep to recharge, process the day’s experiences, file away memories and follow a normal circadian rhythm to regulate the body’s functions.
The amount of sleep we need varies with each person and is dependent on age, but the National
Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that most average adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Children need much more sleep, from 9 hours a day for teens to up to 18 hours a day for newborn babies.
Sleep problems on the rise
So what happens if there are no regular periods of quality sleep? The occasional late night or disrupted sleep may not be serious, but if they become the norm, it could be trouble. When people don’t sleep enough, they may become moody, depressed, anxious, irritable and sleepy. They are less productive and unable to retain information well. In the long run, a lack of quality sleep has been associated with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality.
The most common sleep disorders are insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, restlessness, sleepwalking and narcolepsy.
How to get a better night’s sleep
Aim for a comfortable sleep environment
Most people have to feel comfortable in their bedrooms - but there are certain no-nos when it comes to furniture, appliances and personal belongings: Keeping out the clutter and mess makes a huge difference. Keep bedroom furniture and decor simple. A bedroom shouldn’t bee too hot or cold at night, and the mattress should be comfortable and supportive. When noise is a problem, try earplugs. According to the National Sleep Foundation, comfort, fresh air, quietness and cool temperature are the basic building blocks for creating the best sleep environment.
Improve indoor air quality
One or too plants can help improve air quality, while too much vegetation could make it worse. Avoid any scented products, dry-cleaned clothes or potentially toxic chemicals in your sleeping environment (this includes scented laundry detergent or bleach). Hardwood floors or tiles are also preferable to carpet, to make cleaning easier.
There should be no computer or television in the bedroom - the only small appliances that may help are humidifiers (if kept clean) and air purifiers, which have the added benefit of adding soothing white noise to the room.
Adopt good night-time habits
Eating too much or too late can make it difficult to fall asleep - the same goes for stimulants consumed before bedtime: It’s better to avoid coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolates and cigarettes before bedtime. Alcohol may help some people to fall asleep, but the effects won’t last long: Sleep is often disrupted when the alcohol leaves the system. It’s best to stay away from sleeping pills, if possible.
A regular bedtime routine is not only beneficial for babies and toddlers - it is best to go to bed around the same time each night and also to get up around the same time each day. Humans are creatures of habit and a regular good night’s sleep is one of the best habits to have.