5 key ideas for better sleep
Some simple tips to sleep more and better, taking advantage of the hours of rest.
As science advances on issues related to mental health, it is becoming clear that the importance of getting a good night's sleep is crucial.
It's not just a matter of not feeling bad in the morning and performing better at work or school; in addition, something as simple as not sleeping well for several months increases the likelihood of developing a wide variety of psychological disorders, and even some diseases that go beyond the functioning of the nervous system and affect other parts of the body.
That is why it is is essential to adopt certain simple habits that allow us to sleep better and get the most out of our sleep and get the most out of the hours spent resting. Even if you have trouble falling asleep.
Why is it important to get a good night's sleep?
If we dedicate a good part of the day's hours to sleep, it is not by chance. In nature, it has been seen that practically all vertebrate animals need to sleep with a similar frequency to humans; even species that, due to their Biological characteristics, do not rest as we do, enter into a state of drowsiness, in some cases causing the two halves of the brain to take turns to sleep (as happens, for example, with dolphins).
This is due to something relatively simple: with complex nervous systems, it is necessary to have a self-maintenance system that is up to the task.. This is why our bodies have evolved to be active during certain hours of the day, and inactive during the rest of the time. And the best way to take advantage of this time when there is no point in going out to look for resources or to bond with others is to get the nervous system to recharge its energies and reorganize its functioning.
In fact, it is believed that one of the reasons we need to sleep is not only to prepare our networks of interconnected nerve cells to face a new day, but also that the sleep stage allows us to consolidate in our long-term memory useful content that we have learned during the previous hours, either consciously or unconsciously.
This is in line with what we know from neuroscience researchWhen we sleep, our nervous system not only does not shut down, but we can hardly say that it is much less active than when we are awake. In these moments, millions of neurons begin to send electrical signals in a coordinated manner, and patterns of nervous activation are generated that give name to the different stages of sleep: the REM stage and the non-REM stage, which in turn is divided into other phases. The human brain is made to take advantage of these hours to go through these phases and let the neuronal interconnections readjust to each other, looking for the best possible configuration to wake up with charged batteries and a clear mind.
Keys to better and restorative sleep.
Now that we have seen to what extent the hours dedicated to sleep are far from being wasted time, let's take a look at some tips to get better sleep. To do so, you will have to start integrating these habits into your daily routine, and although at first it will require a certain level of commitment, if you do it well, it is quite possible that after several months they will come automatically, without the need for premeditation to come into play.
1. Coffee, only in the mornings
The psychoactive power of caffeine should not be underestimated: introducing this substance into our system will have effects even if we are not immediately aware of it. That is why, it is best that you maintain a certain discipline in the consumption of caffeinated beverages, doing your best to make it work for you.It is best to do your best to make it inconceivable for you to drink it in the second half of the day.
2. Practice Mindfulness
In many studies Mindfulness has been shown to be effective in managing certain experiences related to anxiety and even pain. Therefore, if you notice that there is something that worries you and that you are thinking about, or if you have a health problem that causes you some discomfort, you can try this kind of practices inspired by meditation. Of course, it is advisable to receive training from a professional psychologist to teach you the basics of meditation.The best thing to do is to receive training from a psychology professional, who will teach you the basics and from there you can apply them in your daily life. Psychologists can be of great help in this regard.
3. Respect your resting place
Not all the keys to better sleep are to control what happens inside our bodies: the environment also influences, and a lot. Take the time to see which elements of the room in which you sleep work and which do not work when it comes to allowing you to enjoy a good quality of sleep. Sometimes, the ultimate solution is something as simple as stopping and realizing that you need to expose yourself less to the streetlight coming through the window, or buying a more comfortable mattress.
Also, if you notice that you are having trouble falling asleep, try not staying in bed for several hours to do activities that have nothing to do with rest, such as eating or using a laptop. By doing so, you will associate that place with what you you will associate that place with what you see and feel every time you are about to start sleeping..
4. Keep a good exercise schedule
If you are in the habit of going to the gym, going for a run or practicing any kind of sport, be careful not to do it during the hours before going to bed. If you do not respect this guideline, you will probably end up "cheating" your body into believing that dinnertime is still a time when the environment can provide us with challenges that require physical effort.
As a consequence, when the time comes at night when we try to go to sleep, the state of activation of our nervous system and our endocrine (hormonal) system will simply not let us go to sleep, the state of activation of our nervous system and our endocrine (hormonal) system simply won't let usand we will not feel sleepy until much later.
5. Keep a good work schedule
Just as it is important to be careful about when you exercise, it is also important to keep track of your working hours. There are two reasons for this. On the one hand, working activates us mentally, even when our profession is primarily intellectual work. It is true that writing a report shortly before going to bed does not imply the same for our quality of sleep as dedicating that time to go for a run, but despite that, it will probably make it a little more difficult for us to start sleeping at the right time, because our brain will be more "on".
On the other hand, if we let work gradually enter the schedule of what should be our free time, it will be easier that as the days go by, chores will accumulate (by domino effect) and that being forced to go to sleep late will become the norm, rather than the exception.
- Freeman, D. et. al. (2017). The effects of improving sleep on mental health (OASIS): a randomised controlled trial with mediation analysis. Lancet Psychiatry, 4(10): pp. 749 - 758.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)