Tips and Benefits of Having good Sleep: Signs of a Sleep Disorder

Sleep has distinct stages that cycle throughout the night in predictable patterns. Your brain and body functions stay active throughout sleep, but different things happen during each stage. For instance, certain stages of sleep are needed for us to feel well rested & energetic the next day, and other stages help us learn or make memories.

In brief, a number of vital tasks carried out during sleep help people stay healthy and function at their best. On the other hand, not getting enough sleep can be dangerous for humans.

How Much Sleep is good for you?

Sleep needs vary from person to person, and they change throughout the life cycle. Most adults need 7–8 hours of sleep each night. Newborns, on the other hand, sleep between 16 to 18 hours a day, and children in preschool sleep between 11 to 12 hours a day. School-aged children and teens need at least 10 hours of sleep each night.

Why Sleep Is Good for You?

Both the quantity and the quality of your sleep are vital. The various stages of sleep, the humans undergo during every night are important for:

  • Health – Sleep is essential for good health. During sleep, your body produces valuable hormones. Deep sleep triggers more release of growth hormone, which fuels growth in children. It boosts muscle mass, the repair of cells & tissues in children and adults. Another type of hormone that increases during sleep helps the immune system fight various infections. So, a good night’s sleep helps keep you from getting sick — and helps you recover when you do get sick. Hormones released during sleep also control the body’s use of energy. The lesser the people sleep; the more likely they are to be overweight or obese, to develop diabetes, and to prefer eating foods that are high in calories & carbohydrates. Studies have also shown that not getting enough sleep or getting poor quality sleep on a regular basis increases the risk of having high blood pressure, heart disease, and other medical conditions.
  • Mood – Sleep affects mood. Insufficient sleep can make you irritable and can lead to poor behaviour and trouble with relationships, especially among children & teens. People who chronically lack sleep are also more likely to become depressed.
  • Performance – You need sleep to think clearly, react quickly, and create memories. In fact, the pathways in the brain that help you learn and remember are very active when we sleep. People do mentally challenging tasks better after a good night’s sleep.  Sleep is also essential for creative problem-solving. Cutting sleep by even 1 hour can make it tough to focus the next day and can slow your response time. It has also been found that when you lack sleep, you are more likely to make bad decisions and take more risks.  This can result in lower performance on the job or in school and a greater risk while driving.

What are various sleep disorders?

If you are spending enough time in bed and still wake up tired or feel very sleepy during the day, you may be diagnosed with a sleep disorder. The most common sleep disorders are:

  • Insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep)
  • Sleep apnoea (pauses in breathing during sleep)
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Narcolepsy (extreme daytime sleepiness)

What are the signs of a Sleep Disorder?

Although sleep disorders can significantly affect your health, safety, and well-being, they can be treated. The common signs of a sleep disorder are:

  • Consistently taking more than 30 minutes each night to fall asleep.
  • Regularly awakening several times each night and then having trouble falling back to sleep, or arising too early in the morning.
  • Often feeling sleepy during the day, taking frequent naps, or falling asleep at inappropriate times during the day.
  • When you sleep, you snore loudly, snort, gasp, make choking sounds, or stop breathing for short periods.
  • Have creeping, tingling, or crawling feelings in legs or arms that are relieved by moving or massaging them, especially in the evening and when trying to fall asleep.
  • Legs or arms jerk often during sleep.
  • Having vivid, dreamlike experiences while falling asleep or dozing.
  • Experiencing episodes of sudden muscle weakness when you are angry or fearful, or when you laugh.
  • Feeling as though you cannot move when you first wake up.

Keep in mind that children can have some of these same signs when they have a sleep disorder, but they often do not show signs of excessive daytime sleepiness. Instead, they may seem overactive and have difficulty focusing or doing their best in school.

What are the vital Tips to get Good Night’s Sleep?

Like eating well and being physically active, getting a good night’s sleep is important to your well-being. Here are some vital tips to get Good Night’s Sleep:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day – even on the weekends.
  • Exercise is great, but not too late in the day. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes on most days but not later than 2–3 hours before your bedtime.
  • Have the right sunlight exposure. Daylight is key to regulating daily sleep patterns. Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes each day.
  • Don’t take naps after 3 p.m. Naps can boost your brain power, but late afternoon naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night. Also, keep naps to under an hour.
  • Avoid large meals and beverages late at night. A large meal can cause indigestion that interferes with sleep.  Drinking too many fluids at night can cause you to awaken frequently to urinate.
  • Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep, if possible. Some commonly prescribed heart, blood pressure, or asthma medications, as well as some over-the-counter and herbal remedies for coughs, colds, or allergies, can disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Take a hot bath before bed. The drop in body temperature after the bath may help you feel sleepy, and the bath can help you relax.
  • Have a good sleeping environment. Get rid of anything in your bedroom that might distract you from sleep, such as noises, bright lights, an uncomfortable bed, or a TV or computer in the bedroom. Also, keeping the temperature in your bedroom on the cool side can help you sleep better.
  • Relax before bed. Take time to unwind. A relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to music, should be part of your bedtime ritual.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine. The stimulating effects of caffeine in coffee, colas, certain teas, and chocolate can take as long as 8 hours to wear off fully. Nicotine is also a stimulant.
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. A “nightcap” might help you get to sleep, but alcohol keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep. You also tend to wake up in the middle of the night when the sedating effects have worn off.
  • Don’t lie in bed awake. If you find yourself still awake after staying in bed for more than 20 minutes, get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.

Remember, “Sleep is best meditation.