You are surely familiar with the term: sleep hygiene. What is actually behind it? Does sleep have to be long to bring you rest? These and other questions are answered by Anna Cyklinska, psychologist, educator and psychotherapist, member of the można Zwariować Foundation, where she co-hosts a podcast of the same name.
The secret life of sleep: phases, depths, cycles.
Healthy human sleep is divided into two main sleep stages: NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement). One cycle of NREM and REM sleep lasts approximately 90 minutes. With each hour of sleep, each REM phase lengthens. REM sleep is sometimes referred to as paradoxical sleep: although our muscles are flaccid during REM sleep, it is our brain that is working very actively, which manifests itself mainly in complex, dynamic dreams.
Very interestingly, it has been proven that the movement of the eyeballs during dreams at least partially coincides with the tracking of the linearity of the dream – so in a way, our dreams can be compared to watching an immersive film.
The phases of a dream alternate with each other. There is no phase that is ineffective or less necessary – each of us sleeps differently, has different needs and recovers or falls asleep in a different way. Our personal preferences, our social life and our daily routine play a large role.
There is little point in locking ourselves into the traditional division between owls and larks.
What happens to me when I don’t get enough sleep?
It is well known that when a person is hungry they are angry – the same is true of sleep. Lack of adequate sleep results in symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, lack of concentration and attention, and succumbing to accidents. There is a fairly deep line running between episodic sleep deprivation and insomnia, but it is worth observing and checking the quality of our sleep.
Insomnia can also be episodic when it involves several sleepless nights or occurs during important stressful periods in our lives, such as the death of loved ones, a love disappointment, important and difficult tasks at work.
Chronic insomnia is very dangerous and we speak of it when it lasts more than 1 month.
Exercises for a relaxing night’s sleep… And then what?
As you may know, we talk about regularity and habits quite often in our posts. Things are no different when it comes to keeping an eye on good quality sleep. Anna told us about some of the foundations with which you will build a good, relaxing and restorative sleep.
- Getting up and going to bed at the same time. Even if you go to bed after midnight and sleep until seven, your sleep will give you more energy than if you go to bed at different times (8pm, 11pm, 1am) and sleep longer.
- Your body needs a steady rhythm. Give it one. When you wake up, get out of bed as soon as possible. By doing so, you will give your brain and your body a signal: let’s start waking up, let’s start the day.
- Don’t reach for your phone or a book, and don’t turn on the news services on TV. Give yourself a moment to stretch.
- If possible – get up in bright daylight, immediately lift the blinds or swing back the curtains. This way, you “cut off” the stress you feel in the evening before going to sleep.
- It’s good to give ourselves tasks: as soon as I wake up, I go to pick up vegetables or to the package store. It is important that these are activities that we do outside. Sunlight lowers cortisol levels, which we have the most in the morning.
- There’s no fooling ourselves – the physical exercise we do in the morning has a huge impact on our mood and helps regulate going to bed at regular times. It doesn’t have to be yoga with little goats or stretching on the banks of the Seine – if you can, cycle to work or get off one stop earlier and go for a walk. These are simple ways to be energised during the day and sleep well at night.
Walking – the shortest route to a good night’s sleep.
- Tasty coffee – it may or may not bother you :). Of course, it’s not the coffee itself, but the caffeine it contains. The same as you find in energy drinks, black tea, cocoa beans, guarana. On the one hand, caffeine is a natural stimulant and a substance without which it is really hard to imagine a Monday meeting at the office. Besides, what would we be sending ourselves in memes? On the other hand, however – it is good to simply not need such stimulants. But what about the delightful taste of coffee or cocoa, the slightly sweet kick of energy from guarana?
It is worth remembering that even after 7 hours, the concentration of caffeine in our blood can be half of what it was at the beginning. This therefore means let’s have a coffee, but not after 2 pm.
Sleep hygiene – how to apply it.
How our sleep process goes is very much influenced by the stress and worries we experience during the day. These cause our endocrine system to secrete large doses of cortisol – the stress hormone – which severely limits the amount of deep sleep, the one that regenerates us most.
It’s also very important to note that when we get stressed by the thought of not getting enough sleep – that’s what happens, we don’t sleep well or at all. It’s easy to fall into a vicious circle of under-sleeping and, from it, into insomnia.
- RULE NUMBER 1: Go to bed when you really want to sleep.
Focus on activities related to falling asleep: relaxation techniques (Anna talked about these during the webinar), calming down.
- RULE NUMBER 2: Take care with the light.
Provide yourself with daylight in the morning and limit it in the evening. Let your body know when the evening starts. Give up your smartphone, TV, or bright screens in the evening. Ensure the warm, pleasant light of bedside lamps and lighting in your home.
If you don’t know how to choose them – get help from AskHenry. Our specialists will choose lamps for you that will create a nice atmosphere in your home and help you to sleep soundly.
- RULE NUMBER 3: Surroundings matter.
Your bed is your kingdom. A comfortable, well-chosen mattress and an ergonomic pillow are, at a certain age, let’s not charm ourselves, one of the more exciting purchases for the home. The scent of oils from eucalyptus, lemon balm or verbena can also help you sleep better. There are other substances, commonly associated with lots of laughter and the quaint cafes of the Netherlands, that when legitimately crafted, bring deep relaxation.
More in the webinar, it’s really worth listening to, maybe – before going to sleep ;)