The importance of deep sleep and how to get more of it!


Sleeping well is essential for great health. Find out more in this blog

In our hyper-stimulated world, slowing down can be quite a challenge. Attached to our phones, computers and TV 24/7, it’s no wonder so many people struggle to wind down and get a good night’s rest! Interestingly, the poorer our quality of sleep, the less our body is able to cope with the daily stresses that we’re exposed to, creating a cycle in which we’re running in a hamster wheel, unable to take a break!

How deep sleep can help you cope with stress!

For the average person who gets around 8 hours sleep a night, around two hours of this will be deep sleep or REM cycle sleep.  During this time, your body is completely relaxed, in full repair mode, getting rid of waste products and preparing you for the day ahead.

In doing so, one of the things it does is help build your resilience and ability to cope with, process and manage stress. In fact, according to a study in the Journal of Neuroscience helps process and manage events that you may find particularly traumatizing. This is because REM sleep seems to reduce activity in the amygdala and it’s interaction with the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, areas which process fear and retain memories.

How to get enough good quality deep sleep!

Getting a good night’s rest is tricky for many. Whether wired from a day at work or stresses of family life, it can be hard to slow down early enough to be able to both go to bed early and fall asleep early. Fortunately, there are a few easy things you can do to encourage your body to unwind and prepare for a good sleep.

If you know you’re the kind that struggles to get to sleep, try the following:

Take time to wind down

I know it’s hard to set boundaries when technology is at our fingertips but removing yourself from work when you leave the office is really helpful in encouraging you to relax. If possible, instead of turning to the TV, try and spend your time playing a game with family, listening to music or reading a book before bed. Similarly, I know there are some people who can drink a cup of coffee straight before bed without any effect but for most people, stimulants such as caffeine (in both tea and coffee) should ideally be avoided in the evenings.

Avoid using electronics for at least 1 hour before bed.  

Not only does work keep you awake and focused on a task (the same goes for any TV show you may be binge watching), it also emits blue light which inhibits melatonin production needed to encourage sleep. If you must keep using your phone/laptop, find the setting that reduces blue light emission.

Reduce brightness in your home

As I used to tell my kids when they were younger, if the birdies are asleep, it’s time for you to go to bed as well! Once upon a time, before the invention of electricity (yes I know we’re talking a while back), people went to bed soon after the sun set because the only light remaining was that provided by the moon and stars. This naturally programmed the circadian clock and melatonin levels, encouraging good quality sleep for longer. Although we now have the ability to keep lights on 24/7, simulating twilight or dusk encourages your body to start varying the levels of melatonin in your body so that you can fall asleep more easily.

If you're still struggling to get to sleep, feel free to raise this during your next consultation as there may be medical reasons for poor quality or lack of sleep.

Wishing you great health,

Dr Pete

PS. you are welcome to share this with friends and family

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