World Sleep Day
Did you know that your brain needs its beauty sleep too?
Many of us have experienced sleepless nights that cause us to be cranky, sluggish, and forgetful. Sleep deprivation not only affects our mood and energy levels, but it also affects our brain functionality. Brain plasticity theory, which is a theory that is based on the idea that the geographic layout of the brain isn't set in stone; it can change, develop, and rearrange. The interesting thing is that we can control plasticity through various exercises, medications, and therapies.
Sleep is imperative for our neurons to grow and reorganize which helps with our memory and ability to retain information. But with the stresses of everyday life and the added anxiety of the pandemic, how can we slow down our minds to get a restful night’s sleep?
We spend so much of our lives sleeping, yet its precise function is unclear, despite our increasing understanding of the processes of generating and maintaining sleep. We now know that sleep can be accompanied by periods of intense cerebral activity, yet only recently has experimental data started to provide us with some insights into the type of processing taking place in the brain as we sleep. There is now strong evidence that sleep plays a crucial role in learning and the consolidation of memories.
I missed posting this on World Sleep Day on March 19, held during Brain Awareness Week, March 15 to 21, but better late than never. Here are some ideas of some easy things we can do at home to prepare for a good night’s rest.
Set a Schedule
Routines are good for our well-being in general and particularly useful for sleep. When we practice going to bed at a consistent time and waking at a consistent time our brain learns that pattern. We become prepared to fall asleep before our head hits the pillow and wake up before the alarm goes off.
Don’t Lie in Bed Awake
Contrary to popular belief, lying in bed and willing yourself to sleep is not helpful. If spiralling thoughts are keeping you awake at bedtime or the middle of the night, then get up and grab a glass of water or read a book for a few minutes until you feel tired. Getting up and then returning to bed helps to break invasive thought patterns and prepare the body and mind to start a new sleep cycle.
Put Away Technology
While we may associate phones, computers, and TV as pleasurable downtime they are very stimulating to our brains. The blue light produced by devices suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes us feel drowsy. Turn off technology at least 30 minutes before bedtime and try reading a book, listening to music and audiobooks, or talking to a friend/partner to facilitate unwinding before sleep. If you need to be on a device before bedtime, then use blue light glasses to reduce exposure.
What to eat and what to avoid
Avoid eating a large meal before going to bed. This can cause indigestion which interferes with your body’s ability to fall asleep. But you can try eating small amounts of tart cherries or kiwi fruit before bed. These foods are naturally rich in melatonin and serotonin, two compounds that help with relaxation and sleep!
Proper nutrition and a healthy mindset are important factors to achieving restful sleep, but these are forgotten when we look at how to get a good night's sleep.
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