WHY DO WE SLEEP?
The average human spends a third of their life asleep. Sleep is an important process for survival, learning, and memory. While we sleep, the day’s events are processed in the brain, and energy is restored. It may seem like we are doing nothing, but sleeping is actually a very active and important process.
WHAT HAPPENS IF WE DON’T GET ENOUGH SLEEP?
Not getting enough sleep can negatively impact memory, reaction times, and thinking speed.
The negative effects of staying awake for 17 hours in a day are similar to drinking two glasses of wine. Judgement can be affected, as well as emotional and physical health.
QUANTITY OR QUALITY: WHAT IS IMPORTANT?
You are recommended to sleep for 8 hours every night. In fact, the quality of sleep may be just as important as the amount of sleep. This involves falling asleep quickly and waking up no more than once per night. Sometimes this is unrealistic, but it is a good guideline to aim for.
SLEEP PATTERNS IN AFRICA:
According to the sleep-tracking app ‘Sleep Cycle’, the average South African goes to bed at 22:52 and wakes at 6:09 each day. The average length of sleep is around 7 hours – less than the typically recommended 8 hours.
Sharing rooms, uncomfortably hot temperatures, and noisy environments can all reduce the quality of your sleep. Rigid schedules can also make it difficult to get enough time to sleep. However, there are some simple methods that can be used to improve sleep quality.
HOW CAN WE INCREASE QUALITY OF SLEEP?
If your schedule does not allow for sufficient sleep quantity, focus on trying to get good quality sleep:
- Relax before sleeping by reading a book or article
- Drink herbal tea or hot water before bed
- Quietly meditate before sleep
- Do not drink caffeine in the afternoon
- Do not use electronics for 1 hour before bed
- Use an eye-mask or ear plugs to reduce distractions
- Try to go to bed at a similar time each night
You can also use apps or websites, called Sleep Calculators, to calculate the ideal time for you to wake up. Sleep occurs in cycles throughout the night. Waking up at the end of one of these cycles instead of in the middle will make you feel more refreshed when you wake up.
Sleep is an important process, and if you often wake up feeling tired, then you can try to change this. The methods above may be helpful in making you feel more awake throughout the day. Getting more and better quality sleep will improve your memory, energy, and mood.