WHY SHOULD YOU SLEEP?
When we are awake, our brains learn by collecting and storing information. Our hippocampus acts as a short-term memory reservoir. One thing about the hippocampus is that it has a limited storage capacity. This means that we cannot add more information. The only thing we can do is to overwrite old information.
Sleep gives our brains the ability to transfer our memories from the hippocampus to the cortex. The cortex is something like the hard disk of our bodies – it has the ability to store information for a long time. When our information is stored in our cortex, our hippocampus becomes free, thus has more room for creating new memories. This means that taking a nap before learning something will give us the edge over those who do not want to sleep before learning.
One of the most important functions of sleep is storing information we have recently learned. Every time we sleep, our brains further enhance our memory by up to forty percent, regardless of the type of information we just learned. Research shows that sleep can improve many types of motor skills, regardless of what those skills actually are. Some scientists explained that the spinal cord and patients suffering from stroke can gradually recover their motor functions by getting enough sleep.
IMPACTS OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION
Not getting enough sleep can (and will) have devastating and severe effects on our brains and bodies.
The first thing that happens when sleep deprivation takes effect is that we quickly lose brain function. One of the most dangerous consequences is drowsy driving. This is why accidents in traffic occur. When a person starts sleeping for several seconds, thus losing all motor functions, he or she loses all connection to the conscious world. These several seconds are more than enough to drift into the wrong lane or to cause a crash with severe consequences.
Another thing about sleep deprivation is that we can never know what level of our sleep deprivation is. When we are sleep deprived for months or even years, we gradually accept the consequences of this as something normal. Not long after that, people become accustomed to energy loss, lower alertness, and worse physical performance.
When it comes to the media and sleep, the media constantly pushes that a twenty-minute power nap is enough to make up for sleep insufficiency. The author says that is not true. The fact is that a power nap can help us boost our concentration for a few hours when we are fatigued. However, it will not help us when it comes to decision-making, learning, and reasoning capacity.
One more thing sleep deprivation can cause is emotional irritability. Infants who do not sleep well often scream more than they usually would if they had enough sleep. When we are sleep deprived, our amygdala becomes reactive. This means that we become unable to balance our positive and negative emotions. Not getting enough sleep is also connected with aggression, pleasure-seeking, doing risky activities, depression, and many types of addictions.
Getting a good night's sleep helps us to be happier, more productive people, so here's some tips to help you get a good night's sleep:
1. Avoid drinking tea or coffee late at night
2. Stop smoking – nicotine is a stimulant and so can make it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep
3. Go to bed at the same time each night so that you set a routine
4. Only use the bed for sleeping and sex
5. Use dimmers on your light switches, and dim the lights in the hours before you go to bed to mimic the change from daylight to night time
6. Avoid taking exercise in the evening – exercise early in the day to promote restful sleep
7. Try using affirmations, such as: “I let go of the day, and enjoy restful, peaceful sleep” repeated several times while you prepare for sleep
8. If you can’t get to sleep after a while, get up keeping the lights low and do something boring until you feel sleepy
9. Alcohol may help you get to sleep, but you are more likely to wake during the night feeling thirsty and needing to go to the bathroom
10. Try relaxed breathing: breath slowly and deeply concentrating on your abdomen rather than your chest
11. Get your allergies checked out, particularly if you wake craving particular food in the middle of the night
12. Avoid paying bills and similar jobs just before sleep
13. Try a herbal tea - chamomile, passion flower, lavender flowers or valerian are good, or take a herbal supplement such as scullcap or valerian
14. Put the essential oils lavender and clary sage on your pillow and inhale their soothing vapours as you sleep
16. Try holding your frontal eminences (the bumps on your forehead, about half way between your eyebrows and hairline) if you are awake because of stress
17. Try taking supplements – magnesium and calcium can work well
18. If you suffer with hot flushes/flashes, try some natural support for your endocrine system at this time. I personally recommend Neways wild yam and chaste berry cream
19. Many alternative and complementary therapists have success with people with sleep problems. Find a local therapist and ask them if they have experience in this field
20. Sleep problems can be a sign of an underlying medical condition (e.g. thyroid problems or depression), so get this checked out with a suitably qualified health professional