Good-quality sleep is of utter importance for both mental and physical health. Good sleep strengthens the organism and prepares us for all the challenges that the following day brings our way. However, although it is important to get enough sleep, the latest research has shown that the quality of sleep is as important as its quantity. In other words, it is also important how we sleep, and not just how much we sleep.
The first question that we need to answer is what is the optimal time of sleep for the working person and can that time be determined without exception?
Although increasingly hectic lifestyle makes people believe that five to six hours of sleep during the night can provide enough rest, the data from the University of Pennsylvania and the Walter Reed Institute show that even seven hours of sleep for longer periods of time can take its toll on our general health.
For most of us, optimal sleeping time is, in fact, eight hours and without that amount of sleep, our body, as experts say, bears the consequences.
The participants of the study have been monitored for two weeks in controlled laboratory conditions. Those who were sleeping for eight or nine hours a night didn’t show any signs of tiredness or lack of concentration during the testing, whereas groups of participants who were sleeping for four to six hours a night after a few weeks started behaving as people under the influence of alcohol. The general condition of those people wasn’t improved by longer periods of sleep during the weekends. They all simply needed more sleep every day.
Lack of sleep during longer periods of time can lead to the advancement of arteriosclerosis, increased secretion of the hormone leptin, which is responsible for increased appetite and obesity, increased blood pressure, anxiety, diabetes. However, some research has shown that sleeping longer than optimal 8 to 9 hours can also be a cause of disease. Still, experts believe that fatigue and longer sleep are not the direct cause of disease, but only a risk indicator which can be reduced by a change of lifestyle.
How to sleep better or a guideline to sleeping
The first thing that any of us needs to do is to follow our body rhythm and determine the optimal time for going to bed. Eight hours of sleep is wasted when you spend it squirming and turning around in bed and if you spend only three or four hours actually sleeping. Trying to change your habits by going to bed earlier is the same as spending more time in the gym in order to lose weight, but without changing the workout regime. At that moment, when you really learn to use your time wisely, you will see the anticipated results. Finding an optimal solution to the sleeping problem is actually composed of three components – preparation (adopting good habits), environment adjustment and timing (going to bed the moment you feel sleepy).
Preparation – it is actually an act of creating good habits which will help you fall asleep faster, have a sound sleep and rest better.
• Workout regularly – Research has shown that working out in the morning and during the afternoon speeds up sleeping. Just be cautious not to work out right before going to bed because then you will get the opposite effect.
• Set a non-irritable and easy-listening alarm sound which will wake you up in the morning and gradually increase your mood. That sounds needs to be as relaxing and as natural as possible.
• Turn off all your devices at least two hours before going to bed – the light of the tablet, phone or TV screen can confuse your brain into thinking that it is still daylight, and even if you manage to fall asleep, your sleep will not be sound and your body will not rest.
• Improve your evening rituals – have dinner on time so that hunger would not wake you up, and use the restroom before going to sleep. It is recommended that persons who have difficulty falling asleep should meditate by visualizing the dream they wish to have that night. Also, if you wake up during the night, try to relax, focus on going back to sleep and on what you dreamed about right before you woke up.
Before you go to bed, you should make sure that the environment you are sleeping in is suitable for a good night’s rest.
• Your bed should be comfortable for sleeping – since we spend almost 24 years sleeping during our lifetime, make sure that your bed is suitable and comfortable enough to provide you with a good-quality sleep. Besides the mattress, also try to choose an adequate pillow and soft bedding.
• Adjust the room temperature to your body and your habits – Numerous research has shown that the optimal sleeping temperature for adult persons is somewhere between 15 to 20 Celsius degrees. The temperature that is too high or too low can cause insomnia and make it more difficult to fall asleep.
• Lightning should be dimmed, and all blinking lights on your devices should be covered. If it is necessary, also get a sleep mask.
• Try to turn down or turn off everything that distracts you or disturbs your sleep – such as notifications or other alarms on your mobile phone. If you happen to have noisy neighbors, you can try to “cover” their noise with quiet and pleasant music and other relaxing melodies.
You probably know the importance of good-quality sleep, so for achieving the best results, you should adjust the time of going to bed and waking up and stick to it. It is recommended that you practice the routine of waking up at the same time even on weekends and during holidays, in order not to disturb an established process.
What does your sleeping position tell about you?
A British sleep expert, Chris Idzikowski, has determined, through numerous research, what are the six most common sleeping positions and revealed that each position tells something about us and our personality. For example, it showed that persons who sleep in the Fetus position hide a gentle heart under their tough appearance. Although they may seem shy when you first meet them, they quickly become relaxed in communication and very straightforward. 41% of the respondents in this study said that they slept in the Fetus position, making it the most common answer. More than twice as many women as men use this sleeping position.
People who sleep in the Log position, with both of their arms on their hips, are relaxed, sociable, they like to be a part of the group, they easily trust people. However, they can sometimes be gullible.
On the other hand, those who sleep on their side with both of their arms in front of them (the Yearner position) have an open mind, but sometimes they can be suspicious or cynical. They have difficulty making decisions, but once they make it, they stick to it.
A person who sleeps with both of their arms aligned with their body adopts the Soldier position. This person is quiet and reserved, doesn’t like crowds, but he/she also sets high standards both for himself and for others.
In the Freefall position, in which you lie on your stomach with both arms around the pillow, and your head is turned to one side, sleep people who are sociable but often very anxious. They don’t like to be criticized or to be involved in extreme situations because it makes them nervous.
People who sleep in the Starfish position, on their back and with their arms raised around the pillow, are good friends, always ready to listen to others and help them. However, they don’t try and they don’t like to be the center of attention.
In the end, professor Idzikowski, along with the other experts in this field, reminds us that no matter how we sleep, if that position is not suitable for our body, the next morning we will wake up feeling tired and cranky.