Sleep is a natural state of mind and body. It is a behavioral and physiological state of altered consciousness, inhibited senses and reduced responsiveness to outside stimuli. Like food and water, it is one of the human body’s basic needs and is essential to survival. A number of brain functions, like good communication between nerve cells, depend greatly on sleep.
What Happens When You Do Not Get Enough Sleep?
Research has shown that sleep apnea and insomnia are frequent sleep problems encountered by older adults. Sleep deprivation results in a wide range of negative health effects such as an obvious deterioration in well-being.
Sleep deprivation can lead to impaired perception, concentration problems, and decreased overall performance. It also affects immune system responses and speech functions and increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases. Moreover, it affects the brain reward networks, creating biased positive emotional experiences that can sometimes result in addiction and mood disorders.
How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Simply getting a regular good night’s sleep reverses all the negative effects caused by deprivation. Here are some tips on how to get a good night’s sleep:
Get comfortable. Aging and certain diseases can make you feel achy. This discomfort can make it difficult to initiate sleep. Aside from a soft and warm bed, you can also use a neck brace that relieves neck and back pain for a more comfortable sleep.
Set the stage for sleep. Dimming the lights creates a good sleeping environment and so does a cool room temperature. Some people use scented oils and candles, while others play ambient background music to make them sleepy as well.
Establish a bedtime routine. Try to take a bath or read a book to cozy up for bedtime. A consistent bedtime routine conditions your brain that it is time to sleep.
Use the bed exclusively for sleep. Beds should be associated with sleep. The brain creates connections between things, conditioning the person to feel sleepy when in bed.
Do not smoke. Aside from the toxic effects of cigarette smoke on your overall health, nicotine is also a brain stimulant and can contribute to sleep deprivation.
Exercise regularly. Try exercising in the morning or at least 4 hours before bedtime. It helps create fatigue and get some well-deserved sleep.
Limit caffeine intake. Drinking too much coffee keeps you awake and makes it harder to fall asleep at night. If you can’t do away with coffee completely, try to limit your coffee intake to one cup a day and avoid drinking it in the afternoon.
Turn off your gadgets. TV and phone screens emit blue light, which has been shown to suppress melatonin (a hormone that helps you sleep) in the brain. This makes you feel a lot less sleepy, extending the time when you are supposed to sleep.
Do not force yourself to sleep when you are not sleepy. Instead of forcing yourself to sleep, getting up and doing other things that can get you sleepy might work better. Trying to sleep will make you worry about the fact that you are still awake, resulting in a vicious cycle.
Brew some tea. Chamomile and other tea varieties can help induce sleepiness and reduce anxieties. This is the reason why you are offered tea in spas, together with ambient music and relaxing scents. You can ask your local tea store about the different types of teas and their effects and use the ones you prefer.
Count sheep. This works for some people, allowing their brain to settle down by focusing on a single thing such as counting sheep. Focusing on your breath or counting backward also works the same.
If sleep seems to be elusive for several days, get yourself checked by your physician. Occasional sleep deprivation is normal, but if it has been going on for days, or weeks, it might be a sign of some underlying problem. Seeing a doctor if you display signs of insomnia can help determine the causes of your sleep deprivation issue.