Sleep affects every aspect of our life. It affects our ability to function effectively, to communicate with others, and our moods, as well as the physiological effect on our skin, our metabolic system, immune system – to name but a few. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to our physical and mental well-being, but it’s not just about the amount of sleep we get, it’s about getting the right kind of sleep.
Here, we highlight what the right kind of sleep is, and outline some easy to follow tips and advice on how to improve sleep quality, in order to boost your wellbeing.
What makes a good night’s sleep?
The best sleep quality comes through spending the requisite amount of time in each of the different sleep phases:
REM (Rapid-eye-movement) sleep – This accounts for up to 20-25% of our sleep cycle, and occurs mainly in the hours just before we wake.
NREM (Non-rapid-eye-movement) sleep accounts for 75% of our sleep time, and is made up of stages including:
- Stage 1 – A light sleep as we drift off (10 minutes).
- Stage 2 – Loss of consciousness and relaxation of the muscles (around 50% of our sleep time).
- Stage 3 – Deep sleep (15-20% of total sleep time).
Each sleep stage has a different physiological and neurological function to allow our mind and body to refresh and regenerate, so it’s essential we spend enough time in each stage.
Factors that affect the quality of our sleep
There are a number of factors that affect our ability to get a good night’s sleep:
- Health – If you’re feeling under the weather, have a headache, blocked nose etc.
- Stress – often the biggest factor affecting our ability to unwind and allow our body to sleep.
- Environment– If you’re too hot, cold, uncomfortable etc.
- Lifestyle – The amount of physical exercise you do and the food you eat contributes to your sleep quality.
How to Improve sleep quality
Our physiotherapists offer their Top 5 tips to help you improve your sleep quality:
- Exercise regularly. Physical exercise is so important to help keep you physically fit and strong, and the endorphins created when you exercise can help reduce stress (see point no. 3!) and act as a sedative, helping you get a good night’s sleep. Reciprocally, sleep helps boost athletic performance, so you can enjoy more of the sports you love!
- Eat healthily. A balanced, healthy diet provides the vitamins you need to stay healthy and boost your immune system, helping you fight off the colds, headaches and other health problems that may otherwise keep you awake at night.
- Reduce stress. Be proactive in combating the stressful factors that are keeping you awake at night. Exercises like yoga and Pilates can help to reduce stress, and you may also want to consider counselling to help you explore and address the issues leading to your stress or anxiety.
- Reduce your caffeine/alcohol intake. Both caffeine and alcohol have a detrimental effect on your sleep patterns. Caffeine prevents you from falling asleep, and alcohol reduces REM sleep, and increases the likelihood of you waking mid-cycle from dehydration.
- Keep active. You don’t have to be in the gym or on the sports field to enjoy a physically healthy lifestyle. Take time to engage in hobbies and activities that keep you active – whether it’s gardening, getting on that trampoline with the kids, or walking the dog – make sure each day involves some form of physical exercise, and you’ll be amazed at how easy it becomes to drift off to sleep at the end of it.
There you have it – our top tips on how to improve sleep quality, and boost your wellbeing. Sweet dreams!