Adequate sleep is an essential component of good health. Many processes occur while the body is asleep that help refresh the mind and repair the body. Most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep per night, while children, teenagers and those who are more physically active need more. Sleep is made up of a series of 90 minute cycles, which can be divided into REM and non-REM sleep.
During non-REM sleep the body moves from light sleep, where heart rate slows and blood pressure lowers to deep sleep. As this happens, more blood flows towards muscles & organs and various hormones are released that aid in physical restoration, cell & tissue growth, repair and development.
REM (which stands for rapid eye movement) occurs more towards the second half of the night and is when most dreams occur. This helps with memory consolidation and psychological wellbeing.
Sleep is also extremely important for optimal immue function, concentration and maintaining a healthy body weight. In addition many studies have found that sufficient sleep can improve sporting performance and reduce the risk of injury.
There are a number of ways to increase sleep including:
- Avoid consuming alcohol 2 hours before sleep
- Limit caffiene consumption in the second half of the day
- Avoid high intensity exercise within 3 hours of sleep
- Limit 'blue light' from television and phone screens as this decreases melatonin levels making it harder to fall asleep
- Try to wake up at similiar times each morning to maintain sleep patterns