Why do we need sleep?
The purpose of sleep is to repair and rejuvenate the body and mind. The energy that we naturally expend on day-time processes such digestion, movement and thinking gets redirected towards healing and repairing the body whilst we sleep. We now know that the purpose of dreaming is to discharge emotions, through the use of metaphor and imagery, that weren`t discharged during the day. So if you don`t sleep or dream, the emotional charges of yesterday are carried on into the day after. Hardly surprising then that a couple of nights without sleep can leave a person feeling stressed!
How much do we need?
According to research, most of us require at least six hours of sleep per night. A just-discovered genetic mutation does enable some people to function normally on less, but less than one percent of people have the trait. According to David Schulman, MD and Sleep Expert at Emory University, most of us need seven to eight hours of sleep every night in order to stay healthy.
If you have trouble falling asleep, are waking up frequently during the night and then have difficulty getting back to sleep or wake up too early, you`re not alone! According to the World Health Organizaion (WHO), more than a third of British adults have sleep problems at least a few nights a week and a quarter of those will be taking prescription sleeping tablets. Research carried out by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has placed sleeping and mattresses as on of the top triggers of back pain, with over a quarter of sufferers blaming their beds.
Just 10-20 minutes is all that is required to get the benefits of napping: alertness, improved performance, better mood, according to sleep researcher Kimberley Cote PhD, Brock University, Ontario. Why? During sleep, the brain produces different kinds of waves, which correspond to how deeply you sleep. If you nap too long, you may feel groggy and disoriented upon awakening rather than refreshed, because long naps are more likely to contain slow-wave sleep.
Also, don`t be tempted to nap too late in the day as this may interfere with your ability to fall asleep at bedtime.
Top sleep tips for sound and safe slumber:
- Make sure your mattress is neither too hard nor too soft. If you are lying on your side your spine should be parallel to the mattress, which should not sag (bed too soft) or bow (bed too hard). Personal preference is also important when it comes to how firm or soft your bed is, but these are the simple guidelines.
- Your pillow should support your head and neck. The neck should be a continuation of the straight spine and be neither too high nor too low.
- Try to avoid physically stressful sleeping positions like lying on your front with your neck twisted to one side. Side lying is a far less stressful on the back.
- Keeping hydrated is important as dehydration can make muscles ache.
- Turn your mattress every couple of months.
Your pillow is as important as your mattress. For individuals with neck pain, finding the right pillow can be a tricky experience! The ideal pillow should cradle and support your neck without distorting its normal alignment. Unsupportive pillows can lead to recurrent stiff necks, headaches, or referred pain to shoulder, arm or hand. It is important to avoid using no pillow at all or a very low pillow as this places the unsupported neck under strain all night long. it is equally not a clever idea to sleep with too many pillows or a very firm pillow as this forces the neck up and causes joint restriction. Orthopaedic pillows can be expensive and difficult to choose, so please ask for advice and you can have a loan pillow to try!
- Avoid eating heavy meals at least two hours prior to going to sleep.
- Foods high in the amino acid L-tryptophan, such as warm milk, turkey, nuts, banana, grapefruit, dates and figs, promote the production of serotonin which is a natural relaxant.
- Exercise can help you sleep better, but not within three hours of bedtime.
- Don`t go to bed if you feel wide awake.
- Take a warm bath with lavender oil to unwind before bed.
- Keep mental stimulation to a minimum in the two or three hours preceding bedtime.
- Don`t use your bedroom as a TV room.
- Keep your bedroom in complete darkness whilst you sleep.
- If you are still awake after twenty minutes of attempting to sleep, get up and do something relaxing such as reading a book, or drink a cup of chamomile tea.