Written by: Brittany Lyonette
Get out your phone right now and set two alarms. Call the first one “Good Night”. Now set the second one anywhere between seven to nine hours later and call that one “Good Morning”. This simple act will help reduce your risk of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, improve your cardiovascular health, and increase your ability to learn and retain new information.
According to sleep scientist Matt Walker, sleep deprivation is quickly becoming one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century. Here are the astounding effects that sleep has on your brain and your body according to Walker’s research.
At night our brains cycle through three types of sleep approximately every 90 mins:
- Deep sleep: when we take our short term memories from our hippocampus (our temporary information inbox) and start converting them into long term memories.
- Light sleep: when we clear out our hippocampus, making room for new information.
- REM: when our brains process and make sense of our new experiences, emotions, and memories by linking them up with our existing long term memories. This is also when we dream.
When we stay up even an hour or two past our bedtime, we end up sacrificing the majority of the deep sleep we would be getting that night, and potentially losing some of our memories from the day. Similarly, waking up an hour or two earlier than we are used to will have us missing out on some REM sleep, and a chance for our minds to process and file our experiences properly.
If you are not yet convinced about the importance of sleep based solely on its powerful effects on the brain, let’s look at how changing your sleep routine by only one small hour can affect your body.
I have two words for you: Daylights Savings. Love it or hate, it is the largest ongoing sleep experiment that we are all participants in (willing or not). In the spring, when we lose an hour of sleep, there is a reported 24% increase in heart attacks! TWENTY FOUR PERCENT! The opposite is true in the autumn when we gain a hour and cases plummet by nearly the same amount.
A lack of sleep has also proven to reduce your immune system, leaving people more susceptible to illnesses such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease to name a few. I think we can all appreciate the importance of having a strong immune system considering the current global state of affairs.
Three Things You Can Do to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Keep it dark
- Reduce your exposure to blue light from televisions, phones, tablets, etc. at least 30 mins before bed.
- If you enjoy reading at night, switch to printed books and use a red light instead of your normal reading lamp.
- Use an eye mask to completely block out all light while you sleep.
Keep it cool
- Set your thermostat to aprox. 18°C at night.
- Take a hot shower right before bed to reduce your body temperature.
Keep it regular
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.