Want to make 2020 your best year yet? Want to net insane health benefits with, perhaps, the easiest action of all? Then your New Year’s Resolution is simple: go to bed!
Everyone out there has their resolutions to lift more / eat better / run more / do more. Those are great, but the thing we should all be dialing in first and foremost is getting the right amount of sleep, because without it you’re not going to get your best results or reach your goals.
Science of Sleep
For centuries the function of sleep eluded us but thankfully modern science has begun to unearth clues about it’s critical role in our health, both in the brain and body. Here is what some of the research has found!
What is Sleep?
Sleep is the reset your body needs. It is a state of unconsciousness caused when your brain sends out signals to your body to shut down and rest. Two different groups of cells, the parafacial zone in the brainstem and the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus (phew, you got all that?) in the hypothalamus send out signals to trigger slow-wave sleep, during which you go unconscious.
What Happens During Sleep?
During sleep your brain goes through two different types of sleep, slow-wave sleep (SWS) or ‘deep sleep’,and rapid eye movement (REM) or ‘dreaming sleep.’ Your brain cycles through the two, spending most of the sleep time in SWS. During sleep, your brain clears itself of waste accumulated during the waking hours. Meanwhile, the different signals go out through your body ‘paralyzing’ you in effect to allow your body to heal and recover from the days stresses.
Surprising Benefits of Great Sleep
In addition to processing memories, sleep is when your brain processes your emotions. During the downtime is when your mind is able to assess, organize, and react to the events and it needs time to do it! Cutting sleep short increases negative emotional reactions and can raise the chance of having a mood disorder!
That consolidation and restructuring memories seems to point to better creative output in the waking hours! Studies found that folks who get better sleep seem to self report as more creative, are in creative jobs more often and more!
Win, win, win
Consider yourself an athlete? Well whether you’re shooting hoops in your local city league, or sinking birdies on the green, there may be one easy way to improve your performance. That’s right sleep! A study done by Stanford found that football players who tried for 10 hours of sleep a night over an eight-week span improved their average sprint time! 10 hours might seem a lot, but when you’re active, your body needs the recovery time anyway.
Sleep = the Hot New Weight Loss Fad
Being deprived of sleep messes with your brain’s hormones that regulate appetite. With those out of wack you’re going to have a much harder time saying no to that greasy pizza or an extra serving of potatoes. The more tired you are, the harder it is to get up and get moving. So double-dip on sleep instead, you’ll control your hunger better and have the energy to burn off the calories like your NYR says.
More… performance ;)
Loss of sleep is well linked to less sex for a whole cascade of reasons. Lower testosterone, lowered libidos, and mood disorders developed from lack of good sleep all put the kibosh on people’s sex lives. Sex helps people get into a deeper sleep as well, making it a self-fulfilling circle that might just need a kickstart.
How to Get Better Sleep
- Set your schedule – go to bed and wake up at the same time, every day.
- Exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day! (this should be easy with your New Year’s Resolutions!) but no later than a few hours before going to bed.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine late in the day, and avoid alcoholic drinks before bed.
- Relax before bed. Read, take a bath, whatever relaxing routing you find pleasant and calming.
- Make your room conducive to sleep - minimize bright lights and loud sounds, keep your room at a comfortable temperature.
- Don’t watch TV in bed or have a computer in your bedroom.
- Don’t lie in bed awake! If you can’t get to sleep, do something else until you are tired.
With all of that covered, you have a basic idea of how sleep works, some of the great benefits for getting good rest, and a few tips to help you fall asleep right each night. Let’s make 2020 the best year yet, and we’ll start with a great night’s sleep!