HOW SLEEP RULES THE WORLD
Renowned Swedish professor and sleep expert Torbjörn Åkerstedt shares his insights into the importance of sleep and what we can do to sleep better every night.Learn more
SLEEP & TEMPERATURE
Maintaining the right temperature during the night makes a huge difference to our sleep, read more about what you can do to keep yours at the right degree.Learn more
THE 6 FACTORS IMPACTING YOUR SLEEP
Making a few changes to your daily habits can have a big impact on your quality of sleep and life. Find out more about what you can do to sleep better in order to live better.Learn more
HOW SLEEP RULES THE WORLD
Sleep offers our bodies the chance to rest and repair. It replenishes energy levels, identifies and enhances relevant recent learning, resets our emotional responses and invigorates the immune system. Too little sleep, or low quality sleep, leads to decreased brain performance and increases the risk of long-term health issues.
Factors that can disturb sleep include stress, working hours, social demands, noise, light (in the bedroom), alcohol and nicotine. One maybe less obvious influence is temperature. In order to fall asleep the temperature of our brain must drop. Our biological clock reduces our body temperature from its peak at 4pm, causing it to drop to its lowest point between 4am and 6am in order to help us sleep. The temperature of our bedroom needs to be relatively cool for our core temperature to drop and it’s important to help the body release excess heat and moisture to enjoy a good night's sleep. Sleepwear and bedding that help to manage temperature and sweat during the night can therefore support the body’s natural thermo-regulation.
Sleep is vital. By understanding the factors that affect our sleep and by changing a few habits we can have a big impact on our sleep quality and wellbeing.
Professor, Director of Stress Research Institute,
Division Manager for Biological Psychology and
Treatment research, Stockholm University
Researchers across the world have found that you can sleep your way to:
- Staying healthy: Whilst you are sleeping your immune system is carrying out preventive maintenance helping you to curb inflammation and live a longer and healthier life. Getting enough sleep also helps to maintain a healthy weight as well as a healthy and younger appearance. Sleeping can even help you avoid accidents, so you had better make sure you get to bed on time!
- A quicker mind and better career: To get more out of your day at work make sure you are maximising your night-time rest at home. Sleep is key for staying mentally sharp and alert. In particular short-term memory and high-level mental tasks for which we need to pay attention to multiple things at once are negatively impacted if we sleep poorly.
- Faster recovery after doing sports: Regardless of whether you are a triathlete or enjoy yoga, sleep is key if you want live up to your full potential. When you sleep your body repairs tissue and strengthens its immune system, all of which help you to get back out there the next day.
- Feeling happy: Good sleep sets up the brain for positive feelings. Whilst you sleep your body repairs the damage done by stress so that you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day’s challenges.
TEMPERATURE AND SLEEP
Sleep is an opportunity for our body to re-energise. You can actually sleep yourself to a better tomorrow, and to being happier, healthier, smarter and faster. Yet most people will at some point suffer from sleep problems, ruining not only our nights but also our days. Our sleep is impacted by many factors. Recent research shows that one very important, but often overlooked, factor is to staying thermo-neutral, meaning that we are neither too hot nor too cold.
We not only need to be at the right temperature to fall asleep, but we also need to keep our temperature in the right climatic zone throughout the night in order to stay asleep. The thermoregulatory control centre (hypothalamus) also regulates our sleep. Our core body temperature cycles along with the sleep pattern (sleep-wake rhythm and decreases during sleep and increases in the wake state. At the same time the average skin temperature of the covered body areas tends to align with body core temperature during sleep. When sleep is disturbed due to too warm or too cold environment the wakefulness increases and deep sleep phases or rapid eye movement decreases.Health, hormonal changes, habits, food and exercise can impact our temperature during the night. Our dreams can also play havoc with our temperature and thereby our sleep quality. When we first fall into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, or the dream phase of our sleep, our bodies stop sweating. After a few minutes we start to sweat again and this increases as we near the end of the period of REM sleep. The more intensely we dream, the more sweat we produce. Sharing a bedroom adds to the complexity, as our loved one might have a totally different view on what is the right bedroom temperature. When our temperature rises we start to sweat to cool down. If our pyjamas, bedding or the temperature of our bedroom is making us too warm we can get damp and uncomfortable. If we get too cold, we start to shiver to produce heat. Either way we can’t sleep comfortably, decreasing both the quality and duration of our sleep.
How to achieve the best temperature for sleep
- To enjoy a good night’s sleep it’s important to help the body release excess heat and moisture. Sleepwear and bedding that help to manage temperature and sweat during the night can help support your body’s natural heat regulation.
- Keep your bedroom cool, ideally below 18°C, and make sure that you have the right pyjamas and duvet so that you don’t get too cold or too warm.
- Taking a warm bath before you go to bed causes your body temperature to rise and then fall rapidly making you sleepy. A warm bath also stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin which makes you feel relaxed and calm.
- If you have cold feet warming them up before going to bed can help you fall asleep faster, you can do this by taking a foot bath or by wearing sleep socks. If our hands and/or feet are too cold our core temperature won’t drop, preventing us from falling asleep.
HOW TO SLEEP BETTER — THE 6 KEY FACTORS THAT IMPACT SLEEP QUALITY
- Cooler room temperatures help us to sleep better; aim to keep your room temperature below 18° C. If you get chilly wear pyjamas with long sleeves/long pants and use a thicker blanket/duvet.
- Keep the bedroom as dark as possible. Look out for the less obvious sources of light as well, such as electronic devices on standby mode. This is particularly important during long, light summer nights or if you work shifts.
- Keep it quiet; if needed try ear plugs or an electronic device that makes white noise to drown out any disturbing sounds.
- The bedroom should be a room for sleeping and intimate moments, not surfing the web or working. Declutter the room if need be and make your bedroom an oasis of peace.
- It’s important that our bed, bedding and sleepwear are as comfortable as possible and work together as an integrated sleep system. If we share a bed, it should be large enough to cater for both individuals’ needs. If possible children or pets should sleep in their own beds, at least most of the time.
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HABITS & LIFESTYLE
- Switching off your electrical gadgets one hour before going to bed can help you to fall asleep faster. Research has shown that just 2 hours’ exposure a day to the blue light from electronic displays suppresses our production of melatonin (the chemical that helps control our body’s internal clock) by about 22%.
- Establish a sleep schedule; try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even at the weekends and during holidays and business trips. A regular sleep schedule reinforces our body’s sleep-wake cycle, which helps us to sleep better at night.
- Don’t force it; if you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired.
- Start to wind down before going to bed, by creating a bedtime ritual which signals to our bodies that it is time to relax. Take a warm bath or shower, listen to relaxing music or read a book and try to dim the lights, setting yourself up for a night of sweet dreams.
- Breathing and relaxation exercises can also be effective. When we breathe slowly and relax our body temperature drops, which helps us fall asleep.
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MOOD & STRESS
- To sleep better we should try to reduce stress factors and restore our inner peace; this can include getting organised, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Take a break if need be and refocus on the positives, like sharing a laugh with an old friend.
- Avoid working just before going to bed and leave your laptop, mobile phone and any worries at the bedroom door.
- Beat the stress-sleep cycle by prioritising a good night’s sleep. With enough sleep we are better prepared to tackle the day's challenges. When we are tired, we tend to be less patient, find it harder to concentrate and are more irritable, which can increase our stress levels.
- Make a to-do list before going to bed; note down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow. Keep a pen and paper by your bed to write down any new to-dos, so that you don’t have to activate your brain trying to remember them.
- If you find you can’t sleep due to stress, try progressive muscle relaxation. Work through your body from your toes to the tip of your head, tensing each of your muscles as tightly as you can and then relaxing them completely.
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FOOD & DRINK
- Don't go to bed either hungry or too full as any discomfort can mean that you can’t sleep. If you feel hungry during the night try to eat a small, light snack.
- Steer clear of foods that are difficult to digest before going to bed including high-fat or protein-rich foods, such as red meat and fried foods. Strong spices can also lead to sleep problems.
- Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol before going to bed, as the stimulating effect can take several hours to wear off. Alcohol makes us feel sleepy at first but lowers the quality of our sleep during the night.
- Try not to drink too much liquid before bed, so as to avoid disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom.
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HEALTH & MEDICINE
- Most adults need 6 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
- If you feel that you also need to sleep during the day, try to limit your nap to 10 to 30 minutes mid-afternoon, so it doesn’t impact your night-time sleep.
- Some health conditions and medications can disrupt sleep. If you think that you may have a severe sleeping problem, like insomnia, contact your physician for a consultation. There are remedies that can help!
- Many people suffer from night sweats, with pregnant women and those going through the menopause particularly susceptible. We can improve our comfort-levels by wearing temperature and moisture-regulating pyjamas, keeping our bedroom cool and having a glass of ice water and a cold face cloth close to our bed.
- Our sleep rhythm changes over time. The older we get the earlier we feel ready to fall asleep and wake up. For the best night’s sleep try to adapt your sleeping hours to your body’s natural clock.
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- Regular exercise improves our sleep, by helping us to fall asleep faster and sleep better. Doing sports for at least 150 minutes a week can improve sleep quality by 65%.
- Go outside—exposure to natural sunlight helps keep our sleep-wake cycle on track.
- Avoid exercising 2 hours before going to bed as we might be too energised or too warm to fall asleep.
- Get in some low-intensity exercise on a daily basis, as little as 10 minutes can make a big difference to the quality of our sleep.
- Though doing sports will boost your sleep it can take several weeks to take effect so don’t despair if you don’t see any results immediately. Studies show that exercising can increase total sleep time by up to 1.25 hours, so hang in there!
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The Dagsmejan sleep blog
We are on a quest to find out how sleep impacts all facets of our lives and our ability to live life to the fullest. Life is too short to wake up tired and we want to have the energy to explore the world around us and enjoy what every day has to bring. More and more research is being done on sleep and the days of bragging about getting by on only 4 hours’ sleep are over. Sleep is one of the most powerful ways of having a healthy life, body, mind and soul.
In the Dagsmejan sleep blog you can read about how sleep is connected with almost all aspects of your life, sometimes in very surprising ways.