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We often hear that we should all be getting eight hours’ sleep a night. Organisations from the NHS to the US National Sleep Foundation recommend it. But where does this advice come from?

Studies carried out around the world, looking at how often illnesses occur in different groups of people across a population, have come to the same conclusion: both short sleepers and long sleepers are more likely to have a range of illnesses, and to live shorter lives.

Shane O’Mara, professor of experimental brain research at Trinity College Dublin, says that, “While it’s difficult to tell whether poor sleep is a cause or a symptom of poor health, these relationships feed off each other”.1 For example, people who are less fit exercise less, which leads people to sleep badly, become exhausted and less likely to exercise, and so on.

People who don’t sleep enough also appear to produce too much of the hormone ghrelin, associated with feeling hungry, and not enough of the hormone leptin, associated with feeling full, which may contribute to their risk of obesity.

We need different types of sleep to repair ourselves

After we fall asleep we go through cycles of “sleep stages”, each cycle lasting between 60 and 100 minutes. Each stage plays a different role in the many processes that happen in our body during sleep.

The first stage in each cycle is a drowsy, relaxed state between being awake and sleeping – breathing slows, muscles relax, the heart rate drops. The second stage is a slightly deeper sleep – you may feel awake and this means that, on many nights, you may be asleep and not know it. Stage three is deep sleep. It is very hard to wake up during this period because it is when there is the lowest amount of activity in your body. Stages two and three together are known as slow wave sleep, which is usually dreamless.

After deep sleep we go back to stage two for a few minutes, and then enter dream sleep, also called REM (rapid eye movement). As the name suggests, this is when dreaming happens. In a full sleep cycle a person goes through all the stages of sleep from one to three, then back down to two briefly, before entering REM sleep. Later cycles have longer periods of REM; so cutting sleep short has a disproportionately large effect on REM.

The average person spends around a third of their life asleep. In this time, our bodies are able to replenish energy stores and make repairs, while our minds organise and store the memories of the day before. The amount of sleep you need depends on your age, sex, health and other elements, and sleep cycles change as we grow older.2

So how do we achieve a good night’s sleep?

Here are top three tips to ensure a restful sleep:

1. A COMFORTABLE AND SUPPORTIVE BED will give you the best chance of sleeping soundly throughout the night. The aim of a good mattress is to spread pressure evenly across the body to naturally align the spine and assist circulation during sleep. Get a restful, refreshing sleep every night with the Nikken Naturest® Kenkopad®. Designed with advanced sleep science and magnetic technology, this mattress topper is made with latex that is hypoallergenic and resistant to microbial growth and dust mites. Made from ecologically sound and renewable non-allergic latex and natural materials, the Nikken Naturest® KenkoPad® could transform your regular mattress into an environment more conducive to healthier sleep.

2. CREATE A SLEEP SANCTUARY. The bedroom should be quiet, dark and the correct temperature – around 16-18 °C is perfect; it’ll feel warmer under your duvet. Revolutionary technology and the finest materials make the Nikken KenkoDream® Quilt perfect for any climate. A magnetic layer completes the cocoon effect with ceramic-reflective fibers that help release heat to keep a comfy temperature. To complete your sleep system, the Nikken Naturest® Pillow offers you the benefits of naturally firm non-allergic latex filling which may help with the most comfortable alignment for your head, neck and spine. Latex is especially resilient, so it resists being flattened, unlike down or foam. The pillow cover is made of a natural bamboo and cotton blend, while revolutionary RAM™ technology (radial-axis magnetism) disks are arranged deep within the natural latex core. You should also remove all electrical and electronic items as even standby lights have an impact on quality of sleep. Finally, the room shouldn’t be too stuffy – try sleeping with the window ajar, but if noise is a problem, just ensure that the room is well ventilated. 

3. HAVE A TRIED AND TESTED BEDTIME ROUTINE. Start your bedtime routine about an hour before going to sleep in order to allow enough time for both body and mind to wind down. Don’t go to bed hungry, but avoid drinking too much – particularly alcohol and caffeine – in the evenings. Exercise should also be avoided for six hours before bed, and try to establish a ‘bed time’ and a ‘rise time’”.

What happens when you get a good night’s sleep? 

1. Your Mood will improve. People might struggle with emotional resilience if they have not had enough sleep. Sleep has a huge impact on mental health. After a good night’s sleep, something stressful might happen and you might deal with it in a better way than if you did not get a restful sleep.

2. You won’t be so hungry. Lack of sleep can affect hunger. Levels of the satiety hormone leptin decrease, while ghrelin, the hunger hormone, increase, which leads us to crave more calories and not feel full as quickly.

3. Your brain will get a Boost. The body has a lymphatic system that disposes of toxins and the brain has the same system. About five hours into the sleep cycle, you have a sweep of calcium that washed away neurotoxins, but if sleep is impaired, then this process might not happen.

Doing all of the above, could ensure you a restful and comfortable night’s sleep so you can wake up refreshed and invigorated.

  1. https://shaneomara.com/2014/10/20/why-you-need-lots-of-good-quality-sleep-sleep-loss-affects-work-performance-ethics-memory-and-health-2/
  2. https://sleepcouncil.org.uk/how-much-sleep-do-we-need/ 

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(14th May)

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