50% of the people experience as least two nights a week trouble when trying to sleep. And 10% of the people is suffering from insomnia; a structural lack of sleep. This leads to a lot of serious problems because sleep is an important factor in staying healthy and feeling fit.
In this article you will read:
1. Why do we sleep
2. How much sleep do we need
3. The different sleep phases
4. 5 do’s and don’ts for a good night’s sleep
For a long time scientists have tried to answer this question. From a evolutionary perspective it does not make any sense. When you are asleep you are vulnerable and an easy prey for predators.
That we sleep to conserve energy is also not true. The amount of energy saved when you are resting is very little. Sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing takes place.
What has been proven is that after a good night’s sleep we are better able to perform cognitive tasks like speaking and thinking. It helps to consolidate memories by processing all the information that we receive during the day. Without sleep our brains wouldn’t get the opportunity to structure and process all this information and our internal hard drive would simply crash.
The amount of sleep one needs varies per person. Age and lifestyle are two determining factors. Babies can sleep as much as 18 hours per day in the first 6 months. Children until the age of 13 need to sleep for around 10 hours.
For adults the recommended daily amount of sleep is between 7 and 8 hours.
Albert Einstein used to say that he needed at least 10 hours of sleep to be able to function normally. But the French general Napoleon Bonaparte and American President Donald Trump both claim that they don’t need to sleep more than 4 hours per night!
When you sleep your body goes through 5 different sleep phases. Each phase lasts for about 1,5 hours. The first phase is going from being awake to falling asleep. Then there are 3 different phases in which you sleep a bit deeper in every next phase. The final phase is the REM phase.
REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. It’s the deepest sleeping phase that you go through. During this phase your body and muscles are relax and your eyes move up and down really fast. The longer that you are able to be in the REM phase the more rested you will wake up.
Make sure to sleep at least 7.5 hours every night. This gives your body the chance to complete all sleep phases, which will lead to a well rested and fit feeling when you wake up.
Your body can determine exactly what the best moment is for it to wake up. Many people set their alarm at the same time every morning, while it can be beneficial for your body to wake up fifteen minutes earlier or later. So rely on the rhythm of your body instead of that annoying beep of your alarm clock.
Although it feels good knowing that you can sleep a bit longer after your alarm goes off, it’s not good for your night's sleep to snooze. There is a chance that you will be pulled out of your REM sleep abruptly, which leads to you waking up feeling tired.
When you go to bed at the same time every day your body will get used to it. Therefore, you will also wake up at the same time. This natural way of waking up creates a more rested feeling when you get up. Therefore, try to ensure that you do not completely reverse your rhythm during the weekend. You will regret that on Monday morning.
There are several apps and smart watches that can give you all kinds of information about your sleep. For example, they measure how many hours of your total sleep have been in your REM sleep. This knowledge gives you insight in your sleep pattern and offers you the opportunity to make changes where necessary.