Seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is the minimum necessary for our health. Moreover, sleep should be quite sound, because it is in the phase of so-called slow sleep that the brain and body are ‘reset’. Even a few days of poor sleep has a negative impact on health: blood glucose levels rise, the cells’ tolerance to insulin increases, the body finds it more difficult to cope with inflammatory processes, which increases the risk of cancer and heart disease. Of course, sleep is essential for our brain. And if we sleep right, we concentrate when we play slots online at National Casino Canada, work, or create content for our social media accounts. This is the way sleeping helps us.
Toxins are eliminated
One of the most important discoveries of recent years: dangerous compounds are eliminated from our body much more active during sleep than when we are awake. The lymphatic system of the brain really starts working only after we fall asleep.
During this time, space between brain cells increases. It helps to expel “debris” through the cerebrospinal fluid. And most of this debris is β-amyloid protein, which is the precursor of plaques in Alzheimer’s disease. These proteins and other toxins seem to accumulate throughout the day and are eliminated during sleep.
This is one of the main functions of sleep; strengthening and consolidation of long-term memory. Scientists believe that this happens firstly by strengthening certain neural connections, but also by erasing, destroying ‘extra’ ones. During the day, we build a lot of new neural connections, but it is during nighttime sleep that the brain decides which information is worth saving and which is worth ruthlessly deleting.
Studies confirm: if learning new information takes place over two days and participants sleep well at night between classes, the assimilation of new data is better.
Cognitive abilities improve
An essential rule that novice drivers are taught: never get behind the wheel after a sleepless night. It is the sleep that regulates the activity of higher cortical functions, the most important of which is multitasking. And driving is simply the most striking example of such activity. The worse we sleep, the less capable we are of complex activities and the worse our cognitive abilities are.
We become more creative
If we don’t get enough sleep, divergent thinking; the very same thinking that is responsible for finding unconventional solutions and creativity suffers. In one study, participants stayed awake for 32 hours, after which they were given several tests. Most of the volunteers scored very poorly on most types of divergent thinking, including fluency, flexibility, and originality.
Sleeping helps with depression
Depression and sleep problems are closely related. First, people suffering from depression either cannot sleep or, on the contrary, sleep much more than usual; 12, 14 or even more hours per night. The reason for this is that when depressed, there is almost no deep sleep phase and patients simply cannot get enough rest. The result is a vicious circle: in order to alleviate the symptoms of depression and begin to recover from it, one needs to sleep well, but while depressed, one cannot sleep normally.
Studies have shown that people who sleep less than six hours a night or more than eight hours a night are more prone to depression than people who get enough rest at night. And people who suffer from insomnia are much more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. Part of the explanation for these connections may be that the part of the brain that controls the circadian rhythm (the daily sleep-wake cycle and all the body functions that depend on it) is usually impaired in people with depression.
Consequences of poor sleep
Besides the risk of developing dementia, there are many extra problems associated with inadequate sleep.
Dr Max Kerr, a sleep expert at the Sleep Better Austin Research Center in Texas says that poor sleep can lead to a host of problems throughout the body.
In terms of organic disorders, poor sleep can lead to weight control problems, diabetes, and thyroid dysfunction due to the dysregulation of hormones. The process of hormone production “resets” and starts again, in the deep stages of sleep.
From a mental standpoint, poor sleep can lead to anxiety, depression, poor memory and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. This can happen if we have sleep disorders or don’t sleep long enough.
It is believed that our nervous system recovers during the REM sleep phase. It is often the REM sleep phase that is the first stage that you may ‘miss’ because of sleep problems.
How to improve sleep quality
Experts say that if you don’t feel rested after waking up or are experiencing problems with sleep, such as snoring or daytime sleepiness, consult your physician. Identifying the root of the problem is critical to finding the right solution.
Dr Annie Miller, a practising psychotherapist at Metro Sleep and Psychotherapy Medical Center, believes that when stress levels increase, sleep is often disrupted. Increased work stress, anxiety about finances, pandemic stress, and other stressors can cause sleep disorders.
According to experts, the best way to reduce stress or learn to cope with stressful situations is to get enough rest and sleep well.
5 tips for better sleep
To speed up the elimination of toxins with the help of sleep, it is worth using the following tips:
- A good mattress. A good night’s sleep. It is safe to say that a mattress is one important factor in the equation of a good night’s sleep. From the wide range of different mattresses, choose the one that provides comfort and the necessary support for the body. Keep in mind that over time, a mattress begins to lose some of its functions and should be changed.
- Cool and fresh. If you’re cold, you can always cover up with an extra blanket, but if you’re hot and you sweat, your night’s sleep will be ruined. That doesn’t mean you have to run the air conditioning all night, but a slightly open window might help (of course, if it’s not too hot outside). Besides, the air will be fresher, and who doesn’t like to sleep in the fresh air?
- Dim the lights. How do you improve the quality of deep sleep? The answer is simple: remove the lights. Only darkness will provide deep, restorative sleep and help maintain a regular sleep schedule. The human body naturally adapts to light and darkness. Perhaps you’ve noticed that you feel sleepy when it gets dark outside and the morning sun in your bedroom wakes you up? We call this the biological clock; it’s based on the light signals your eye nerve endings receive. If you don’t want to buy heavy curtains or blinds, a sleep mask would be a good solution.
- No electronic devices. Television and other electronic devices emit blue light, which, simply put, sends your body a ‘no sleep’ signal. Light from devices interferes with your biological clock, and this leads to poor sleep. But it’s not just the light; sleep can be ruined by the information you receive and the process by reading email or news before bedtime. In general, if there are any products that improve a person’s sleep, gadgets are not one of them.
- Get rid of clutter. The bedroom should not be filled with things that are not functional for resting. Keep the essentials close by, maybe on the night table, but put everything else that might distract you in drawers or closets.
What foods improve sleep
Another way to speed up the process of eliminating toxins during sleep is to have a proper diet.
Choose light meals such as salad, scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, turkey, and vegetable soup. Fish is an excellent source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which have properties that improve sleep quality. Because of the high glycemic index, which causes sleepiness, white rice and oats can also be in the evening diet.
There are several natural foods that improve sleep because they contain melatonin, a hormone that helps control the body’s biological clock. One of them is cherries, and many scientific sources suggest drinking cherry juice for general health as well as for improving sleep. It is amazing to eat almonds before going to bed, which is a source of magnesium.
Before going to bed, drink a cup of chamomile tea, not only as a sedative: such tea contains antioxidants, they can promote sleepiness and improve sleep.
Spicy or fatty foods cause problems at night and disturb your sleep. Such foods can cause digestive problems such as acid reflux or heartburn. Keep in mind that alcohol and caffeine can have a significant effect on your sleep, so for a good night’s sleep avoid them in the evening. To sleep better, avoid sugar not just before bedtime but throughout the day. Refined sugar can disrupt sleep because it causes blood glucose levels to spike.
Try to take notes about what you eat during the day and how it affects your sleep at night. That way you can figure out how your body reacts to different kinds of food and how it affects your sleep.
Helen Bradfield did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.