- Sleep is an extremely important part of being a human that has been deliberately developed from deep within the brain.
- People who do not get enough sleep or who frequently go to sleep late are at a higher risk of dementia and immune system irregularities than those who have good sleeping habits.
- Women who have reached old age will have a decreased amount of estrogen and progesterone hormones, which is another factor that can affect the quality of sleep.
Many families will have often observed the mother of the house engrossed in chores around the kitchen late at night, which means she is the last one to go to bed. This may be down to those mothers wanting to get everything clean and prepared for the new day, but sometimes, those mothers could be ignoring their bodies’ signals which are telling them that they need to sleep.
Sleep is categorized into two major periods: deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
- Deep sleep is the time when our bodies rehabilitate after the day’s exertions. Various bodily functions slow down during this time and growth hormones are released in order to repair the body. The immune system also works hard to repair any damage and redress any imbalances during deep sleep
- REM sleep refers to the time when our body redresses any imbalances in terms of our thoughts, mood and stress that we may have accumulated throughout the previous day.
Many people are curious as to whether or not we need less sleep as we get older. Studies into this topic have found that we do indeed need just as much sleep as before, but that it can sometimes be difficult to get that amount of sleep due to various internal and external factors affecting our sleep patterns and causing us to get less sleep. The long-term results of this are detrimental to memory function and can increase the risk of developing dementia when compared to those who do get the appropriate amount of sleep.
The following factors, both internal and external, affect the duration and quality of sleep:
- An accumulation of stress causes our bodies to produce more of the cortisol hormone which affects sleep quality
- Hormones – particularly testosterone and melatonin, which decrease as we age – have an effect on the quality of our sleep.
- Mental conditions and nervous system irregularities cause a reduction in how our bodies respond to feeling tired.
- Alcoholic beverages – even though they may make us feel sleepy and tired when consumed in small amounts – can disrupt our sleep cycle when consumed in large amounts.
- Consuming caffeinated beverages 4–6 hours before going to sleep will affect sleep quality.
- Nicotine, which is found in cigarettes and tobacco products, has a detrimental effect on sleep quality.
- Consuming food that is overly spicy or eating a large meal 1–2 hours before going to sleep will disrupt your sleep cycle because the body will use energy to digest the food and there is also a chance that you will also experience acid reflux.
- Hunger or an empty stomach can disrupt sleep, especially in people who have just begun to fast or regulate their food intake during the evenings. If you do feel hungry, drinking a glass of almond milk can help because aside from filling a space in your stomach, the milk also contains amino acids that aid sleep quality.
- Drinking too much water can lead to waking up for urinating during the night.
- Sleeping next to a partner who snores loudly, having noisy neighbors, setting the air conditioning too cool or particularly hot weather can all affect sleep quality.
- Shift work that is inconsistent or jet lag due to frequent travel across continents and time zones disrupt sleep patterns.
- Numerous forms of medication can cause a lack of sleep or disrupt sleep cycles, while some types of medication can reduce the amount of time we sleep, such as asthma medication, some forms of cardiovascular medication and various types of antiviral medication. If you have just been prescribed medication that you feel is causing you to lose sleep, please make an appointment to consult your doctor as soon as possible.
- Congenital conditions, such as chronic muscle pain, acid reflux and sleep apnea, all have an adverse effect on sleep.
- A bedroom with too much light will disrupt melatonin hormone function and this can affect sleep quality, so all lights should be switched off at bedtime to provide a darkened environment when sleeping