This August, make it your mission to evaluate your sleep and how you can improve it. The Sleep Health Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week runs from 5th -11th August 2019, and this year focuses on memory and problem solving.
Healthy sleep is essential for optimal learning and memory function, and a lack of good quality sleep can have a negative effect on your mood, understanding, judgement, perception and your overall mental health.
When you’re sleep deprived, you can’t focus attention optimally, and you may find yourself struggling to learn efficiently Sleep plays an important role in the consolidation of memory, which is an essential process when learning new things.
Ongoing sleep deprivation can lead to exhaustion, by which point neurons cannot fire optimally, your muscles are not rested, and your body’s internal organ systems are not synchronised – which can lead to a whole host of health problems. You’ll find your focus will waver and you may experience feelings of ‘zoning out’, which can be very dangerous.
Sleep deprivation and your emotions
When you’re not getting enough sleep – or not enough good quality sleep – you may find yourself experiencing more negative thoughts and mood swings. Being in these dissatisfied states can impact your ability to learn new things, process new information and remember things. If you notice you’re getting more forgetful, struggling to pick up new skills or retain knowledge, the first place to start is your sleep routine.
How to get better sleep
In an ideal world, most of us would probably say we’d like to get more sleep, but for many this simply isn’t an option. The stresses of work, parenting and social commitments don’t always leave much time for sleeping – but what if you could optimise the sleep you are getting, to make every minute count?
Try these small changes to your nighttime routine to optimise your sleep and feel more awake, more refreshed and more restored by morning.
Put your devices away 1-2 hours before you plan to fall asleep, to minimise exposure to blue light that can affect your ability to wind down.
Use a white noise or calming sounds app like Calm, to send you off into a relaxing sleep.
Consider trying an acupressure mat to relax your muscles and prepare your body for sleep.
Use a sleep cycle calculator to ensure you’re completing full cycles and not waking during an important sleep phase. The Ecosa sleep calculator will tell you when to fall asleep and when to wake up to ensure you’re completing full cycles.
Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime – that afternoon coffee could be affecting your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Find a relaxing activity to do before bed. Reading, meditating, listening to your favourite podcast – doing something relaxing before drifting off can mean your sleep is more restorative.
Try essential oils for sleep, by putting a few drops on your pillow or into a diffuser. Certain scents are proven to promote deep sleep.
Take a warm bath before bed. Not only will you feel refreshed as you get into bed, transitioning your body from a warm to cool makes you sleepy.