Some think sleep is a waste of time, including inventor Thomas Edison, whose light bulb has helped many of us burn the midnight oil. But in reality, sleep is incredibly important.
We shouldn’t be giving sleep the short shrift, said Stephanie Jones, PhD., assistant director of the Wisconsin Institute for Sleep. “There’s no way to get rid of sleep,” she said. “Sleep is critical for our brains.”
Jones recently shared her expertise on sleep and how you can get a better night’s rest.
“Historically, we have considered sleep an all-or-none phenomenon. Your brain was either asleep or it was awake,” says Jones. “We now understand this isn’t the case. The human brain has the capacity to sleep regionally or locally. In other words, not only can regions of your brain be asleep while you’re behaviorally awake, regions of your brain can be awake while you’re asleep.”
Our brains play a role in common sleep disorders as well as daytime cognitive function. And, if we don’t get enough sleep it can lead to poor memory, increased impulsiveness, clumsiness, weight gain, and even a drop in our driving skills.
On the flip side, there are many benefits of sleep. “Research show that sleeps aids memory, allows us to focus, learn, and be creative. I like to think of sleep as a reset button that we need each day. It gets the brain ready for new learning,” says Jones.
With the advent of the light bulb, TV, and technology, Jones notes that people have not “been careful about our sleep.” For a good night’s sleep, Jones suggests:
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends.
- Darken your bedroom. Do not watch TV in bed, and even the glow of your clock or LEDs from devices can reduce your quality of sleep.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bedtime. These things rob you of deep sleep.
- Don’t lie in bed awake. If you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, get out of bed and do something else, such as reading or listening to music. Return to bed when you begin feeling sleepy.
Finally, Jones said, that people who are well rested and sleep on a schedule, find they don’t even need an alarm in the morning.
If you struggle to put down your phone or turn off your TV before bed, we have a few more tips so you can (hopefully) get a better night’s sleep:
- Get some blue light blocking glasses. Blue light waves are part of the natural rainbow of colors we can see every day and help us stay alert and upbeat. This blue light is also present in artificial light, whether it’s a light bulb or an electronic device. The trouble is, blue light can interfere with melatonin production, the hormone responsible for making us fall asleep. If you get some blue-light blocking glasses—ones that block 90% of blue light—you’ll help keep your body’s natural sleep rhythms. Look for them at your local eye wear shop and even on Amazon.
- Warm up the color temperature on your smart phone or tablet. If you don’t want to buy glasses, you can change the settings on your phone to reduce blue light. On Apple devices, under Display & Brightness you schedule an automatic tint shift for the evening hours. For Android devices, you can download an app like f.lux or others.)