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Reasons behind your tiredness

The distinguished scientist James Clear summarises what we know about the nature of sleep, and offers practical recommendation on how much you need in order to have sufficient energy to enjoy your day. It’s time some of us got a bit more rest — let’s find out how we can do it.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?

To answer this question, let’s consider an experiment that was conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Washington State University.

The researchers began the experiment by gathering 48 healthy men and women who averaged seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Then, they split these subjects into four groups.

The first group drew the short straw. They had to stay up for three days straight without sleeping. The second group slept for four hours per night, the third group slept for six hours per night and the fourth group slept for eight hours per night.

Here’s what happened:

The subjects who were allowed a full eight hours of sleep displayed no cognitive decreases, attention lapses or motor skill declines during the 14-day study. Meanwhile, the groups who received four hours and six hours of sleep steadily declined with each passing day. The four-hour group performed worst, but the six-hour group didn’t fare much better. In particular, there were two notable findings.

First, sleep debt is a cumulative issue.

In the words of the researchers, sleep debt «has a neurobiological cost which accumulates over time.» After one week, 25 percent of the six-hour group was falling asleep at random times throughout the day.

After two weeks, the six-hour group had performance deficits that were the same as if they had stayed up for two days straight. So if you get six hours of sleep per night for two weeks straight, your mental and physical performance declines to the same level as if you had stayed awake for 48 hours straight.

Second, participants didn’t notice their own performance declines.

When participants graded themselves, they believed that their performance declined for a few days and then tapered off. In reality, they were continuing to get worse with each day.

In other words, we are poor judges of our own performance decreases even as we go through them. In the real world, well-lit office spaces, social conversations, caffeine and a variety of other factors can make you feel fully awake even though your actual performance is sub-optimal. You might think your performance is staying the same even on low amounts of sleep, but it’s not. And even if you are happy with your sleep-deprived performance levels, you’re not performing optimally.
 
How Sleep Works

A process called the sleep-wake cycle determines the quality of your sleep. There are two important parts of the sleep-wake cycle:

Slow-wave sleep (also known as deep sleep). breathing becomes more regular, blood pressure falls and the brain becomes less responsive to external stimuli, which makes it more difficult to wake up. This phase is critical for renewal and repair of the body.
REM sleep (REM stands for rapid eye movement). EM sleep is when your brain dreams and reorganizes information. During this phase, your brain clears out irrelevant information, boosts your memory by connecting the experiences of the last 24 hours to your previous experiences and facilitates learning and neural growth.

To summarize: Slow wave sleep helps you recover physically while REM sleep helps you recover mentally. The amount of time you spend in these phases tends to decrease with age, which means the quality of your sleep and your body’s ability to recover also decrease with age.

Age-Related Sleep Changes

According to Harvard Medical School researchers, «As people age, it takes longer to fall asleep. At the same time, sleep efficiency — the percentage of time spent asleep while in bed — decreases as well. The average 80-year-old gets 62 percent less slow-wave sleep than the average 20-year-old (20 percent of the average sleep cycle versus 7.5 percent).

It stands to reason that if your body gets less slow-wave sleep to restore itself each night, the aging process will accelerate as a result. In other words, it seems reasonable to say that getting good sleep is one of your best defenses against aging quickly.
 
How To Recover When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

Researchers at the Harvard Medical School have just one recommendation here: Try to take a nap during the day, for around 20-30 minutes. This can be a successful strategy for accumulating sufficient total sleep over a 24-hour period.

As it turns out, the body is incredibly adept at making up for a short-term lack of sleep. It will simply spend more time in REM and slow-wave sleep cycles the second night to make up for the first night when you had little sleep.

But, there is a limit on this recovery process, of course. Your body will do the best it can, but it will never be able to turn a deficit into a surplus. If you want to recover from a night of little sleep, you need to follow it with more sleep than usual.

How To Sleep Better

Avoid caffeine

If you’re having trouble falling asleep, eliminating caffeine from your diet is a quick win. If you can’t go without your morning cup of coffee, then a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is «No coffee after noon.» This gives caffeine enough time to wear off before bedtime.

Stop smoking or chewing tobacco

Tobacco use has been linked to a long line of health issues and poor sleep is another one on the list.

Use the bedroom for sleep and sex only

Is your bedroom designed to promote good sleep? The ideal sleeping environment is dark, cool and quiet. Don’t make your bedroom a multi-purpose room. Eliminate TVs, laptops, electronics and clutter. These are simple ways to improve the choice architecture of your bedroom, so that sleep is easier and distraction is harder. When you go to the bedroom, go there to sleep.

Exercise

There are too many benefits to exercise to list them all here. When it comes to sleep, exercise will make it easier for your brain and body to power down at night.

Temperature.

Most people sleep best in a cool room. The ideal range is usually between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 21 degrees Celsius).

Sound.

A quiet space is key for good sleep. If peace and quiet is hard to come by, try controlling the bedroom noise by creating «white noise» with a fan. Or, use earplugs

Stick to a regular schedule

The body loves ritual. The entire circadian rhythm we laid out earlier is one big, daily routine. Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day.

Develop a «power down» ritual before bed

The light from computer screens, televisions and phones can hinder the production of melatonin, which means your body isn’t preparing the hormones it needs to enter the sleep phase. Developing a «power down» routine, where you shut off all electronics an hour or two before sleep, can be a big help. Additionally, working late at night can keep your mind racing and your stress levels high, which also prevents the body from calming down for sleep. Turn off the screens and read a book instead. It’s the perfect way to learn something useful and power down before bed.

Use relaxation techniques

Researchers believe that at least 50 percent of insomnia cases are emotional or stress-related. Find outlets to reduce your stress and you’ll often find that better sleep will come as a result. Proven methods include daily journaling, deep breathing exercises, meditation, exercise and keeping a gratitude journal (write down something you are thankful for each day).
How to Have More Energy in the Morning

Drink a large glass of water in the morning

Your body just went six to eight hours without any liquid. If you are feeling lethargic and groggy in the morning, you may often be slightly dehydrated. The first thing I do when I wake up is drink a large, cold glass of water.

Start the day in the sunlight

Sunshine is the new coffee. Getting sunlight in your morning routine is critical for establishing your circadian rhythm and waking your brain and body for the day.
 
Final Thoughts On Sleep

Cumulative sleep debt robs individuals of mental performance and it’s a barrier between you and optimal performance. Our productivity-obsessed culture vastly underrates the benefits of getting more sleep. Ignore this culture, and get more rest. It’s a simple solution to a lot of interconnected problems. Isn’t it worth trying?

By The Editorial Team

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Reasons behind your tiredness
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