Peaceful sleep: why it’s important and how to get more
Do you know what peaceful sleep is, really? Just because we spend a third of our life asleep doesn’t mean that all sleep is peaceful (meaning: free from disturbance).
Alas, bring on a generation of stress, 2020, newborns, Netflix etcetera, etcetera, and we find it increasingly difficult to find that undisturbed peace in our sleep. (Even though we know that a good night’s sleep is vital to our physical health and emotional wellbeing).
Let’s get real about the benefits of peaceful sleep, how you can get more and why regular, good quality sleep isn’t just a good idea, but essential.
What is peaceful sleep?
Are you immediately recalling last night’s slumber in hopes that you’re a peaceful sleeper? If you managed to fall asleep at a reasonable hour and wake up feeling refreshed, you probably had a good night’s rest.
Peaceful sleep is rated according to your sleeping patterns, duration of sleep and how easily you fall asleep. Let’s explore.
Do you wake up during the night but find it easy to slip back into sleep? This is completely normal (and is in the realm of peaceful sleep.) But if you’re waking up often (and battling to get back to sleep) be it because of acid reflux, sleep apnea, snoring, discomfort or bad dreams, you are not sleeping peacefully.
The recommended hours of sleep for an adult are between 7–9 hours to allow your body to cycle effectively through your sleep stages to give it time to process, restore and rejuvenate you for the next day. If you’re clocking these sleep hours, you’ve completed the first step to being a peaceful sleeper.
Ability to fall asleep
Lastly, how easily do you fall asleep? If you’re someone who is lights-out as soon your head hits the pillow, then you’re possibly a pro. But if you, like most of us, suffer from wide-eyed wakefulness with a side of sheep-counting, getting your ratings up for peaceful sleep is something we need to work on.
Why is peaceful sleep important?
Uninterrupted, (peaceful) sleep is, (and we are sure you’ve heard this before) vital for our health and wellbeing. But why exactly?
Sleep gives your body the time to heal and recover so that when you wake up, you’ve essentially been rewired to take on the next day. While you’re sleeping, your body tidies up the mess of stress that bad eating, skipping that yoga class and forgetting sunscreen has on your health. Your systems are busy flushing out toxins, replacing cells, repairing damaged tissues and restoring your energy supply. (Wild right?)
When you have restless sleep or don’t get enough sleep, you’re racking up a sleep debt that can have long-term effects on your health, including the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression.
What can cause disrupted sleep?
So, we’ve touched on a few sleep villains, but what other disruptors can cause us to have less than peaceful sleep? Let’s take a look:
Growing old is not easy… on your sleep. Disrupted sleep is often more common in the older generation. As you grow older, your sleep needs change, which results in spending less time in deep sleep (which is where you’ll find it quite hard to be woken up). When you’re older, you start to become more of a light sleeper spending most of your sleep stages in light sleep; this gives you the (unfortunate) ability to be woken by slight interruptions.
Sleep disorders can be linked to your gene pool or unfortunately arise due to poor health and lifestyle, but no matter the source, these disorders sure like to interrupt your sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and health-related problems such as pain, cardiovascular issues, periods and hormones, and neurological problems can all cause fragmented sleep.
You know the saying, “you are what you eat?” Well, we have a new one for you: “Your waking life creates your sleep.” Is your daily life peaceful and your bedroom sleep-friendly? Your stress management, work, kids, bedroom setup and nightlife all impact your sleep environment. If you’re always living in a stressful state from work, are new to the parenting world (welcome) and have midnight feeds or can’t seem to put down the remote because the TV lives in your bedroom, you’re bound to board the sleep disruption train.
Any changes to a regular sleep-wake cycle will cause sleep issues down the line. As your circadian rhythm balances your sleep phases using natural light (night and day), any changes can confuse your body making it harder for you to sleep during the day and readjust to regular sleeping times when you need to. If you’re a shift worker, this mainly applies to you.
How to get a peaceful night’s sleep
Now that you know what can cause sleep disruptions, we bet you’re dying to find out how to become a pro-peaceful sleeper. (Or if you just want to get better sleep, full stop). Check out these tips below:
Stick to a routine
Planning your sleep should be a part of prepping your day. Just like you schedule in those morning meetings, so should you schedule when it’s time to wind down and fall asleep. This will help you get into a routine which will reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
Set your alarm to accommodate 7–9 hours sleep every day, and try not to deviate too much on weekends (an hour here and there is okay). If you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing and only return to bed when you’re feeling tired. This can help fix bad sleeping patterns and train your body that when you’re tired, you fall asleep. Fast.
Avoid napping late in the day
Napping sure is a glorious treat, but knowing when to nap can prevent sleep interference later at night. Naps, power naps, siestas, whichever you choose to indulge in, be sure to honour their time limits. For a quick power nap, schedule in 15–20 minutes. For a more refreshing nap aim for 20–30 minutes but be sure to get your speedy sleep between 2pm and 3pm.
Limit screen time
You’ve heard that the blue light emitted from your electronic devices can prevent your body from producing its sleepy hormone (melatonin) and give your sleeping cues a backseat, right? But other reasons to limit screen time is that the content you’re viewing can keep your mind active, induce emotional feelings or cause you stress (emails, news reports, etc.). Unless you’re using your device to lull you into sleep with some calming sleep music or guided sleep meditation, make your bedroom a phone-free zone.
Avoid certain foods before bed
We know that there is nothing better than a warm hearty meal at dinner. But often these spicy, fatty foods can have the opposite effect and keep us up at night. Foods to avoid before bed include, cheese, steak, caffeine, spicy curries, alcohol, and even chocolate, to name a few. These foods should be eaten earlier in the day, so your stomach has time to digest them and give the stimulating effects of caffeine time to wear off.
That’s it, Dear Sleeper, you’ve been officially armed with everything you need to know to become a pro-peaceful sleeper. We cannot encourage you enough to look after your sleep, because when you do, you’re giving your body a chance to renew. (We’re poets and we know it.)
Sweet peaceful, dreams.