This blog was originally written by Paige for Vega and appeared on MyVega.com

In a perfect world we would all get 8 to 10 hours of uninterrupted deep sleep every night but that’s not the reality for most of us with jobs, deadlines and families.  Quality rest has a bigger impact on our overall health than we realize; it is far more impactful than just energizing us for the next morning. Even if a large quantity of sleep isn’t possible, you can make the hours you do get count and reap all the benefits of quality sleep.

WHY SLEEP IS IMPORTANT:

It’s not just about being well rested; sleep provides an array of benefits. According to the National Sleep Foundation, as much as 60% of people in the U.S. report difficulties with sleeping. Some people eat a whole food diet, drink plenty of good quality water, and maintain their fitness routine yet still have issues with falling and staying asleep which can lead to nervousness, trouble with hormones, acne, focus, memory, weight loss or gain, and so much more. Through good sleep practices you can foster an elevated anabolic state, supporting the immune, skeletal, and muscular systems, allowing you to rebuild and support youthfulness.

STAGES OF SLEEP

Quality really matters when it comes to getting shut-eye. Have you ever slept 8 hours and not felt refreshed or took a 20 minute power nap and felt great? It all has to do with which stage of sleep you are able to achieve. Here’s how to tell what stage of sleep you are in:

  • Stage 1: Relaxed wakefulness.
  • Stage 2: Easily awakened, dreaming is rare.
  • Stage 3: Deep delta sleep, transition between light and deep sleep.
  • Stage 4: Deep sleep. Bodily repair and cellular restoration. Builds and repairs our bodies.
  • Stage 5: Dreaming state. (REM)

During sleep, you usually pass through five phases of sleep. Not cycling through all stages can leave you feeling not as rested.

SIMPLE WAYS THAT CAN HELP YOU SLEEP

Sleeping Mask: This is one of my favorite tools, as it is cost-effective, great for travel and works wonders. I like a mask with a little bit of weight to it; it feels very calming and blocks out the light that may interfere with your sleep.

In fact, light is one of the most important external factors getting in our way of rest because it interferes with our internal clock.This can be from sunlight if you are trying to catch a nap during the day, or artificial light, if your partner is watching TV when you’re trying to catch shut-eye, or light pollution for us city dwellers.

Blackout Curtains: Another cost effective option is blackout curtains for the bedroom. If you need or want to sleep after sunrise they are totally worth it. Don’t worry, many companies make very fashionable options for every décor, they don’t actually have to be black.

No Screens Before Bed: Watching TV or using a mobile device is a huge no-no when trying to get to the delta stage. The blue light these devices give off can suppress the hormone that helps us sleep, melatonin, which may interfere with our circadian rhythms.

If possible, try not to watch TV, use smartphones or tablets, within 1.5-2 hours before bed. This may be a hard habit to break (trust me, I’ve tried to use Pinterest and Facebook scrolling as a sleep aid but we all know how that goes). Try your best to kick this pesky habit. But in the meantime you can wean yourself off with some functional night time glasses that have a red tint to block out the blue called blublockers. Another great option is getting an app for your smartphone or tablet that act the same way as the blublocker glasses. They operate on a timer and naturally change the screen during nighttime hours. This isn’t as good as turning off all electronics completely!

Are you part of the 60% that needs better sleep?

1 National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. Accessed on 3/7/16 from:  http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm

2 Harvard Medical School. (2015). Blue light has a dark side. Harvard Health Publications. Accessed 1/18/16 from: http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

3 Harvard Medical School. (2007) External Factors that Influence Sleep. Accessed 1/18/16 from: http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/how/external-factors 5Harvard Medical School. (2015). Blue light has a dark side. Harvard Health Publications. Accessed 1/18/16 from: http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side