With every day that passes in life, you become more and more aware of how important sleep really is to you. A good night’s rest can allow you to feel ready to face the day, while a sleepless, or disturbed night can drain you of energy, confidence and general well-being. It is as essential for us to get beneficial sleep as it is to take on water and to eat – and so it might be useful to know some of the following.
Humans are the only mammals that choose to delay sleep
If your cat feels like it wants a bit of shuteye, they will lie down where they are and sleep. In nature, as soon as a creature like a cheetah feels the need to sleep, they will get to somewhere safe and get the sleep they need. Humanity, for its part, has invented TV and doomscrolling on Twitter, so we tend to sit up and delay sleeping even when we’re yawning on the sofa. And we feel the effects the next day.
Quantity and quality of sleep are both hugely important
There’s no real consensus on what constitutes the “right” amount of sleep: eight hours used to be the accepted number, although many people now argue that six is ample for any adult and anything more than five is a decent effort. The right quantity does seem to differ from person to person, but quality is just as important. So avoid direct light from at least an hour before bedtime and try not to read or watch anything too absorbing on TV. How distant should you be from your phone when asleep? Ideally, it won’t be in the same room, but if you need it for an alarm, at least leave it where you can’t reach it.
A certain amount of lying awake is normal
If you’re one of those people who confidently states “I’m usually asleep the moment my head hits the pillow!”, then it’s worth pausing for a moment to consider whether you’re actually heavily sleep-deprived. Scientists seem to agree that between ten and twenty minutes is a normal amount of time to spend between lying to sleep and actually sleeping. Anything less than five minutes is considered a sign that your body is so desperate for sleep that it’s grabbing what it can get. An earlier bedtime might be in order for the good of your health.
About one in twelve people will experience sleep paralysis once or more
Accounts of sleep paralysis differ between people. Some will experience them on a semi-regular basis, with recurrent aspects such as nightmares and being aware of a presence in the room with them. For others, it may happen once and never again. The thing to be aware of is that 8% of people have sleep paralysis at least one in their life – and of those, just one in ten has them to a point where they are intrusive and damaging to everyday life. So if it happens to you, muse on it for a while but don’t dwell. None of the many studies into sleep paralysis have linked it to anything concerning, even if it does feel weird at the time.
This post is a collaborative effort by St. Louis Dad.