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Understanding Sleeping Patterns & Bad Sleep Habits to Avoid

Sleep is one of the most natural things that the human body can do, and we spend roughly one-third of our lives doing it. Simply getting seven-to-eight hours of shut-eye has the power to improve your memory, strengthen your immune system, increase your brain power, and boost your mood. However, sleep is still an elusive thing for many people and a huge cause of concern among adults in America.

Far too often, insomniacs reach for prescription or over-the-counter sleeping pills to ease themselves into a restful state. However, most sleeping pills come with their own set of risks and dangers, including side-effects (memory loss), dependency, and addiction. Chances are you don’t really need drugs to fall asleep and stay asleep; you just need to understand why you’re not sleeping well and adjust your habits accordingly.

Photo credit: planetchopstick via Flickr

Photo credit: planetchopstick via Flickr

So as an alternative to those popular little pills, let’s take a closer look at sleeping patterns and a few bad sleeping habits to break right now.

Natural Sleeping Patterns

Your body and mind are actually quite active while you’re sleeping, and sleep is divided into two stages: REM sleep and non-REM sleep. Your sleep cycle begins with non-REM sleep, and adults should cycle through these stages every 90 minutes or so. As you progress from drowsiness into a state of deep sleep, your muscle activity and breathing slow down and your body temperature drops slightly.

During stages of REM sleep, your eyelids flutter and you’re more likely to have dreams. REM sleep is important because this is the restorative cycle. This sleep stage begins with signaling at the base of the brain, and REM sleep is known to also stimulate the parts of the brain used for learning.

Many things affect sleep cycles, and older adults are more likely to experience sleeping difficulties than those who are younger. Circadian rhythms are physical and mental changes that occur throughout the course of a day and connect with the body’s biological clock. This is why you might experience jet lag when traveling from one time zone to another for a trip.

Bad Sleeping Habits to Avoid

Some bad sleeping habits are obvious, while others are little routines that you might not even realize are impacting your sleep. If you have any of the following habits, now would be a good time to start breaking them if you really want to start sleeping better on a nightly basis.

  • Watching TV or using your smartphone before bed
  • Drinking caffeine in the afternoon and evening
  • Exercising right before bedtime
  • Hitting the snooze button in the morning
  • Sleeping in on weekends
  • Lying awake restless in bed when you can’t sleep
Photo credit: Timothy Krause via Flickr

Photo credit: Timothy Krause via Flickr

Many people experience trouble with sleep, but the severity and frequency of those troubles should determine how you approach treatment. Serious sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy, often require professional help.

Tips for Healthy Sleep

You might feel like sleep patterns are out of your conscious control; however, there are lots of things that you can do right now to promote healthy sleep. Here are some tips to get a good night’s sleep to try for yourself.

  • Eat a nutritious diet with fresh fruits and vegetables
  • If you don’t get enough produce in your diet, consider taking all-natural fruit & vegetable concentrates
  • Sleep in a quiet and clutter-free environment
  • Drink olive leaf mint tea before bedtime to relax and unwind
  • Allow yourself to have one hour of relaxation before bed
  • Write in a journal before bed to clear your mind of thoughts and stresses from the day
  • Exercise in the morning to wake up your body and mind
  • Don’t eat dinner too close to your bedtime.
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