Improve sleep quality - here’s how! By now it has become a truism that the quality of our sleep has an enormous impact on our health. That said, many people are still in the dark when it comes to the question of how this can be achieved. Although we spend about a third of our lives sleeping, many myths and unanswered questions still surround the topic of sleep.
So why is sleep so important to us and what happens when the body doesn't get enough sleep? Are there perhaps a few strategies to prolong deep sleep and increase sleep quality? In this blog article, we at Zizzz will explain what really matters when it comes to sleep quality and what you can do to start the day refreshed and in a good mood.
The definition of sleep quality
What exactly does the term "sleep quality" actually mean? Good sleep quality is determined by how long and, above all, how restful your sleep is. The length of sleep that each person needs to wake up refreshed the next morning varies and depends on each individual's needs.
That said, researchers agree that the answer to the question of "how much sleep do I need?" is about seven to nine hours per night. This number applies to both teenagers and adults.
Too little sleep can have a negative effect on our concentration, but too much sleep is also not good for the body and the brain. As such, it is important to find a good balance. In addition to the optimal sleep length, our habits also play an important role.
How many caffeinated beverages do we consume before we go to sleep and how many hours do we spend using electronic media throughout the day? To optimize our sleep quality, we should avoid drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks too close to bedtime, make a habit of keeping a regular bedtime schedule and create a comfortable sleep environment.
Why is sleep important?
It’s easy to underestimate the effect sleep has on our mental acuity and our physical performance. While it might initially seem as though our bodies are completely inactive during the night, the opposite is actually the case with regards to our brains: many essential processes take place during sleep that have a direct impact on our health.
Sleep-related brain processes
Our muscles repair themselves and our brains clean themselves up while we sleep. This cleaning system of the brain is called the glymphatic system. This system is responsible for the disposal of cellular waste products and mainly operates during sleep. When we’re awake, by-products accumulate in the brain which then have to be removed while we sleep. Our quality of sleep therefore greatly depends on the effectiveness of this cleansing process.
Our brain also processes the day’s events and transfers newly-learned facts to our long-term memory while we sleep. Studies have found that healthy sleep is especially important for children’s memories. During sleep, the brain separates important information from unimportant information and selects which information should be retained from which can be forgotten.
Sleep-related body processes
While our brains are busy repairing themselves while we sleep, our immune systems are busy at night fighting viruses and bacteria and repairing our bodies’ damaged cells. So, sleep is not only extremely important for the brain, but also for the immune system.
Sleep also influences the release of hormones that are important for our healthy development and growth. Some of these hormones are responsible for cell regeneration and regulate muscle growth. In addition, the levels of the hormones melatonin and prolactin in our bodies increase during the night.
During the day, the production of melatonin is inhibited by our exposure to light stimuli. Melatonin controls the body’s day-night rhythm and is mainly produced by the pineal gland. However, melatonin also has other important tasks, and is essential for the health of our kidneys and plays an important role in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
How long should the deep sleep phase last?
Our sleep is divided into five sleep phases that we cycle through several times per night. Researchers distinguish between the falling asleep phase, the light sleep phase, the deep sleep phase (medium-deep sleep phase and very deep sleep phase) and the dream phase. In each phase, different motor and cognitive processes take place and each phase plays an important role in our body’s recovery.
The deep sleep phase is likely the most important, as our body reaches the deepest level of relaxation during this phase. At this point, the body is almost completely motionless and is able to recuperate optimally. A sleep cycle with the five sleep phases lasts on average about 90 minutes. The first deep sleep phase is usually a little longer and can last up to an hour. After that, the duration of the deep sleep phase decreases and the REM phases become longer. Overall, the medium and very deep sleep phases comprise about 15 to 20% of our sleep.
What happens when we don't get enough sleep?
Quality sleep is important because our physical performance and ability to concentrate are negatively impacted by even one night of insufficient sleep. If this persists and we become chronically sleep-deprived, our cognitive abilities may gradually decline: Our reaction times slow down and we experience short attention lapses. Periods of hallucination are not uncommon in cases of severe sleep deprivation.
Chronic sleep deprivation is also extremely harmful for the immune system. As stated above, sleep helps the body repair damaged cells and fight off viruses and bacteria. When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies release higher levels of stress hormones. These cause our blood pressure, adrenaline levels and heart rate to go up, which in turn can lead to the greater risk of a number of diseases.
How to improve your sleep quality
So, how do we manage to get enough restful sleep at night? Here are the most important tips:
- Avoid blue light as much as possible before going to sleep, which means turning off the television, tablets and smartphones at least an hour before bed
- Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature. Studies have shown that the optimal temperature is between 15 to 18 degrees Celsius.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time as frequently as possible
- Spend at least 30 minutes outside in the fresh air. Make sure to get adequate exposure to direct sunlight.
With these relatively simple tricks, you can improve the quality of your sleep and raise your performance curve. The biggest challenge, however, is to make these habits permanent.
Improve sleep quality with Zizzz
At Zizzz, we're constantly working to make sleep as restful as possible for our customers. That's why we offer the highest quality products to improve your sleep. Since our body temperature has a huge impact on our sleep efficiency, we’ve deliberately chosen breathable and air-permeable materials for our bedding.
Our bed linens are made from soft, GOTS-certified organic cotton. We carry bed sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases made with the soft percale weave; in Switzerland, we also offer the satin weave.