Did you know that the way you feel when you wake up is much more due to the stage of sleep you are woken from than the length or quality of your sleep overall? And here I was blaming my groggy mornings on never-ending to-do lists whirling in my head throughout the night and keeping awake. Not that it’s unusual to wake up several times throughout the night, on the contrary. I’ve previously discussed the concept of sleep hygiene and shared tips on how to improve sleep in my Sleeping Beauty post, but I wanted to delve into what goes on in your body when you sleep thanks to two new additions to my library:
- The Little Book of Sleep by Sasha Fenton, a delightful mini intro to sleep, beautifully presented in bite-sized snippets of attention-grabbing insights
- And Navigating Sleeplessness by Dr Lindsay Browning, a more medical approach to sleep and how to improve it
So here five fun, fascinating and surprising facts I learned from these books – your night in numbers.
1. We wake up on average 6 times a night…
We just don’t remember doing it. Apparently in one night a healthy young adult will spend 5% of the time awake, and that is because we wake up briefly in between our sleep cycles, without us being aware of it. But if you do happen to fully wake up and struggle to get back to sleep, you can always spritz Neal’s Yard Remedies Goodnight Pillow Mist onto your bed linen to help your mind relax. My 5-year-old son swears by it, possibly because I introduced it to him during one particularly difficult bedtime as a magic sleep spray. Works like a charm. My personal favourite as part of my bedtime routine is Balance Me Beauty Sleep CBD Concentrate which I apply around my nostrils – weird I know, but I get an instant hit of the herbal scent which never fails to soothe my senses.
2. We lose up to 200ml of water every night in perspiration
I had to re-read that statement a couple of times to make sure I’d understood correctly. So we sweat 200ml into our bedsheets every. single. night. It makes me want to change sheets on a daily basis, but I don’t live in a hotel, it’s not a planet-friendly habit and I’m not willing to load the washing machine that often. Instead I’ve been relying on Boody Goodnight Sleep cami and shorts set to keep me cool at night and avoid any further perspiration. This super comfy dusty pink set is made from viscose derived from organically-grown bamboo, resulting in a silky smooth fabric that’s naturally breathable, antibacterial, thermoregulating plus great for sensitive skin.
3. Sleep deprivation can increase the risk of dementia by 33%…
And age your brain 3 to 5 years. This is by far the scariest statistic I’ve read in Dr Browning’s Navigating Sleeplessness. Up until now I’d only ever associated lack of sleep with the short-term, instantly visible consequences: dark circles, dull skin, tiredness, grumpiness, poor focus and brain fog. But the long term repercussions can be far more serious: not sleeping enough is associated with an increased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and obesity. Politicians Margaret Thatcher and Donald Reagan famously got by on very little sleep, and both of them suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Why are sleep deprivation and Alzheimer’s linked? Dr Browning explains that ‘a recent study has shown how the sleeping brain is physically washed clean of amyloid plaques during non-REM sleep’. Amyloid plaques clog up the brain and are a cause of Alzheimer’s – if that’s not an incentive to get the sleep your body and mind need, I don’t know what is.
4. 10% of people dream in black and white their whole lives
This one really took me by surprise. Having always dreamt in colour (as far as I’m aware), it hadn’t even occurred to me that dreams could resemble a scene from Casablanca. It would be fascinating to understand what influences this predisposition: genetics, our environment, our Circadian rhythm (which not only sets our sleep and wake patterns, but also rules everything from hormone production to when we feel like going to bed)? I may not be able to influence the colour of my dreams, but I can sway their content, so I’ll be indulging in a generous scoop of Neal’s Yard Remedies Women’s Balance Bath Salts in my bath, featuring mineral-rich sea salt crystals and the brand’s bestselling aromatherapy blend, for soothing pre-drifting off to sleep. And my hands may get neglected during the day, but at night I always ensure I slather on a nourishing hand cream, my current cream of choice being Tisserand Lavender & Neroli Soothing Hand Cream for its relaxing scent.
5. And lastly… a giraffe only needs 1.9 hours of sleep a day!
And humans are the only mammals to willingly delay sleep. It’s time to switch off that phone and get under the duvet. Goodnight and sweet dreams!
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