So far, our articles have gone over factors affecting our cognitive performance, so you can use your brain to its fullest capacity. Now, we will look at sleep, and see how everything is connected!

While you sleep, your body begins preparing for the next day; repairing muscles, consolidating memories, releasing hormones and regulating growth and appetite. If your sleep is cut short, your body doesn’t have enough time to complete all of the phases and we wake up less prepared to concentrate, make decisions, or engage fully with the world.

Research studies have shown that sleep deprivation has negative effects on all brain functions including decision making, problem solving, remembering things, controlling emotions / behaviour and coping with change. Reaction times can be made slower, more mistakes may be made and tasks often take longer.

The UK’s National Sleep Foundation claims that an adult of working age needs between 7 and 9 hours of good quality uninterrupted sleep in order to be in peak condition. However, I don’t know an adult in the world who gets that amount of uninterrupted sleep.

They either have trouble getting to sleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking up unintentionally early, or just a disturbed sleep through noise, worry, children and more. Consequently, we feel tired, irritable and find it difficult to concentrate the next day – although, instinctively we try to carry on and attempt to do the things we need to do without recognising that we are sleep deprived.

Everyone knows the benefits of sleep, but actually being able to get a good night’s sleep in our busy lives can be difficult. However, with what’s at stake, we should all be able to implement a routine to better our chances of a good night’s sleep.

Here are some tips to help you get a better night’s rest;
• Try not to exercise in the evening, unless it’s relaxing exercises such yoga (yoga initiates restful sleep)
• Minimize light and noise, try not to use your phone, tablet or computer before bed
• Maintain a comfortable bedroom temperature; if it’s too hot, your body overheats, and you dehydrate while you are asleep
• Manage stress; this is easier said than done, one way is to write a to-do list in prep for the next day. Seeing what needs to be done can put things into perspective.
• Finally, if you wake up a lot during the night and find it difficult to get back to sleep; try getting up and doing something peaceful like reading or listening to soft music, instead of clock-watching and worrying about losing sleep – this makes you lose even more sleep!

Taking naps during the day can be useful. An hour and a half at most has proven ideal, depending on the time it’s taken. Experts have said mid-afternoon naps are ideal because there is less chance that a night-time sleep is compromised. But if a day-time nap is taken too often, your night-sleep is compromised! Once a routine is in place, you will find yourself sleeping like a baby at night, waking up refreshed and ready for breakfast in the morning.

Woman sleeping: The Huffington Post
Woman and alarm clock: Shutterstock.com