Tips for healthy sleep: how much sleep is it really good for you?

Healthy sleep is the key to a balanced, healthy, and contented life. But how much sleep does your body need and what can you do to support it? What keeps you from sleeping well in your everyday life and how can you change that?

Use this article to get important tips to:

  • Your healthy sleep rhythm and sleep phases
  • Signs of insufficient sleep
  • Different types of sleep disorders
  • Diet and exercise for your healthy sleep
  • Dos and don’ts for healthy sleep
  • The equipment for a healthy sleep in your bedroom

What constitutes a healthy sleep?

As you go to bed, so you lie – this old folk wisdom springs from millions of tense backs after restless nights and sleepless, worn-out people with puffy eyes. But it’s not just about the sleeping pad, but above all about the physical condition on the way to sleep.

Due to the natural day-night rhythm, your body is adjusted to a finely tuned system of light-dark reaction, metabolism, daytime wakefulness and evening tiredness. If that were different, you would be an owl and you would have huge eyes to see in the dark. At best, your eyes will close when night falls and you go to sleep.

You can positively influence this simply by developing your own personal sleep rhythm . To a certain extent, your body is also an animal of habit. You have probably already noticed that if you forgot to set the alarm clock – but still woke up the next morning at the time you normally wake up.

How does  the sleep rhythm work ?

The ratio of awake and tired in your body is controlled by certain hormones: cortisol and melatonin. While cortisol is released by the adrenal gland as a stress hormone to put your body on alert , melatonin makes you drowsy .

This hormone is made in the brain in the pineal gland, which is connected directly to the eyes via the optic nerve. Sufficient melatonin for your healthy sleep is only produced when it is dark enough – which is why the bright television screen in the evening is bad for melatonin production. Your pineal gland thinks it’s still day.

In addition, cortisol is the antagonist of melatonin . The principle of “tiredness and sleep” only works properly in your body if the balance between the two hormones contains the right ingredients at the right time. If you are stressed by activity, nervously tense or otherwise under pressure, your adrenal glands also release cortisol in the evening. The stress hormone should of course keep you busy during the day – not at night.

If you have cortisol in your blood, your heart rate will increase . Your body will be put in an alarm mood. The blood pressure rises, sugar from the muscles and liver reaches the blood as an energy supplier, your fat metabolism is activated, your muscle tension increases. Nature intended this so that you are not eaten by a saber-toothed tiger every two days, but can flee.

Of course, all of these activated body functions do not contribute to making you tired. The opposite is the case. As long as the cortisol concentration in the blood outweighs the melatonin content, your body cannot prepare for the night . Your healthy sleep can only work if the hormone ratio is right for it and you come to rest. This is especially true for the different sleep sections during the night.

Because you go through different phases of sleep during sleep , in which your body and your brain regenerate and certain processes take place in the body. If you constantly go to bed late at night, disturb your sleep phases with poor nutrition , stress or artificial light sources before going to bed, then these phases can get out of rhythm.

For a good night’s sleep, it is important to put digital devices such as smartphones and laptops aside before going to bed.

At the beginning of your night is the falling asleep phase. Some people fall asleep within a few minutes. For others it can take up to 30 minutes. You can tell that your body is going from the “tired” stage to sleep when your muscles are twitching: your body relaxes.

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What do the sleep phases have to do with healthy sleep?

Your sleep is basically divided into two phases: the REM phase and the NREM phase . These abbreviations were chosen by researchers because the eyes of sleepers move very quickly in the dream phase: Rapid Eye Movement = REM. As a result, the NREM phase is exactly the opposite: Non Rapid Eye Movement.

Since you don’t always sleep deeply at night, the NREM phase is divided into four areas: two light sleep phases and two deep sleep phases . Each of the phases mentioned is important for your restful and healthy sleep. Depending on the phase of sleep, your body does certain work. Muscle tension changes, digestive activity changes, blood pressure changes too – it falls during deep sleep.

While your body cells are repaired by growth hormones during deep sleep, for example, light sleep is the transition phase to the individual REM phases of the night . They lie between each deep sleep phase and provide your brain with an opportunity to process the day’s events.

Researchers have found that long-term memory exchanges particularly strongly with other brain regions in the REM phases. It is believed that sleepers are therefore even more difficult to wake up in the REM phase than in deep sleep phases. The researcher’s declaration: By suppressing all external stimuli, information processing in the brain should run as undisturbed as possible. Each cycle with all sleep phases takes around 90 minutes.

Once all sleep phases and cycles have been passed through, your body prepares to wake up. Your body temperature rises, your stomach is supplied with more blood, you get hungry. The night is over. Incidentally, the cortisol level in your blood has risen as you wake up. The hormone now has the highest concentration for the entire day ahead.

How many hours of sleep do i need?

When it comes to “healthy sleep”, the question often arises of how many hours of sleep per night are healthy. The need for sleep differs from person to person. However, scientific studies have shown that seven to eight hours of sleep are most effective for body regeneration and body weight. Participants who slept less than six hours a night gained weight more, as did late risers who spent more than nine hours in bed.

There are several ways to determine your own sleep needs . It is generally assumed that you will feel more relaxed when you wake  up after a completed sleep cycle – and not be woken from deep sleep by the alarm clock.

There are so-called sleep calculators on the Internet . Here you enter when you go to bed and when you get up. The program takes into account the rhythm of the sleep phases and gives you the optimal length for your sleep. The US National Sleep Foundation , which was founded 30 years ago as a non-profit organization for the topic of healthy sleep , is also available for good sleep tips .

How do I know if I sleep too little?

In sleep , your body and mind relax and recharge your batteries for the day ahead. Toxins and pollutants are broken down, fat is burned, the sugar stores in your liver are emptied, your brain processes the impressions of the past day. If you do n’t get enough sleep , it will quickly have a major impact on you and your daily routine.

  • You can no longer concentrate. The reason for this is the messenger substance adenosine, which occurs more frequently when there is a lack of sleep and which blocks stimulating messenger substances such as dopamine or norepinephrine. Your heartbeat and blood pressure decrease. Your ability to react and concentrate decreases.
  • Your sensory perception is disturbed. This is triggered by a lack of hormones , which are no longer released in sufficient quantities by the brain when there is a lack of sleep. Joy, stress, smell, taste – you perceive all of this differently when you lack sleep.
  • Your insulin production is no longer correct. If you get enough sleep regularly, sugar in your blood can be used well by the liver. Your blood sugar level is constant, the pancreas produces insulin when needed and thus regulates the sugar content in your blood. According to various studies, lack of sleep can lead to insulin resistance. Your body cells absorb sugar more poorly. Your pancreas needs to produce more insulin – the precursor to type II diabetes.
  • Your immune system suffers when your body cannot regenerate while you sleep. A study from the University of California found that people who sleep six hours or less a night are four times more likely to catch cold than people who get enough sleep.
  • You burn less fat . During sleep, among other things, the brain produces the growth hormone somatropin. It boosts fat burning in your body cells.
Lack of sleep is not to be trifled with. Numerous psychological and physical complaints are associated with it.

You can also tell from various signs whether you are getting too little sleep at night or you should increase your sleep quota. Your body gives you the following reactions to clearly indicate that it is stressed and does not feel well:

  • You have a headache and when you wake up in the morning you feel like you have a “big head”.
  • You blow up quickly, are irritable and easily stressed.
  • Regardless of the time and place, you fall asleep immediately when you are quiet.
  • You absolutely need coffee or some other caffeinated drink in the morning to get started.
  • Your skin looks unhealthy and pale because the hormone levels aren’t right at night. You are also pale and have lines under your eyes .
  • You feel dizzy and have balance problems.
  • Your libido is decreasing . Sex becomes a minor matter.
  • You are constantly hungry and gain weight.
  • You are prone to colds , you feel weak.
  • You can no longer remember things that are obvious, you are looking for words in conversation.
  • You do not feel efficient , your self-confidence is in the basement, you look negatively at the world – with permanent lack of sleep this can develop into depression .
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Healthy sleep means that there are no sleep disorders  . These can be disturbances from the outside as well as from the inside – out of your body. Medicine differentiates between more than 80 different sleep disorders .

They are often triggered by psychological stress such as private worries or financial problems. There are also so-called sleep apneas, where the sleeper stops breathing for a short time due to physical causes . Other types of sleep disorders include recurring nightmares or phenomena such as sleepwalking.

20 tips for a better night’s sleep

Aside from biological or psychological reasons for lack of sleep, there are a few things you can do yourself to ensure that healthy sleep is part of your night. Your body reacts very sensitively to everything you give it – or not give it. This ranges from eating and drinking properly to exercise and relaxation exercises.

1. No eating before bed

What you eat and especially when you eat is important for a healthy sleep. You shouldn’t be eating too late. It is recommended that you have your last meal of the day three to four hours before bed . This clears the way in the body and blood for hormones like melatonin, which lull you to sleep.

2. Foods containing tryptophan

In order to be able to produce all the necessary substances for a healthy sleep, your body needs the right building blocks in sufficient quantities . Tryptophan, for example, is an amino acid that is important for the formation of sleep-inducing melatonin. However, your body cannot produce tryptophan itself. It is therefore good and important for your healthy sleep that you consume foods with tryptophan . This includes:

  • Dairy products
  • Sojaprodukte
  • Owner
  • nuts
  • Cherries
  • Avocados
  • fish and seafood
  • oatmeal
  • Bananas
  • meat
  • poultry
  • Beetroot
  • Dark chocolate

You may be familiar with the old home remedy of drinking warm milk with honey before going to bed. Researchers now assume that the drowsy effect is more due to the cozy warmth and the nocturnal ritual . The tryptophan content in a cup of milk is too low to act as an ecological sleeping pill in liquid form. Still, it can’t do any harm.

Warm milk with honey is a popular home remedy for falling asleep, although the levels of sleep-inducing ingredients are actually on the low side.

3. No greasy food

It would be important for your healthy sleep that you do not eat anything in the evening that is very fatty or heavy in the stomach . Your digestion really has to do with it and your body literally does not go to sleep. On the other hand, food with a lot of protein is good .

4. Beware of salad and raw vegetables

In the case of salad and raw vegetables, the experts are still arguing whether this food really simply stays there and ferments due to restricted nocturnal digestive activity. What is actually true is that salads and raw vegetables are high in fiber that is difficult to digest. If the intestinal activity slows down at night, the lettuce is also passed through even more slowly – which can lead to gas or bloating in different ways .

5. Moderate physical activity

It is scientifically proven that getting enough exercise is  very beneficial for a healthy sleep. Doctors especially recommend endurance sports such as jogging, swimming, walking or cycling . Anything that speeds up your pulse and releases hormones and messenger substances in the body is rather unfavorable for the quality of your sleep – for example, exciting sports such as squash, boxing or football.

6. Do not exercise late at night

You should make sure that you have enough time between your sport and bedtime. So your body can go down. If there is no time for exercise in the evening, you could also incorporate small exercise units into your everyday life in the morning or in the morning on the weekends. You’re not training for the Olympics. Even half an hour of exercise a day can help you sleep well.

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7. Regular bedtime

Sleep hygiene is an important keyword . This includes everything that will help you sleep well. This includes, for example, certain rituals that ring in your bedtime and regularly signal the body: Now it’s time to have a good night. A good approach is to go to bed around the same time each day.

8. Drinks as a ritual

The well-known warm milk with honey is also such a ritual. It could just as easily be an herbal tea that you drink in peace. Black or green tea before bed is counterproductive because of the stimulating ingredients.

9. Relaxed personal hygiene

Time in the bathroom with relaxed body care is also a good ritual. Instead of falling into bed with your toothbrush in your mouth right after watching TV, you give your body the chance to take it easy in the bathroom .

10. Book instead of screen

Then reading a few pages in your new favorite book in bed is also a nice ritual before going to sleep. What you should absolutely avoid is sitting in front of the TV as a late end of the day. The artificial light source is classified by your brain as daylight and that means: goodbye to sleep. This also applies to the smartphone on the sofa or in bed. This glowing screen also confuses your brain on the way into the night.

11. No alcohol

Alcohol as a bedtime treat in the evening – the famous nightcap – may make you sleepy, but it is bad for the quality of your sleep . Scientific studies have shown that alcohol makes the brain restless. Especially in the second half of the night, this leads to increased wakefulness and a dull body feeling in the morning.

12. No fruit juices in the evening

If you think of fruit juice at the same time, it is a healthy alternative to alcohol – but it is also not good for your sleep before going to bed . The fructose contained in juices and smoothies raises the sugar level in your blood and wakes you up. At best, you have the last colorful fruit drink in the afternoon .

13. No coffee

You have probably already thought that: Coffee also disturbs sleep if you are sensitive to caffeine .

14. The right mattress

At the end of the day, you’re lying in bed and looking forward to sleep and the night. If it weren’t for the mattress that presses you somehow, is too hard or wobbles like a jelly with every turn. This list shows that there is no such thing as a single mattress. Everyone has different needs when lying down and sleeping – depending on height, weight, spine shape, pain from previous stress and much more.

It therefore makes sense to seek advice on buying the right mattress from a specialist shop. Here, attention is not only paid to physical sensitivities, but also to the matching slatted frame under the mattress. Only together with this cushioning does the mattress form the personally suitable base for your healthy and restful sleep.

15. The right duvet

Incidentally, this also applies to the duvet . Depending on how much body heat you develop at night, the type and thickness of the blanket should be. If you sleep too warm, your heart beats too fast. Your body cannot shut down and recover. Therefore, it makes sense that you buy two different blankets for summer and winter . You don’t wear a thick coat in summer or just a T-shirt in winter.

16. The right pillow

Make sure that the pillow also fits your body requirements. Your pillow should fit your shoulder width and provide adequate support for your neck spine and head.

17. The correct room temperature

Pay attention to the room temperature. Between 16 and 18 degrees Celsius is ideal.

18. Fresh air

Ventilate your bedroom well before you go to bed. Healthy sleep also depends on oxygen .

19. No distractions in the bedroom

Your bedroom should be your bedroom. A workplace in the corner or a TV on the wall will bring the stress of everyday life into your bedroom.

20. The right alarm clock

There are sleep phase alarm clocks . For example, they are based on your movement in bed using a bracelet. This is to avoid your alarm clock pulling you out of a deep sleep phase. You have to try for yourself whether this is right for you.

The positive effects of healthy sleep

In summary, healthy sleep is important for you because you relax at night and thus start the day better. Your body regenerates, your brain processes the impressions of the past day. Healthy sleep makes you more productive because you can concentrate better.

You prevent diseases such as diabetes II or cardiovascular damage because you live in a natural day-night rhythm and you support your body in losing fat . In addition, you are less stressed and irritated – which is not only good for you, but also for those around you. And you do all of this casually – in your sleep!

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