Have a think about how much sleep, you or your student got last night. Was it restful? Did you sleep more or less than 8 hours? How did you wake up feeling this morning?

Matthew Walker, a professor of Neuroscience and Psychology as well as author of the amazing book, Why We Sleep, states “The shorter you sleep, the shorter your life span.” Wow. Big statement! This video is a short (15 second) clip from Matthew Walker talking about sleep.

Obviously, there are times in our lives where we have to get a shorter amount of sleep. As babies, our sleep cycles were about 20 – 50 minutes. Therefore, as parents, you too will have to adapt to the short sleep cycle of 20 – 50 minutes while you are caring for your baby.

You may be familiar with REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep) already. REM sleep for adults repeats in 90 minute sleep cycles. The duration of REM sleep increases the longer you sleep with the longest period of REM sleep occurring just before you wake up. This is important information to know as your REM sleep has significant impacts on your mental and physical health:

– REM sleep is the only time when our brain is completely void of the anxiety triggering molecule “noradrenaline”. During this time your brain is free of stress so can sort through and re-process memories in a safe and calm environment.

– REM sleep dreaming takes out the painful sting of difficult, traumatic, and emotional episodes experienced throughout the day, offering emotional resolution when you wake up.

– REM sleep can provide a safe space to explore and process complex emotions, facilitating emotional regulation and potentially offering relief.

When we look at the physical health benefits alone, adequate sleep can improve skin health making your skin more youthful and radiant in appearance, lower cancer risk, improve muscle health, improve digestion and metabolism, reduce risk of diabetes and other metabolic disorders and so much more!

For your student, and for yourself, sleep dramatically improves our cognitive function, ability to regulate our emotions as well as our memory and retention. This video is a quick reminder of why sleep is so important both before and after learning new information.

So, what can we do to improve our sleep? Sleep hygiene refers to healthy habits, behaviours and environmental factors that can be adjusted to encourage a good night’s sleep. According to Matthew Walker there are 12 tips to better sleep:

1. Stick to a schedule.

2. Don’t exercise too late in the day (no later than 2-3 hours before bed).

3. Avoid caffeine & nicotine.

4. Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed.

5. Avoid large meals and beverages late at night.

6. Avoid medicines that disrupt your sleep (where you can).

7. Don’t nap after 3pm.

8. Make sure to leave time to relax before bed.

9. Take a hot bath before bed.

10. Have a dark, cool (in temperature), gadget free bedroom.

11. Get the right sunlight exposure.

12. Don’t stay in bed if you (really) can’t sleep.