In today’s fast-paced world, the idea of a good night’s sleep seems to have fallen down our list of priorities. But adequate rest plays an absolutely essential role in our physical and mental wellbeing. Health experts warn us that we can’t function to the best of our abilities without sleep – and we should be doing everything we can to make sure we ‘get a good night,’ every night!
Why do we need sleep? Scientists have many theories on why humans need to sleep. (In fact, many health resources explain that reasons for sleep are only partially clear and the subject of ongoing research). What we do know, however, is that humans must sleep and many essential things happen to us while we’re doing it:
- The brain has a chance to exercise important neuronal connections that might otherwise deteriorate due to lack of activity.
- Sleep gives the brain an opportunity to re-organize information to help find solutions to problems; process newly learned information; and ‘organize’ memories.
- Sleeping is a time for genuine rest. While we’re asleep, our metabolic rate and energy consumption is lowered.
- The cardiovascular system also gets a break during sleep. Researchers have found that people with normal or high blood pressure experience a 20% to 30% reduction in blood pressure and 10% to 20% reduction in heart rate.
- During sleep, the body has a chance to replace chemicals, and repair muscles and other body tissues and aging cells.
- Growth hormones are also released during deep sleep. But the most obvious reason why we need sleep is to consider what happens when we don’t get it. We’ve all experienced the moodiness, reduced alertness and concentration, reduced work efficiency, lack of motivation, poor memory etc, associated with a bad night’s sleep. The more serious consequences are accidents as a result of fatigue (falling asleep while driving, for example); depression; an inability to learn and process information at an effective level; health consequences as a result of weight gain; reduced skin health; and forgetfulness. Some studies also show that patients who suffer from a lack of sleep appear to have a significantly higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
- Stick to the same bedtime and waking times, even on the weekends. This habit regulates your body’s biological clock and helps you fall asleep and stay asleep, every night.
- Practice a relaxing ‘bedtime ritual’ before sleep time. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that cause excitement, stress or anxiety which make it difficult to fall asleep.
- Exercise daily. Even light exercise is better than no activity. But avoid exercising at the expense of your sleep, of course!
- Re-evaluate where you sleep. Experts recommend that the room where you sleep should be coolish (around 20 degrees Celsius); free from any disturbing noises; and free from any light.
- Sleep on a comfortable, good quality mattress, and use a pillow that is comfortable and supportive.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine and heavy meals in the evening. Some wellness experts even say we should avoid eating for up to 2 to 3 hours before sleeping.
- Your body needs time to shift into sleeping mode. Before going to bed, spend some time doing a calming activity like reading, drawing, or some light breathing exercises or meditation.
- Using an electronic device such as a laptop or Smartphone can make it hard to fall asleep because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
Longitude: 23° 11’ 28.2” N Latitude: 57° 23’ 15.6” E
Balad Sayt is a mountain village located just over 200 kilometers west of Muscat, approximately on the border between the A’Dakhiliyah and A’Batinah Governorates.
The village is an exquisite example of what ‘Old Oman’ was like – a trip here feels like a trip back in time to an era where you might never want to return from!
The village is located on the slopes of the Hajar Mountains near the highest peak in the Sultanate of Oman, Jebel Shams.
The town of Rustaq is located just less than 60 kilometres away (about an hour’s drive) from Balad Sayt, and is a good place to stock up with supplies for the day, or for a camping trip.
Due to the relatively high altitude, Balad Sayt enjoys moderate daytime temperatures – even during the peak summer months.
The village is surrounded by the awe-inspiring peaks and valleys of the Jebel Shams mountain range. A camera is essential!
There are some spectacular natural camping sites next to the few kilometers of road that ascend towards the village. Campers need to bring all amenities and supplies with them – including lots of water.
Many of the village buildings are constructed in the vernacular style – they have been built the same way for hundreds of years using locally sourced clay, mud, stone and date palm fronds.
The village itself is next to the local people’s date palm plantations and agricultural terraces. The final approach to the village involves a steep climb, followed by an exhilarating descent into the mountain and valley oasis.
Due to its inaccessibility and out-of-the-way location, Balad Sayt’s natural and cultural beauty is unspoiled. Balad Sayt is accessible only via rugged mountainous roads, so a four-wheel drive vehicle is highly recommended.
There are many sinkholes in Oman, but Bimmah is the most impressive. Since it is only an hour’s drive from Muscat, it is also one of Oman’s most popular tourist sites. It is well worth a visit.
Longitude: 23° 03’ 44.8” N Latitude: 59° 07’ 19.41” E
Bimmah Sinkhole has been attracting travelers and locals to its crystal clear waters for a long time. A walk down the stairs to the water’s edge – and even a swim in the Bimmah’s refreshing waters –is something too enticing to miss.
Bimmah Sinkhole was formed by the collapse of a large underground cave, due to natural erosion. Remnants of the cave can be seen at the base of the hole. Access to the sinkhole is free, and there are picnic and toilet facilities available.
After a site-seeing trip to Bimmah, travelers often continue their drive through to the coastal town of Sur, which is the traditional home of dhow building in Oman.
Tiny fish can be found in the pool and sometimes, they gently nibble on your toes. The sinkhole is approximately 60 meters by 80 meters wide, and about 25 meters down to the sinkhole is located the water level.
In Hawiyat Najm Park, which is about an hour’s drive south-east of Muscat, and just off the Muscat-Sur road. Bimmah sinkhole is only about 600 meters away from the Sea of Oman shoreline.
A park and viewing platform have been built around the sinkhole – as well as a stairway that leads down to the water’s edge. The natural lighting conditions at the sinkhole and the iridescent blue-green color of the water make for wonderful photographs.
The sinkhole contains salt water that is crystal clear – with underwater visibility up to 20 meters at certain times.
The Jewel in the crown of undersea Oman
Oman and its people have a long and rich history with the sea. For thousands of years, Omani merchants and sailors have journeyed into the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean in search of trade and adventure. In modern times, Oman has become well known for its spectacular diving potential. The jewel in the crown of Oman diving is the Daymaniyat and Sawadi Island chain, which is located about 75 kilometers east of Muscat, beginning just off the coastline at Barka. While the Sawadi Islands are always worth seeing, the nine main islands that make up the Daymaniyat Islands Nature Reserve, which are further out to see, are the most impressive. From Nabucco´s Al Sawadi Beach Resort to the uninhabited island group, it is just a 45 minute trip with the Extra Divers Worldwide dive boat. (The Extra Divers Al Sawadi centre forms the closest base from which to dive the Daymaniyats).
The islands begin about 18 kilometers out sea, and are clustered together in three groups – often referred to as the Western, Central and Eastern (including the Southeastern islands) sections. There are between 20 and 30 dive sites scattered around the area – all of which are accessed via boat. However, the nature of the undersea terrain means that at almost any point, there is a fascinating array of marine life to experience, and underwater features like caves, drop-offs, huge boulders and underwater swimthroughs to explore.
During the trip out to the islands, dolphins are also often encountered. Coral reefs with dozens of hard and soft coral species cover up to 70% of the dive sites. The marine life is prolific and there are all kinds of colorful reef fish and large pelagic fish in abundance. Various types of sharks and rays, and numerous other large and small marine creatures (including the much-loved seahorses) are all part of the experience.
Whale Sharks are also frequent visitors here during the summer months – from around July to September. ‘There is not much in the world that can compare to an encounter with a whale shark,’ says Gerrit Schneider, from Extra Divers Worldwide. Turtles are common too, with many returning during the summer months to lay their eggs on the island’s white, sandy beaches If you aren’t a qualified scuba diver, you’ll still be able to experience the marine life and sea creatures by snorkeling. Typically, you’ll join a boat of divers heading out to the islands, and while they’re busy underwater, you’ll be able to explore the shallower patches of coral reef in the area. Under the water, or at the surface, the Daymaniyats are not to be missed!