Why is sleep important?
Sleep is so important in so many different parts of our life. Sleep is essential for healthy brain function and general regulation of wellbeing throughout the body, sleep allows your brain to work at full capacity helping you to retain and store information quicker, allowing you to think clearer and increase creative thought processes. Sleep plays the crucial role of giving our bodies the time to repair our DNA, replace cells and our tissue. Sleep is another critical part of the wellness puzzle, if you are doing everything else right – leaving out sleep will disrupt your efforts.
The harmful effects of sleep deprivation
Losing sleep and skimping on sleep can result in the following:
Weight gain: Lack of sleep promotes unhealthy eating behaviours and increases the craving for sugar foods. You feel tired so grabbing a coffee or a red bull for a short energy boost does not do wonders for your waistline.
Depression: Depression is caused by the body’s circadian rhythm being thrown off due to irregular sleep patterns. This causes decreased melatonin and serotonin production, the chemicals which control our sleep patterns and moods, lacking in any of these critical chemicals leads to depression.
Increased aging: sleep deprivation speeds up the aging process as the body has a shorter period of time to regenerate and heal itself.
Increased risk of death: Leads to other serious health problems: Such as heart disease, heart attacks, strokes high blood pressure and diabetes.
Inability to learn and brain fog: Trouble focusing and absorbing information. In severe cases this leads to confusion among other things.
Increased susceptibility to cold and flu: The immune system is compromised without adequate sleep to regenerate and rebuild immunity to common diseases.
How much sleep do we need? Most of us require AT LEAST 8 hours of restful, deep sleep every night. The case rings true for everyone – there is no indifference between humans when it comes to sleep. Athletes to stay at home moms function better on a restful night’s sleep. For children and teens the times will be longer as their bodies go through a constant renewal process and require a longer timeframe to recuperate. To ensure that you get a good sleep keep reading.
When is the best time to sleep? The rule of thumb on when to sleep is simple: sleep before 11 pm. If you can get some shut eye even earlier than 11 pm, that’s even better. You would want to aim for 8-9 hours of sleep for maximum benefits and at a minimum of around 7 hours every night. This has been proven to be the optimal range of time to take advantage of the deepest most regenerative sleep possible.
What are the factors that disrupt our sleep? Stress and anxiety, wether is be worrying incessant thinking Lack of exercise Working shift jobs Excessive light Sleep apnea – which is a breathing condition when sleeping, often results in waking up suddenly.
The 5 stages of sleep
Every 90 minutes or so we pass through 5 distinct sleep stages. The first four stages are known as non REM sleep and the fifth stage is known solely as REM sleep – which is short for Rapid Eye Movement sleep.
Stage 1: This stage usually lasts around 1-7 minutes and it is the transition point between being awake to being asleep. Stages 2-3 are considered as intermediary stages where your mind and body start to unwind, slowing down and relaxing to prepare for deeper stages of sleep to come. This is where the brain slows down its functions, resulting in theta brain waves.
Stages 2: This stage lasts for around 20 minutes. During this period the brain produces sleep spindles which are also known as rapid brain rhythmic brain wave activity. This stage decreases your body temperature and slows down your heart rate slowly setting your body up for sleep.
Stage 3: Is the transitional period between light sleep and deep sleep where delta brain waves occur
Stage 4: Also incorporates slow delta waves and lasts for approximately 30 minutes.
Stage 5 REM sleep: Most of your dreams occur in this stage where brain activity increases and voluntary muscles become paralysed. Usually REM sleep takes around 90 minutes to enter into REM sleep. This is usually the last stage of sleep before you wake up.
Sleep and Disruption Now this is sometimes unavoidable and can often cause your quality of sleep to be poorer, but being disrupted while sleeping is quite common and most of us have been woken up, and trying to get back to sleep again sometimes seems impossible.
Some sleep disruptions that occur are:
Bad dreams and nightmares: where dreams are so vivid and intense that it wakes you up
Sleep apnea: Which are the temporary pauses of breathing that occurs throughout the night, which can wake you up. In most cases people suffering from sleep apnea usually have a host of problems that are present. People who suffer from this condition are usually over weight. If you suffer from sleep apnea, or know someone with sleep apnea feel free to check out this sleep apnea exercise program.
How to get a restful deep sleep
Getting a deep sleep involves engaging in REM sleep which is the deepest level of sleep. Reaching REM sleep allows maximum benefits to repairing cells and promoting mental function.
Sleep in a dark room: When your light is turned off and you are laying in bed you should not be able to see your hand in front of you. The darker the room ensures that your melatonin levels are functioning optimally, allowing even a little bit of light in your room disrupts the production of melatonin. Melatonin production and levels have been linked to the prevention of cancer.
Eating the right diet: Eating well involves eating the right kind of foods that do not cause any disruption to your sleep. For example avoiding soft drinks, coffee or high sugar foods before bedtime (not that I am condoning consuming these “foods” in the first place!).
Get plenty of exercise: Exercising counter acts stress and anxiety. As anxiety plays a prominent role in creating insomnia.
Turning off all electronic devices in your room: Electronic devices often omit different lights and can often be bright when your room is pitch black. Not only this, electrical devices send out electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) into the atmosphere. EMF’s have been known to disrupt circadian rhythms and brain waves, which often leads to disrupted sleeping patterns.
Sleeping at the right time: Natural circadian rhythms dictate when your body requires sleep and when the body’s cells and organs to begin their repairing process. Try and aim to sleep around at 9-11 pm every night so that you can allow your body to rest at the most optimal time so that you can benefit from the body’s natural re-generating abilities. For every hour of sleep you receive before midnight equates to two hours of lost sleep after midnight. If you constantly have issues sleeping and you find yourself worrying or thinking incessantly, try meditation. Meditation allows your mind to quiet itself for quality un-interrupted sleep, practice at least 20 minutes of meditation before bed.
Only use your bed for sleep and sex: This includes no reading or television. Your aim here is to set up the best environment physically and mentally to prepare yourself for a deep sleep. Creating a ritual before bed is extremely helpful. Rituals include gratitude journaling, affirmations, meditation and visualization. Decrease anxiety and worry by writing down all your problems on paper – if you have a busy day the following day, write out an attack plan on what you will have to get done that day. This will make sure that your mind is at ease before you go to bed.
Don’t drink alcohol before bed: Alcohol will make you sleepy and you might get to bed but this is short lasting. Consuming alcohol just before bed will leave you with lower quality and restless sleep.
Wear an eye mask for better sleep: eye masks are a great way to block out any form of light that is in the room when you are getting ready for bed. This allows for a deeper more uninterrupted deep sleep. For more remedies and diet recommendations check out our post on sleep problems. Your body requires time to repair and regenerate and it is important to get a good night’s sleep every day. So please get as much as 7-9 hours of sleep a night, this will ensure that you have set yourself up for a great day up ahead.
How have you had great sleep? And what has worked for you in the past?
Let us know below =)
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