We do it every night, hopefully, and over the course of our life we will spend approximately a third of our life doing it, sleep. But what is it? Doctors and scientists are really just beginning to understand all the important ways that sleep affects our health and well-being, and all of the reasons we do it.
Here’s what Wikipedia says about sleep, Sleep is a natural recurring state of mind and body, characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, and reduced intereaction with surrounding. For more information on sleeping from Wikipedia, read here.
That means not getting enough sleep or good quality sleep will damage many systems of the body and over time can contribute to risk of chronic disease and health problems, but the most immediate consequences of not sleeping that you’ll notice are those that affect your mind and thinking.
Restoring Your Brain
We intuitively know we need sleep, as we need nourishment. When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you’ll likely feel tired, you won’t quite be able to think as clearly as usual, and you might be moody and irritable. That’s because one of the key functions of sleep is to restore the brain.
Sleep is something the brain needs. Our brains run on electricity, which means the chemical energy the brain uses to function has waste products, called metabolites, that need to get cleaned out. That’s what happens during sleep, The brain flushes out those waste chemical products and replenishes the energy the brain uses throughout the day.
You likely won’t be measuring the ATP chemical levels of your brain on a daily basis, but they do affect our functioning in big ways. If you don’t get a good night’s sleep and those chemical process don’t happen, the next day you’ll likely notice the following:
- You will experience problems concentrating and recalling things.
- You’ll become more moody, emotional, and irritable, and less patient.
- Your judgment may be off, become less decisive, or make rash decisions.
- Your hand-eye coordination will not be in balance
There’s also emerging evidence that over time, consistently not getting enough sleep could be linked to the buildup of certain harmful proteins in the brain, that are linked to problems like Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological problems.
Restoring the Body
The other functions of your body don’t function quite right either when they are deprived of healthy rest. Immediately after getting a poor night sleep, you may notice you’re hungrier and crave food, and also in this condition, you become more suceptable to illiness such as the flu. Research has shown that sleep deprivation tends to lower your immune function. Over time, chronically not sleeping well has been associated with the higher risk of more serious problems like obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, mood, anxiety, and depression disorders, lower immune function, and premature death.
During sleep the brain cycles, repeatedly, through different progressions of sleep:
Progression One Non-REM Rapid Eye Movement Sleep. The first stage is when you’re actually falling asleep. Your heartbeat, breathing, and eye movement start to slow down and your muscles relax. Your brain waves are also slowing down and it’s still very easy to be awoken during this preliminary stage of sleep.
Progression Two Non-REM Sleep The second stage is when heart rates drops and body temperature lowers even more. Eye movement stops completely and brain activity slows to very little activity, other than brief bursts of activity.
Progression Three Non-REM Sleep Next comes deep sleep. This is the stage of sleep that is heavy and restorative. Your heartbeat and breathing slow down the greatest during this stage of sleep and it is most difficult to be woken up.
REM Sleep Finally comes REM sleep, when your eyes begin to dart quickly back and forth from side to side, even though your eyelids are still closed. Brain activity excellerates, closer to the extinct of activity that happens when you’re awake. This is the stage of sleep when most of your dreaming occurs. Your breathing gets quicker and irregular during REM sleep. Heart rate and blood pressure start to go back up nearer to the awake-function speed, though the muscles of your arms and legs become temporarily paralyzed during REM sleep. Sleep experts suspect this paralysis is a mechanism our bodies developed to help protect us from injury or other harm, that might otherwise ensue, if we were able to physically act-out our dreams.
Each cycle of sleep, consisting of all the progressions, usually takes about ninety minutes. And most people tend to spend more time during each cycle in deeper sleep earlier in the night, and more time in REM sleep later on. Each stage of sleep is important and both deep sleep and REM sleep play, critical functions in terms of the learning and memory consolidation processes that happen during sleep. Remember, the consolidation process involves your brain improving on, and reinforcing, new learned activity previously when you were awake.
Why and When You Sleep
Two internal systems control when you sleep and when you’re awake. First there’s the sleep-wake homeostatic drive. The longer you’re awake, the more our bodies crave sleep, and the longer you’re asleep, the more your body wants to wake up. The homeostatic sleep drive affects how deeply you sleep, too. For instance, if you were to stay awake for 24 or 36 hours instead of the typical amount of time you spend awake during a day, such as 16 or 17 hours, sleep-wake homeostasis is the mechanism that drives you to sleep longer and deeper.
Then there’s your circadian rhythm, your body’s biological clock, which is what helps sync our body functions with environmental cues. These internal clocks are what drives you to feel sleepy at night and more awake in the morning, even, for instance, if you slept poorly the previous night, or even pulled an all-nighter. These internal clocks are regulated by hormones, such as the stress hormone cortisol, and the sleep hormone melatonin, which get secreted by the brain which transfer these wake and sleep signals to the body.
These are two complementary systems in the brain. And when there’s a discrepancy between the homeostatic drive to sleep and the signal to sleep that comes from the circadian system, problems like jet lag and other disordered sleep occurs.
This is why people who wake up at different times every day may feel more tired. The brain doesn’t know how to predict when those should be awake. It’s like being constantly jet-lagged.
The more sleep researchers learn about these two systems that control sleep, the more it is clear why not only getting enough hours of sleep, but also having good sleep habits, such as going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, is important.
How Much Sleep
How much sleep you actually need each night varies somewhat for each of us depending on our age For example, younger people typically need more sleep than adults. Or, because of genetic makeup, some people are naturally shorter sleepers than others. But typically the sleep target for adults is between seven and nine hours each night, according to guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).
The NSFrecommendation, along with additional recommended sleep times for younger children, adolescents, and older adults, is based on the amount of sleep associated with the best health outcomes in a number of areas, including things like mood, learning, accidents, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and pain.
What’s important to understand, is to be not to overly concerned about getting a specific number of hours of sleep each night. The main issue of concern, is waking up refreshed. You should never wake up tired. If you do wake up feeling tired, something is out of balance
Waking up sleepy could be an indicator that the quality of your sleep is poor. Maybe you’re spending too much time in light sleep, and not getting enough restorative deep sleep, for example. If that’s the case, it might be a good idea to ask your doctor about getting checked for a sleep disorder, or see a sleep medicine specialist.
There’s no one foolproof formula for getting a good night’s sleep, but there are several steps you can take that have been associated with better sleep overall, if you’re struggling getting the recommended number of hours of sleep you know you need, or if you wake up feeling less rested than you want to be.
Try the following suggestion that will assist you to improve your sleep quality:
Commit to a consistent sleep-wake routine. Aim to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time in the morning, including on the weekends, and try not to vary it more than an hour or so. The times that you regularly go to bed and wake up are the signals you give your body’s natural clock, and when they’re consistent, that clock helps you wake up and fall asleep. If those signals are to inconsistent, your body clock gets thrown off and you experience the same drowsiness associated with jet lag. You also may struggle to fall asleep at night or wake up when your alarm rings.
Watch caffeine intake. Be especially careful with using caffeinated-drinks later in the afternoon. It’s a good idea to avoid caffeine within six hours of when you want to sleep.
Exercise Moderately. Research shows regular physical activity, thirty minutes a day five days a week, is associated with better, restful sleep, though, it’s worth noting, you should try to avoid intense exercise close to bedtime, as it might make it harder to fall asleep. Physical activity sends signals to your body that tend to wake you up, by increasing your heart rate and increasing your body temperature. For a in depth discussion on physical activity and the benefits it provides for healthy sleep, read this article, “What Is Exercise About“.
Avoid bright lights and bright screens. This is the time to unwind and relax your mind. An hour or so before your bedtime avoid excessive use of technical equipment. Blue light the kind that comes from fluorescent bulbs, LEDs, and computer and cellphone screens, has been shown to actually send the same signals to the brain as sunlight, and block production of the hormone melatonin that tells the brain to go to sleep.
Stay up or get up. This means at night if you’re having trouble falling asleep for twenty minutes or longer, get out of bed and do something to make you tired, such as reading or some gentle stretching. Staying in bed makes your body associated in-bed time as awake time, and it will actually be harder to fall asleep.
In the morning, when you wake up, get up. It can be tempting to wake up slowly, or hit the snooze button, but that drowsy sleep, after you’ve initially woken up, is fragmented, light sleep. If you did get a poor night’s sleep, your best remedy is getting up, going about your day, and hitting your pillow at bedtime that evening, at which point your sleep drive will be strong and you’re more likely to actually reap the benefit of the deep restorative sleep you need.
There are a few proven sleep aids which will assist you in getting quality restful sleep, and they don’t involve using prescription drugs and their harmful side affects. Here are three which have very good reviews:
David Delight Pro Device. Improves meditation, relaxation, restful sleep, and sleep clarity.
Transquil Weighted-Gravity Blanket. Brings a sense of warmth and calmness to the body, reducing nervousness, and body tension.
Muse. Muse is a brain-sensing headband, bringing relaxation, meditation, restful sleep, and sleep clarity.
For more information on these specific sleep aids, read this review, “You Can Be Healthy“.
Eat well-balanced nutritious foods.
One very effective strategy you can promote, in getting healthy, sufficient, quality sleep, is eating fresh, certified organic, non-GMO, nutritious foods regularly, such as lean grass-fed beef, lean free-range pork and poultry, cold-water fish and seafood, and fruits and veggies. In addition, there are specific foods that have been shown to promote healthy, restful, and restorative sleep. Here are some examples:
Almonds. Almonds are an excellent source of melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone. These nuts are also high in magnesium, which reduce inflammation and pain, and reduces the production of harmful cortisol, promoting restful sleep.
Turkey. Turkey contains the amino acid typtophan, which increases the production of melotonin, like almonds. It also is high in protein which promotes tiredness.
Chamomile Tea. This tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds certain brain receptors that promote sleep and reduce insomnia. It is also an anti-depressant, or has anti-depressant quality, promoting better sleep.
Kiwi. Kiwi contain seratonin, which helps regulate sleep, and it’s antioxidants qualities, also reduce cell damage, inflammation, which reduces aches and pain, resulting in better quality sleep.
Tart Cherry Juice. Just like Kiwi, this juice contains seratonin and antioxidants.
Fatty Fish. Salmon, tuna, trout, and macherel, and other oily fish, contain omega-3 fatty acids, plus high in vitamin D, which increases the production of seratonin.
Walnuts. Contains omega-3 fatty acids that convert to DHA, which increasing the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin.
Passion Flower Tea. Contains the antioxidant apigenin, which produces a calming effect by binding certain receptors in the brain. It also increases the production of gaba, a brain chemical which inhibits other brain chemicals that induce stress such as glutamate.
White Rice. White rice is high in carbs and low in fiber, which contributes to its high glycemic index,which promotes better quality sleep.
Milk. Milk primary sleep aid is the amino acid tryptophan, which increases the production melotonin.
Bananas. Bananas, like milk, contain trytophan, and is high in potassium which reduces inflammation, which produces pain.
For more in depth information on fresh, certified organic, non-GMO, well-balanced, nutritious foods, and where to purchase them, read this review “What Is In Maca Root?”
Supplement With Adaptogen Peruvian Maca
Instead of providing hormones to your body, as an adaptogen, Peruvian Maca naturally responds to different bodily requirements individually, regulating them. If you are producing too much of a particular hormone, it will help regulate the production downward, or, if you are producing too little of a particular hormone, it will the production upwards, bringing hormonal balance and homeostasis.
Peruvian Maca can improve symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and disrupted sleep at night. P Maca also stimulates estradiol and suppresses the production of chemicals, like the stress hormone, cortisol, which interrupts sleep cycles.
For more in depth information on this incredible, healing adaptogen and where to purchase it, read the following reviews:
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