Why Sleep Is Important & 5 Tips For Better Sleep
Jessica Leslie | | 0 comments
Sleep is some of the best medicine there is. Your body has incredible healing capabilities that are at their peak during sleep. Sleep is designed as a time to repair and recharge the mind and body, without it, our sense of wellness and overall function is severely compromised.
Why Is Sleep Important?
Experts have identified several distinct stages of sleep, each serving a different role:
Stage Zero, Awake: This stage accounts for the time when you first attempt to start falling asleep and is, on average, 2-5% of the average sleep cycle. This percentage also accounts for brief periods of awakening during the night.
Stages 1, Light Sleep: Stage one accounts for approximately 10% of the average sleep cycle and is characterized by decreased heart rate, slowed breathing, drop in body temperature, and muscles may relax and jerk. It is typically easier to wake up during light sleep and return to normal function. The brain is still fairly active in this stage, producing slow brain waves that occur mostly in the frontal lobe.
Stage 2, Light Sleep: Stage two is similar to stage one but you become less aware of your surroundings and the brain also produces rapid, rhythmic waves of activity, which are called sleep spindles. It is believed that this is the consolidating, processing, and filtering of memories acquired from the day.
This stage accounts for nearly 50% of the average sleep cycle.
Stages 3, Deep Sleep: Stage three accounts for approximately 13-23% of the average sleep cycle. As you fall deeper into sleep, blood pressure drops and the body goes into repair mode, meaning growth hormone is released, tissue is repaired, and blood flow to muscles increases. The brain is characterized by long, slow brain waves and it becomes more difficult to wake up in these stages, leaving you feeling groggy.
However, research suggests that the stage of deep sleep is essential in helping you feel revitalized the next day, a lack of stages three and four will leave you feeling tired, impairing cognitive and physical function.
Stage 4, REM Sleep: Stage five accounts for 20-25% of the average sleep cycle. REM Sleep stands for “rapid eye movement” and is the stage in which your mind is recharged and re-energized. The previous stages are considered NREM stages (non-rapid-eye-movement stages).
REM sleep is characterized by increased heart rate, increased respiration, a lack of temperature regulation, spikes in brain activity, vivid dreams, immobility, and is associated with benefits for learning and memory.
REM sleep begins approximately 70-90 minutes after falling asleep.
An average sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. Ideally, you need about four to six cycles of sleep every 24 hours to feel refreshed and rested.
One of the main reasons sleep is a necessity for optimal health is it plays a vital role in our hormonal function. Because hormones are messengers in nearly every bodily system, disruptions in sleep can lead to suboptimal brain health, thyroid health, heart health, and more.
Neuroscientist and author of Why We Sleep: The Power of the Mind and Dreams, Dr. Matthew Walker stated that, “Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer.”
However, over 70% of adults in America report that they do not get enough sleep on a regular basis. In fact, over 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems.
Below are our tips for naturally improving your sleep quality and enhancing your overall feeling of wellness:
Your Sleep Routine Starts When You Wake Up
As Next Health’s CEO and co-founder, Dr. Darshan Shah says “Your sleep routine starts when you wake up.”
Sleep thrives with consistency. Pick a bedtime and a wakeup time to support a regular, healthy circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is the principal driver of your sleep routine. It is defined as your body’s internal clock, a 24-hour cycle that maintains the balance between sleep and wakefulness.
The circadian rhythm is greatly influenced by light exposure. When your brain is exposed to light, it sends signals associated with being awake. When light exposure decreases, the brain promotes relaxation and sleep. In fact, research shows that a well-synchronized circadian rhythm can contribute not only to healthy sleep but also to numerous other aspects of health.
This is why it is not only important to sleep in a dark room, but also to expose yourself to light as soon as you wake up (sunlight is preferable).
Remember that humans are creatures of habit and the more regular your sleep and wake hours become, the easier it will be to fall asleep once your head hits the pillow.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is a concept that was developed in the 1970s to assess the sleeping habits of those with mild to moderate insomnia.
In essence, sleep hygiene is the habits you have developed around sleep. To practice good sleep hygiene, consider the following:
- Avoid electronics: Blue light, which electronic devices like smartphones and computers emit in large amounts, is proven to disrupt sleep. Avoiding electronics at least one hour, preferably two, before bed will help maintain your circadian rhythm. If you have to use electronic devices before bed, wear blue light glasses to minimize blue light exposure.
- Control the noise in your room: Limit your exposure to loud or distracting noises that can keep you awake. If you live on a busy street, try a white noise machine to drown out any sporadic background noise.
- Keep your bedroom cool: The temperature of your bedroom directly affects your sleep quality. In fact, one study showed it can be more impactful than noise exposure. Sleep psychologist Michelle Drerup, PsyD, says to keep your bedroom at 60 to 67° F (15 to 19° C) for optimal sleep.
In short, think of your bedroom as a cave: cool, dark, and quiet to support a restful night’s sleep.
Consider Your Exercise Routine And Diet
As our society has developed with technological advancements, we have evolved away from our hunter and gatherer cultures where people would spend hours a day in motion.
Today, the average person spends more than half their day sitting and the typical office worker spends 15 hours a day sitting.
Many of us may struggle to get quality sleep simply because we need to be active beings. One study found that regular exercise nearly halved the amount of time it took older adults to go to sleep and provided, on average, 41 minutes more sleep per night.
Another lifestyle factor that can drastically affect your sleep is diet. If you struggle with falling asleep, it is essential to avoid coffee starting in the afternoon. Research suggests that coffee up to six hours before bedtime can negatively influence sleep quality.
It is also beneficial to avoid eating late (after 8 pm) and avoid drinking alcohol at night as it negatively affects the hormonal cycles involved with sleep. Specifically, alcohol is known to alter the production of melatonin, the “sleep hormone,” and disrupt sleep patterns.
Sleep is your chance to recover from your day’s work, restore your body, and prepare to take on the challenges of tomorrow.
Because a lack of sleep can quickly compromise your sense of wellness, it is essential to promote restful, quality sleep for your health optimization journey.
Supplementation with pharmaceutical-grade supplements is a great and effective way to fall asleep faster and sleep longer. Here are our top supplements for sleep:
Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogenic herb that has been used for centuries to address a variety of health issues including sleep. The leaves of Ashwagandha contain trimethylene glycol, which can promote sleep induction naturally.
L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that acts as a serotonin precursor. As a result, it can help support emotional well-being and restful sleep. Additionally, L-Tryptophan contains relaxing properties and helps minimize unwanted cravings.
Soothing Sleep is a natural, potent blend of herbs such as Valerian root, Silk tree flower, Passionflower, Chamomile flower, and more. This powerful supplement is formulated to help those who have trouble with waking up in the middle of the night and sleep problems in general.
One of the most effective solutions for chronic sleep problems is a Sleep Study. This advanced testing is the first step in diagnosing and treating sleep problems.
Sleep studies generally take place in a sleep lab during your normal sleeping hours. The purpose of a Sleep Study is to record your brain and bodily activity during sleep. This can lead to an accurate diagnosis and an effective treatment plan to address your unique issues.
Many of us suffer from sleep problems and do not even know it.
Symptoms of a lack of sleep start off as mild such as forgetfulness and sluggishness but can take a toll on your health in the long run.
If you are feeling less than optimal, a Sleep Study may be a great addition to your wellness journey.
To learn if a Sleep Study is right for you, or to book your appointment, call or text us at: (310) 295-2075