End Sleepless Nights to Improve Your Health, Longevity and Happiness
Humans NEED to spend a lot of time sleeping. According to some statistics, the average person spends about 26 years sleeping, over a lifespan of 79 years. However, we also spend 7 years trying to get to sleep. That’s a lot of lost sleep! It’s not uncommon to have a few sleepless nights, now and then. And you’ll be able to function still. But a cycle of sleepless nights will adversely impact your life! The secret we all want to know is how to easily get to sleep and stay asleep, so we perform at our best.
Putting sleepless nights in their place…
Contrary to some who believe sleep is a waste of time, our bodies tell us that sleep is essential and we have to make room for it regularly. Insufficient sleep is associated with many health problems – diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, increased body fat, loss of lean muscle mass, depression, and increased risk of cancer. Lack of sleep really gives your body a beating that shortens your lifespan. But that’s not all.
When you include vehicular accidents and machine-related injuries you can see that loss of sleep isn’t a small problem. It also significantly decreases your enjoyment of life and interferes with maintaining good relationships with others. After all, who wants to be around a grump?
If you have trouble staying asleep you’re not alone. According to the CDC, about 9 million U.S. adults use prescription sleep aids. Over one-quarter of the U.S. population report occasionally not getting enough sleep, while nearly 10 percent experience chronic insomnia.
A good night’s sleep makes us feel alert, energetic, ready for the day, happier, stronger and more capable. And here’s why…
Why we need sleep
Many of the body’s restorative functions occur while we sleep – muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and human growth hormone release. (HGH plays a huge role in muscle and cellular renewal.)
As long as you’re awake, the brain produces and accumulates adenosine, a by-product of the cells’ activities. The build-up of adenosine is associated with our perception of being tired. (Many people use caffeine to stay alert because it blocks the actions of adenosine.) Sleep lets the body clear out the adenosine.
You know from experience that the quantity and quality of your sleep has a profound impact on your ability to focus, which impacts your ability to learn, creatively solve problems, and remember. Sleep allows the brain to sort and store the day’s activities into memories, which determines how well you can recall that information later.
After reviewing the impact sleep has on us, then the question arises how can I stop sleepless nights from happening so frequently?
The first step to ending sleepless nights is understanding your sleep cycle…
We need both Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, and Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep. Normally we pass through four or five different stages of sleep, depending on who you ask. We cycle through these stages multiple times during the night. (Not necessarily in a sequential order.) A complete cycle takes an average of 90 to 110 minutes. The first sleep cycles have shorter REM sleeps but later REM periods lengthen. That’s why you need so many hours of sleep. You need to go through all of these cycles many times in order to feel refreshed.
What does each sleep stage feel like?
Non-REM Sleep Stage 1: You’re getting drowsy. This lasts about 5-10 minutes.
Non-REM Sleep Stage 2: Your heartbeat slows, your body temperature drops, and you fall into a slumber. This lasts about 20 minutes.
Non-REM Sleep Stage 3: You go between light and very deep sleep. This lasts about 30 minutes.
Non-REM Sleep Stage 4: Deep sleep. (This is when sleepwalking can occur.) This lasts up to 30 minutes.
Stage 5 REM Sleep: The deepest form of sleep. Your body becomes “paralyzed” so you don’t act out your dreams. And it repairs and regenerates tissue, bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. It takes about 90 minutes to get to REM sleep and REM sleep can last for very long periods of time.
Which stage of sleep you were in before waking up will dictate the type of morning you have. That’s why sometimes only a few hours of sleep leave you feeling great, at other times you can be groggy after many hours of sleep.
During our awake hours, our circadian rhythm (biological clock) ebbs and flows. Our body uses outside stimuli and our own activity level to produce hormones we need to match the task at hand. In the perfect situation, the sun coming up signals our body to reduce the hormones that make us sleepy and to produce other hormones to get moving. As the sun goes down, our body should produce more melatonin, which encourages sleepiness. However, alarm clocks, electric lighting, and electronic devices, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and many other modern products interfere with this natural process.
Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t a luxury. It’s vital to end sleepless nights. The National Institutes of Health suggests that school-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep, teens need 9-10 hours, and adults need 7-8 hours. How do you measure up?
Everything is so interconnected – what you eat, how much you exercise, what you think about yourself and the world around you, and how well you sleep – these and so many other daily choices determine your level of resiliency, productivity and happiness. As you can see, a good health plan must take a holistic perspective that includes mindfulness around everything about you. The key is achieving a solid balance in your life.
And be sure to read other articles about sleep on my blog, because I share practical steps you can take to train your body to easily go to sleep, ending the cycle of sleepless nights for good!
Thank you fo the photo Zohre Nemati.