Updated: Oct 7, 2019
Getting good sleep may not be at the top of your priority list- HOWEVER CHANCES ARE IT SHOULD BE!! While the exact science behind why we need sleep is still being investigated, research shows that sleep should not be taken lightly. While the health benefits of getting enough sleep at night are abundant, the consequences of not getting enough sleep can be catastrophic!!
WHY DO WE REALLY NEED SLEEP- by the numbers
24 hours of sleeplessness makes a person as impaired as having a 0.10% Blood Alcohol Concentration (legally drunk)
Only 5-hours of sleep per night, for one-week, leaves a person this "sleep drunk" state, according to a Harvard Study
On average, people sleep 20% less than they did 100 years ago
1 in 5 car accidents involve driver sleepiness
The number of car accidents decline when daylight savings yields an extra hour of sleep
A study found that 4 U.S. Companies lost $1,967 in productivity PER YEAR, PER SLEEP-DEPRIVED EMPLOYEE
1 in 20 first-year medical residents makes a fatigue-related error
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE SLEEP, ANYWAY?
SLEEP OCCURS IN 5 STAGES:
Stage 1 (5-10 minutes long)
Very light sleep, easily awoken, muscle activity slows, sometimes a sensation of falling might occur
Stage 2 (20 minutes long)
Body temperature decreases, heart rate slows, brain movement slows with occasional bursts of rapid movement interspersed
Stage 3 (transition into deep sleep)
Extremely slow brain waves interspersed with smaller, faster brain waves
Stage 4 (30 minutes long)
Deep sleep, difficult to wake up from, very little eye movement, most likely phase for sleep walking to occur
Stage 5 (10 minutes to an hour)
REM Sleep: rapid, shallow, irregular breathing; eyes move rapidly muscles temporarily paralyzed. Brain waves increase to the same as awake levels. Heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, body ceases to regulate temperature. This is when most dreams occur. Most people experience 3 to 5 REM cycles per night.
The sleep cycle repeats in this order several times a night.
MORE ON REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep
REM only accounts for 25% of total sleep per night (90-120 minutes)
REM sleep kicks in about 70-90 minutes after falling asleep
When people are awoken during REM, they usually can remember their dreams
Brain activity during REM sleep is similar to waking brain activity
Muscles are temporarily paralyzed during REM sleep because production of three chemicals are blocked:
REM sleep is the deepest phase of sleep
When lab mice are deprived of REM sleep, their ability to remember things dramatically decreases
Mice deprived of REM sleep also show decreased ability to heal from wounds
REM and DREAMS
When humans are learning new things, during the day- the same brain impulses, they used to learn during the day, are "replayed" at night while they sleep. This shows we further learn and synthesize information through sleep- so maybe learning through osmosis isn't totally off
This may be of the reason we dream:
The Cerebral Cortex, the conscious part of the brain, does not know how to interpret this resting brain activity, thus creating dreams
In a lifetime, we spend six years dreaming
BUT we forget 95% of the dreams we have
GETTING BETTER SLEEP
If you struggle to get enough sleep, you are not alone. MILLIONS OF AMERICANS do not get enough sleep at night. Improving your sleep quality could vastly improve your waking life, too.
TRY these TIPS to get better sleep at night, so you can BE YOUR BEST SELF DURING THE DAY:
Light makes a difference
Try to get as much natural light as possible by opening windows and curtains, spend some time each day outside when there is daylight, and spend your work breaks outside
When it is time to go to bed, TURN OFF THE COMPUTER, TELEVISION, AND MOBILE PHONE. While you may think you are unwinding by watching a show or browsing the web, the light from the screen actually physically makes it MORE DIFFICULT TO SLEEP by suppressing your body's production of melatonin (i.e., sleepy chemical)
There's an App for that...
If you have a smart phone, investigate the apps available that are geared towards helping you get to sleep- everything from ambient sounds, white noise, to programs that will track and chart your sleep for you
Take naps, but keep them short
While taking a midday nap has been shown to increase overall productivity, anything over 15-20 minutes will actually disturb your sleeping cycle and you will do more harm than good. Also, if you take a nap, do so earlier in the early to mid-afternoon. No naps after 4 pm.
Cut down on caffeine
Set a time that is your caffeine cutoff and STICK TO IT. Also, limit your overall daily caffeine intake. If you need to drastically reduce your caffeine intake, start by cutting half a cup, per day- it will be easier to gradually cut down on caffeine intake and you will be more likely to stick with it
Cut down on (or eliminate) alcohol
Many people associate alcohol with inducing sleep. While this is technically true, as alcohol is a central nervous system depressant- there is a major caveat. Initially, alcohol will make people tired and fall asleep quickly. However, later in the night, alcohol acts almost like a stimulant to the body and will actually wake you up and keep you up. Thus, drastically decreasing your quality and quantity of sleep.
Set a regular bedtime
AND try to wake up at the same time every day. ROUTINE HELPS SLEEP!
Getting good sleep is a critical compliant of maintaining good health and overall wellness!!! Do what you can to spend enough time dreaming and catching Z's on a nightly basis.
If you can only get 6-8 hours of sleep, in a 24 hour time period, don't you want it to be a quality 6-8 hours of sleep!!!