The average person spends 25 YEARS of their life asleep! With that many years devoted to catching zzzz’s, the act of sleeping must be extremely important for our health. And it is! Sleep is a time for our body to reset and restore! When we are sleeping, we are healing!
How Sleep Works:
Your circadian rhythm talks to every cell in your body to regulate the timing of when you sleep, your temperature, and hormonal production and release. Melatonin is one of the hormones our circadian rhythm tells the pineal gland to produce once it starts to get dark outside. Melatonin orchestrates the activation of all your sleep inducing parts of the brain to get the brain ready for sleep. As we sleep, we begin a series of 90 minute sleep cycles starting in REM and then dropping into NREM stage 1, then stage 2, then stage 3, then stage 4, before coming back up through that same path. In the first half of the night, our brain spends more time in NREM sleep in the 90 minute cycles, but as the night goes on REM sleep begins to dominate the 90 minute cycles.
During NREM sleep, we remove unnecessary neural connection, move short term memories into long term memory storage, and the slow, synchronized waves that characterize this part of sleep helps the furthest away regions of the brain to be able to communicate and collaborate. During REM sleep, we strengthen our neural connections, integrate what we learned throughout the day to create a deeper understanding, and creates a greater capacity for making intelligent decisions and solving complex problems.
Benefits of Healthy Sleep:
Sleep really has an infinite amount of benefits and we are constantly learning how valuable sleep is for our health and wellbeing. Here are a few benefits healthy sleep offers:
- Strengthens your immune system
- Decreases inflammation in the body
- Supports a healthy flourishing gut microbiome
- Increases growth hormone with stimulates tissue regeneration, restores your liver health, builds muscle, decreases fat stores, and helps stabilize blood glucose.
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases HDLs to prevent cholesterol build up in your vasculature.
- Increases leptin (a hormone that makes you feel satiated) and decreases grehlin (a hormone that makes you feel hungry and crave sweets, salts, and simple carbohydrates.
- Accelerates muscle recovery and repair from injury or strenuous exercise
- Lowers the rate of lactic acid build up in muscles, increases blood oxygen saturation, and increases your ability to sweat to allow for adequate temperature regulation while exercising
- Increases your ability to rationally think, regulate your emotions, be more creative, have a greater capacity for learning and memorizing, and make logical decisions.
- Creates time for the glymphatic system (basically your lymphatic system of the brain) to clear away any metabolic toxins generated by your neurons as they perform their functions.
- Helps balance your nervous system and bring you into a more relaxed, calm state.
- Supports healthy testosterone and sperm production.
- Makes us more beautiful!
Healthy Sleep Habits:
- Maintain consistent sleep and wake times, which helps to regulate your circadian rhythm
- Sleep in a cool, dark room
- Don’t use screens at least 1 hour before bed. Turn off your cell phone when you sleep and turn off your wifi router.
- Only use your bed for sleeping and sex. Make sure your bedroom is void of computers, televisions, worrying, and arguments.
- Spend as much time as you can outdoors. Sunlight hitting our eyes, especially in the morning helps balance our circadian rhythm. Avoid the use of artificial light in your home in the evening.
- Exercise regularly. Exercising during the day or early evening decreases the time it takes to get to sleep and increases the amount of deep sleep obtained. Probably best to avoid strenuous/intense exercising right before bed.
- If you find that you are waking up during the night (and not just to pee), try having a small protein snack (ex. apple and peanut butter or hummus and carrots) before bed to help regulate your blood sugars throughout the night.
- Warm baths with Epsom salts help to relax and subsequently cool the body for bed.
- Breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation (find a video on YouTube), or meditation before bed can help to relax the body and quiet the mind before bed.
- Listen to relaxing sounds, such as thunderstorms, beach waves, or piano music
- Drink herbal tea in the evenings with herbs that support sleep. Herbs to look for in a sleepy tea: lavender, chamomile, skullcap, oat straw, passionflower, valerian, lemon balm.
- Although alcohol may help you fall asleep, the sleep obtained after drinking is typically fragmented and light.
- Avoid caffeine, especially consumption later in the day.