The desire for a good night’s sleep is something we all share.
We know every great day starts with the night before, but do we really know what happens while we slumber, and the importance of maximizing our ZZZs once we’re in?
If you’re like me and among the roughly 35% of adults in the U.S. who, according to the CDC, aren’t getting their 7-8 hours of recommended sleep, these tips may be more helpful than counting sheep.
In sleep, we learn, grow, and thrive. But it takes time. Our brain and body are busy organizing nerve cells, regulating hormones, repairing cells, and clearing out toxins, all while processing memories, gaining creative insight, and learning new skills. Whew, that in itself sounds exhausting…
Some Snooze Sense Worth Sharing
Sleep Stages: We slumber in cycles.
Stages 1 & 2: Light sleep, when our brain slows down, our body has some muscle tone, and breathing is regular while our heart rate and body temperature decrease (takes about 90 to 120 minutes).
Stage 3: Deep sleep, when our brain waves are at their slowest of the night. Our body is physically repairing itself, boosting our immune system, and restoring our bones, muscles, and tissue (takes about 90 to 120 minutes).
Stage 4: REM sleep, the coveted dream state in the second half of the night when we experience a loss of muscle tone, except for our eyes, which move rapidly. Breathing becomes irregular and our heart rate rises. REM is the golden ticket to healthy brain development. (*The term “sleep like a baby” reflects the 14-17 hours of sleep critical to newborns since their brains are still developing. Adults need an average at least 120 minutes of REM)
What’s Going on in REM Sleep?
Akin to charging an electric car each night, in REM sleep our amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotions, gets activated. In addition to emotional processing, there’s memory consolidation. Our brain processes new learnings and motor skills from the day, deciding which ones to delete, committing some to memory, and maintaining others. Without adequate sleep, our cognitive performance declines. Ever experienced brain fog?
Wait! We Lose Weight by Falling Asleep?
A clinical study by researchers at the University of Chicago examined the link between sleep and weight and found that lack of sleep impacts two key hormones that control hunger and satiety — Ghrelin stimulates hunger (increases with sleep deprivation) and Leptin tells us when we are full (decreases with sleep restriction). As the amount of sleep increased, they found that energy intake decreased, leading to weight loss.
Simple Tips For a Good Night’s Sleep
*Eliminate blue light devices 45 minutes to one hour before bed. The blue light stops the body’s release of the bedtime hormone melatonin.
*Sleep in a cool bedroom (65 degrees/18.3 Celsius).
*Skip spicy foods and alcohol before bed.
*Consider a soothing bedtime ritual – calming sounds/music, a warm bath/shower, reading a book, a few easy stretches, meditation.
I feel like I’ve gained a new sense of appreciation for all that happens the next time I close my eyes for the night. Just being aware allows me to make choices that benefit and empower me. Nice to know the options available when I need to focus a bit more on self care and self love.