Sleeping Well?

Some will say they can get by on 4 hours or so of sleep, but do they awaken refreshed without a need to “jump-start” the day with caffeine? How is that pattern affecting their health and well-being?  Science has learned that humans need 7-8 hours of non-disrupted sleep daily or 4-6 sleep cycles.

Each sleep cycle involves 4 sleep stages; one for rapid eye movement (REM) and 3 that form non-REM sleep, as determined by brain activity patterns for each stage.  “Stages of Sleep”, goes into some detail on this. In that article, Stage 1:NREM-N1 lasts 1-5 minutes; Stage 2: N2 lasts 10-60 minutes; Stage 3: N3 or Delta Sleep can last 20-40 minutes; Stage 4: REM sleep lasts 10-60 minutes.”Sleep stages are important because they allow the brain and body to recuperate and develop.  Failure to obtain enough of both deep sleep and REM sleep may explain some of the profound consequences of insufficient sleep on thinking, emotions, and physical health.” (directly quoted from the article)  To name a few of the health ramifications: they include promotion of diabetes, excess weight, heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline. 

Melatonin, a liver metabolite, regulates our cycles. It’s a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger which helps to “cool down” excess inflammation. So it’s an integral part of our immune system. A lack of it causes the thymus gland to shrink in size. It has also been thought to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and aging of the brain.

The pea-sized gland in the middle of your brain called the pineal gland produces melatonin. For the most part, the pineal gland is inactive during the daytime. But, at night, when you’re exposed to darkness, the pineal gland sends melatonin into your bloodstream. (This may be why tumors have been found to grow faster in sleep-deprived people.) Since melatonin is related to circadian rhythms (or entrained to the light and dark cycling), it forms the basis for most improved sleep recommendations.

Here’s a list of activities that may help to improve your sleep:

  • Avoid alcohol to induce sleep because it disrupts sleep cycles
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages after 3 PM
  • Establish a bedtime routine, such as same time, same activities when arriving in bed.
  • Use the bedroom for sleeping and sex, not for work, eating, or watching TV.
  • Reduce the use of light-emitting technologies, ideally one hour before bedtime.
  • Move alarm clocks and other electrical devices, preferably 3 feet from your head.
  • Keep your bedroom temperature between 60-68 degrees. A room more cool or hot may lead to restless sleep.
  • Cover your windows with blackout shades or drapes to ensure darkness.
  • Use nightlights with “low-blue” or amber emitting light to prevent suppression of melatonin production.
  • Increase melatonin levels naturally with exposure to bright sunlight, along with full-spectrum fluorescent lighting during the wintertime.
  • Magnesium deficiency can cause insomnia. If you take calcium. magnesium supplements, it’s best to take them at night because they’re mild neuro-muscular relaxants.
  • Potassium works synergistically with magnesium to improve sleep.
  • People with daytime sleepiness and/or musculoskeletal pain, which are likely to sabotage sleep, are likely to have Vitamin-D deficiency or insufficiency.
  • Avoid brain stimulating foods with tyramine, such as hard cheeses, dark red wine, chocolate, ham, sugar, spinach, and tomatoes, shortly before retiring.
  • Hide your clock so you don’t know how long you have been awake or asleep.
  • Take a hot shower or bath 1-2 hours before bedtime.
  • If all else fails, see a sleep specialist.

I have realized time and again, that whenever I have gone to extremes in ignoring these sleep hygiene recommendations, I have paid the price with impaired health.  How about you?  Good luck.  Sleep well.

Thank you for reading – my next blog will be thoughts on harvest, see you then!

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