Well it’s right in you and it’s sleep
There seems to be a badge of honor of sorts when it comes to seeing how long a person can go without sleep. This burning the candle at both ends is going to end up severely burning you in the long run if you choose to neglect sleep. Ill show you why
Why Is Sleep So Important?
There’s a good chance that you are tired right now as you read this, here’s the unofficial sleep anthem to get you going..
That dance routine is my entire morning ritual…
As I mentioned before our go-go lifestyle has taken over most of the 24 hours available in the day and sleep usually gets pushed to the back burner
(like it or not that go-go joke/connection was gold)
Our day doesn’t wind down how it should naturally and we work long into the night and those in college know all about all nighters cramming for an exam I, I mean YOU, haven’t prepared for.
You may have seen this before but the world record for lack of sleep is 11 days 24 minutes by a 17 year old high school student named Randy Gardner
This whole experiment was studied and monitored by researchers that showed by the end of his attempt he was noted as having cognitive and behavioral changes. He was experiencing problems with concentration, memory as well as paranoia and hallucinations.
The Australian Sleep Council claims that the new record is 18 days 21 hours and 40 minutes.
But this might have just been a vegimite hallucination
Stages Of Sleep
Most people are aware of the different sleep stages. Here’s a quick breakdown:
STAGE 1. – stage one is the beginning of the sleep cycle and is relatively light. It is almost a transition between being awake and being asleep This period of sleep only lasts 5-10 minutes and is that stage where if you wake someone they will claim they weren’t really asleep
Like me at my neices piano recital..
STAGE 2. – The second stage of sleep lasts around 20 minutes. The brain begins to release rapid, rhythmic brain activity known as sleep spindles. Your body temperature and heart rate begin to slow down in stage 2.
STAGE 3. – Deep, slow brain waves known as delta waves being to emerge in stage 3. This is the point where people being to be less responsive and noises and movements fail to generate a response. This is a transitional stage between light sleep and very deep sleep. It is also the stage where sleepwalking occurs along with bed wetting. Not that I ever did…
STAGE 4. – This is the familar dream stage of rapid eye moment or REM. Along with the rapid eye movement there is more respiration and increased brain activity. Muscles become more relaxed while the brain and other body systems kick into overdrive. This is why we dream because of the enhanced brain activity.
The brain is so engaged during sleep that it is more engaged then when you’re sitting on the couch watching t.v.
This is similar to the effect of exercise vs being inactive on the brain
We typically enter REM sleep after about 90 minutes of falling asleep. The first cycle of REM is generally short but becomes longer as we cycle through the stages. The effective, deep dreaming stages of REM generally last around 90-120 minutes at night.
Interesting side note: We have just come to accept that when we watch a movie it is going to last around 1.5-2 hrs. Did you ever wonder why that was? Why are they that specific number? Why not 4 hours or 55 minutes?
When the film industry in Hollywood was first starting up everything was new and there was no frame of reference for how long a movie should be.
The early movie studio heads had studied that our dream state was around 90-120 minutes and it was thought that a movie of that length would be more naturally received by people. Almost like our subconscious responds better to that length due to it being familiar to us from being experienced every night.
Effects From Lack Of Sleep
Ok so the 17 day experiment is probably nothing that any of us will undertake, unless I’m going on a Storage Wars binge watching marathon…
When It comes to your health and fitness how does lack of sleep effect you?
When you don’t sleep your basically telling your body there is some form of stress or condition going on or else why would you not sleep? Your body perceives lack of sleep as a stress that might be a famine, predators or even a zombie apocolypse.
In your bodies eyes something serious must be happening that is preventing you from sleeping and this is where the stress hormone cortisol comes into play.
The primary stress hormone increases sugars (glucose) in the blood stream, enhances your brains use of glucose and also increases the availability of substances that help repair tissues.
During these fight or flight stages when cortisol is released it helps to reduce functions that are non essential at that time. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproduction system and growth processes.
So this hormone response is certainly critical if it is avoiding a mountain lion, jumping out of the way of a car or I’m being attacked for the last Blu-ray player during a black Friday sale.
So after one of these stress events hormone levels begin to recede and things go back down to normal. But what if they never go down?
This is what lack of sleep does, since these stress hormones are constantly elevated and don’t turn off. This long-term activation and constant coristol exposure can disrupt most of all your body processes. This can lead to a number of health problems.
Ready for a long list?
- headaches & dizziness
- irritability and anger
- panic disorders
- grinding teeth and tension in the jaw
- increased heart rate
- heart disease
- Diabetes type I & II
- digestive disorders
- upset stomach
- weight gain and obesity
- muscle tension
- lack of energy
- immune system dysfunction
I wrote an article about the 6 things you need to avoid to get healthy and stress was one of the main ones. Check it out here
Benefits Of Sleep
So we’ve seen why you don’t want to deprive yourself of sleep, so if you are getting adequate sleep how does this benefit you?
Here are 5 reasons:
1. Less Pain– Chronic or acute pain can relieved with enough sleep and there are many studies that show a link between sleep loss and lower pain threshold.
2. Better Health– Clearly insufficient sleep leads to some serious health problems like diabetes, heart disease, obesity and heart attacks due to chronic stress hormones.
And it doesn’t take long either..Researchers from Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston found that disrupted sleep patterns in 10 healthy adults who worked shift work, three of them had blood glucose levels that qualified them as pre-diabetic.
In only four days…
3. Better Mood- Not getting enough sleep effects your emotional regulation. This is something everyone is clearly aware of as your irritability and quickness to snap on people shows its ugly head when you’re too tired.
Bad news for the people who run out of strawberry parfait at my local sandwich shop…
4. Better Memory– Studies show that when we sleep our brains organize and consolidate memories from the day. Kind of like putting them in a file folder. Lack of sleep is the equivalent of throwing those papers all over a room.
5. Stronger Immunity– Another study looked at how sleep can affect our ability to get sick. Researchers tracked over 150 people and monitered their sleep patterns for two weeks. At the end of the two weeks they exposed them to a cold virus.
People who got 7 hours of sleep at night were 3 times as likely to get sick than those that got 8 hours.
Either you or someone you know probably has or has had a sleep disorder. They are quite common but can be controlled.
Everyone is aware of insomnia. It is simply the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep, and there are actually 3 kinds.
- Transient Insomnia– usually lasts for less than a week and can be caused by another disorder, changes in environment, timing of sleep, depression and stress. Its consequences are similar to that of sleep deprivation
- Acute Insomnia– The inability to sleep well for up to a month. It is a difficulty initiating sleep or maintaining it and when you do it is low quality. It is also known as stress related insomnia
- Chronic Insomnia– Lasts for longer than a month, it can be caused by another disorder or can be the primary disorder itself. Having high levels of stress hormones can lead to chronic insomnia and its effects include muscular fatigue, hallucinations or mental fatigue.
Sleep apnea is a condition where the individual stops breathing while they sleep and then snorts or gasps for air. These episodes can last a few seconds to a few minutes and can happen 5-30 times in an hour
The word apnea comes from the Greek word which means “without air”
The person can have slept through the night unaware that they have woken up dozens or even hundreds of times. They will experience daytime sleepiness, headaches and other health conditions.
There are two types of it aswell..
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea– This is the most common and happens when the throat muscles relax
- Central sleep apnea– This is when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
Obstructive sleep apnea can be combated by losing weight so there is not as much excess skin around the throat, by regular exercise, eliminating caffeine or alcohol before bed and trying to get to sleep at the same time each night.
There are also dental devices that help keep your jaw forward, there are surgeries to remove excess skin and CPAP machines that enable air to flow when you stop breathing during the night.
How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?
So what is the best recommendation for the amount of sleep you should be aiming for each night?
The idea of 8 hours has been around for awhile and is a decent rule of thumb. There has been more emphasis on 7 hours a night but the main thing to take away is the amount of sleep you need depends on what is going on in your life.
If you are being very active or going through times of stress you need more sleep. Sleep is when you metabolize those stress hormones away and sleep is what helps you to repair and recover from workouts, training or injuries.
If you are sick the amount of sleep needed will rise. If you are not engaged in a physically demanding job and are feeling healthy shooting for 7 hours is probably going to be sufficient.
So the best advice I can give is don’t be afraid to sleep. You are not “giving in” or being lazy. In the long run you are going to be helping yourself if you are feeling really run down. If you have a lot of people who rely on you this is just as important. You need to be at your best in order to give them your best and that means getting sleep is paramount.
Keeping A Good Routine
Sleep researchers always share that the secret to getting into healthy sleep patterns is consistency.
This means going to bed the same time each night and having the same wind down schedule to end your day. Ideally you don’t want to be up to much past midnight and also wake with the sun. This is obviously not practical for everyone but the closer you can keep to the natural rising and setting of the sun the more in tune with your body you’ll be.
Keeping your room dark and slightly cool is also important and avoiding caffeine and alcohol later in the day.
Whatever routine you find works it is key to stick with it and let your body get familiar and accustomed to it.
The truth is some people can do ok with not a lot of sleep and somehow keep going. These people are few and far between but everyone is wired a bit different and it is possible.
Famous foul mouth chef Gordon Ramsay sleeps a reported 4 hours a night. Same thing with WWE owner Vince McMahon.
Their super human work ethic and genetic makeup somehow has allowed them to do this for decades and there reasoning is that it gives them an extra 24 hour period to work each week.
And speaking of forcing yourself to stay up…If you grew up in the 80’s like me you are ALL too familiar with this moment…
I don’t know about you but I don’t think I ever really got over this…
24 Hours Of Daylight
A big issue that has only come up in the last 30 or so years is the concept of perpetual 24 hour light especially that of blue light that comes from t.v and electronics.
Our constant use of screens from late night t.v, tablets or phones exposes us to blue light which is disruptive to our natural sleep patterns. Blue light also comes from energy efficient light bulbs.
It also throws off our natural melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate our wake and sleep cycles.
Avoiding blue light a few hours before you go to sleep will help to restore those melatonin levels and help encourage more restful sleep.
For those who need to be exposed to electronics later in the day there are some things you can use to help reduce the exposure.
F.lux is a program that you can put on your laptop that eliminates the blue light and turns the screen softer and more similar to candle light or ember light. This is more natural to us like how our ancestors would have only seen fading out fire light as their last form of light in the day.
I’m using F.lux at this very moment as I write this as it is close to midnight. And I wasn’t up late watching a Keeping Up With The Kardashians marathon…
Wrapping It Up
I’m hoping through this article you’ve seen how important sleep is for your health. It is key to help avoid health problems and is crucial for keeping you recovered, repaired and rejuvenated.
So start getting in a routine and follow some of the steps I’ve shown you here to start taking back your sleep.
– If you found this article helpful do me a favor and pass it on to anyone you think would enjoy it too and feel free to like it on that facebook thingy that all the kids seem to like. And if you haven’t make sure to sign up for the email list below to keep up to date with everything I’m doing at regainedwellness.com!
Now I’m off to dream of strawberry parfait…