Sleep plays a vital role in the regenerative processes of every tissue in the human body. Failure to get enough sleep can elevate the chemicals in your body which promote inflammation. Increased inflammation prevents tissue healing and fosters chronic disease. In fact, many scientific studies have linked sleep deprivation to an increased risk of developing many chronic and potentially life threatening diseases such as high blood pressure, obesity and depression to name a few.
You’ve probably heard that losing a little bit of sleep for a few days in a row isn't too harmful, but this is actually false. Losing just one night's worth of sleep has been shown to impair your immune system (reducing the normal response). This can make you more accident-prone and less productive. Let's not overlook also that a lack of sleep actually reduces cognitive function, which in turn affects your ability to learn, store memories and function normally throughout the day.
We can't always control what happens to us throughout the day, but we certainly have some say in how well-rested and refreshed we are for dealing with it. Sleep allows us to disconnect from the things that are causing us stress in our lives so that we may focus our metabolic energy on the regeneration and restoration of our tissues. This is why even after a gym session it's not until you wake up that you notice the pain, the rebuilding process has begun. You'll usually remain in pain until the day is over and you've had another good night's rest, and depending how hard you trained it can sometimes take 3 days to fully recover. When we sleep, our tissues refill their batteries, glucose is replenished in muscles and liver, and proteins sent to the muscles to build new strength.
When we sleep our bodies go through different cycles or phases which need to play out for a full nights rest, which consists of four stages. We pass through these in order before completing the cycle and entering REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, so the first few are actually non-REM sleep.
In case you are not familiar, REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement sleep and is the stage of our cycle where we slumber most of our dreams This phase usually occurs roughly 90 minutes after falling asleep and about every two hours, so it makes up for around 20% of total sleeping time. While in REM our bodies are paralyzed except for quick eye movements.
Passing through the cycles without disruption is important to cellular rejuvenation, memory consolidation, and restoration of physical and emotional reserves. Here are the four stages with brief explanation of them:
This is when you first lay down and being to really let go of stress from your day. It's when you first enter sleeping mode and is important for you to let go of anything troubles from your day and problems that you're trying to solve, so that you can let go and get into the second phase. If you're having troubles sleeping then sometimes relaxation music or the sound of rain will help you enter this phase quickly.
During this time, your heartbeat and breathing slow down, and muscles relax. Your body temperature drops and eye movements stop. Brain wave activity slows even further and you being to phase into a deep sleep.
This is where your heart beat begins to slow down, your breathing becomes more focused and you're starting to drift into the deepest parts of sleep.
This is where most of our body's physical restoration takes place (such as muscle growth). Your blood pressure will drop, any inflammation in your muscles caused by exercise or overexertion will be repaired along with any damaged tissues and your energy levels will be restored.
This stage is also where we dream our most vivid dreams, as well as learning new things. The brain orchestrates all of this during deep sleep by making connections between the experiences you have throughout the day and how to process them so they become memories.
REM sleep occurs approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep. During your final period of REM sleep, your eyes move rapidly behind closed eyelids. You also may experience twitches or tremors as you dream. Your limb muscles are temporarily paralyzed during this stage for protection since it is impossible to act out dreams during REM sleep and not be able to later recall what happened in them.
- Follow a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will help your brain recognize when it’s time for you to fall asleep. Furthermore, waking up at the same time everyday helps train your body to be alert during daylight hours so that you can take full advantage of your time awake.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine in the late afternoon and evening hours. These stimulants can keep you from falling asleep when it is bedtime because they induce stress on the body, which then affects sleep cycles..
- Exercise daily or at least every other day to promote sounder sleep. Try exercising for 20 minutes at least three hours before you go to bed. This will help your body relax and wind down after a long day’s work..
- Try not to nap during the afternoon or evening. If you need an extra boost of energy, try going for a walk instead. The fresh air can be very beneficial in helping to lull yourself into sleep.
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All in all, sleep is incredibly important to your health and well-being. So it's incredibly important that you take your sleep seriously. Not only will it help you to feel better, but your quality of work may increase as well. So take care of yourself and try following some of the tips suggested above to get the best sleep you can and improve the quality of your life.