What is sleep, why you need it, and how
Sleep is critical to health.
This post will quickly raise your awareness as to why, and then inform you how to do it effectively.
The modern reluctance in some cases, or seeming inability in others to sleep is making the society overweight, ill, anxious and depressed, according to Matthew Walker (Director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science, University of California).
Lack of sleep has powerful links to, among other things, Alzheimers, Cancer, Diabetes, Anxiety, and Obesity.
After just one night of 4 - 5 hours sleep, your natural killer cells that attack cancer cells appearing in your body every day drop by 70%.
More than 20 large scale epidemiological studies all report the same findings - the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.
One example shows that 45 year old adults or older who sleep less than 6 hours per night are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, compared with people having 7 or 8 hours per night.
Lack of sleep hi-jacks the body's effective control of blood sugar.
You are far more susceptible to weight gain when you have a lack of sleep because it decreases hormones responsible for feeling satisfied and increases hunger signalling hormones. This combined with processed food and a lack of exercise for many is a sure recipe for weight gain.
Lack of sleep drastically lowers the immune system, your resilience, and your mental health. Brain scans show a 60% amplification in reactivity of the amygdala - a key centre for triggering anger and rage.
What happens in sleep
Sleep happens in 90 minute cycles, and it is at the end of these cycles that we enter in to deep restorative sleep. So with this knowledge, it is a good idea to set your sleep time to end at the end of a 90 min cycle. For example, if you go to sleep at 1030pm, you could get up at 6am at the end of a sleep cycle. It is indicated to be better to wake at the end of a cycle, rather than mid cycle.
Walker talks of an incredible synchronised pattern of rhythm and unity occurring across the brain in non rapid eye movement sleep. This is the sleep where your memory is processing, and the body achieves a perfect low energy balance, which is the best blood pressure medication you could ever get.
Ideas to restore sleep
It can be a good idea to set yourself an alarm to get ready for sleep to help you get into a rhythm, similar to how most people use an alarm to indicate the end of sleep. Set it 30 mins before sleep time to remind you to begin slowing down.
Try giving yourself a non negotiable 7.5 - 8 hour window for sleep every night.
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, no matter what, including weekends. When you do this, after a short time, you will no longer feel tired and having to drag yourself out of bed.
When you sleep in at the weekend, it is in effect breaking a cycle, and upsetting the rhythm of sleep every week, rather than building rhythmic, steady sleeping patterns.
The key to understand is that sleep is a natural process for all living creatures. To not sleep, or inhibit sleep is an unnatural process, so if you experience this, it is worth listening to your body, which is likely trying to tell you something needs sorting out.
To sleep we must relax the body and then relax the mind. It is when the mind can't relax that we experience disturbed sleep.
There are many sleep hygiene ideas freely available on the internet to set the right conditions to sleep, and then it is key to learn to relax the mind. This can be achieved through meditation, or therapy to deal with excessive stress or anxiety in life.
We must learn to calm our busy minds, to ensure our own mental, physical and emotional health.