Sleep is a necessary function that helps your body and mind replenish, allowing you to wake up feeling refreshed and alert. Healthy sleep also aids in wellness and illness prevention. The brain cannot function well if it does not get enough sleep. This can make it difficult to concentrate, think clearly, or remember things.
The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep per night. However, work schedules, a noisy bedroom environment, and medical issues can make it hard to get enough. A balanced diet and ideal living habits help, but chronic sleep deprivation might be the first indicator of health trouble for some people.
The Science of Sleeping
Your sleep cycle is controlled by an internal “body clock,” which determines whether you are ready for bed or refreshed and awake. The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that this clock follows. You will grow increasingly tired during the day after waking up. This feeling will peak in the evening, just before bedtime.
The circadian rhythm is also influenced by light. The suprachiasmatic nucleus is a cluster of cells in the hypothalamus, a region of nerves in the brain that processes signals when the eyes are exposed to natural or artificial light. The brain uses these signals to decide whether it is day or night.
The 5 Stages of Sleep
The human body goes through a five-stage sleep cycle once we fall asleep. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep makes up the first four stages, while rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the fifth stage.
What is REM Sleep?
During sleep, approximately 90 minutes after you go to bed, your brain enters REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. The first episode of REM generally lasts ten minutes.
Your dreams may be longer and more vivid during REM sleep, and you can be easily woken up at this point. During REM, your brain is most active. This is when your brain consolidates and stores information from the day before. This stage can be affected by fatigue, lack of exercise, and poor diet, but it also plays a vital role in restoring your body’s energy.
REM has an impact on the brain and nervous system. It encourages the areas of the brain that aid in learning and is linked to enhanced protein synthesis.
What is Non-REM Sleep?
We spend the majority of our sleeping time in non-REM sleep, which has three stages. The final two stages of non-REM sleep are when you slumber deeply. It isn’t easy to wake up from these phases of sleep.
Stage 1 Sleep
NREM sleep begins with stage 1, which is a transitional stage that lasts only 1 to 7 minutes. Your heart rate and body temperature will start to drop during this time, while your eyes are closed, and you are drifting towards sleep. At this point, you can be easily awoken.
Stage 1 sleep is also when you might experience hypnagogic hallucinations, which are dream-like images that can be visual, auditory, or both. For example, you may see patterns of light or colors, or hear noises.
Stage 2 Sleep
Stage 2 sleep puts you in a slightly deeper state of NREM sleep. It can last anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes, but lengthens and becomes more stable as the night goes on. As you begin to fall deeper into sleep, it will be harder to wake you up, but noises or other outside stimuli can still arouse you.
Stage 3, Slow-Wave Sleep
Sleep stages 3 and 4 are slow-wave or delta sleep. These are the deep sleep stages, when it becomes increasingly difficult to wake you up. Only lasting a few minutes, stage 3 only contributes to around 3%-8% of your total sleep.
Stage 4, Slow-Wave Sleep
The last NREM stage is stage 4. During your first sleeping cycle, you will spend around 10%-15% in stage 4, which will last approximately 20 to 40 minutes. During this time, your brain waves are the slowest they will be all night.
The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep
The majority of people need at least 7 hours of sleep per night to operate well, both cognitively and behaviorally. An insufficient amount of sleep might have severe outcomes. Some analyses have connected sleep deprivation to concentration lapses, damaged cognition, hindered reactions, and mood swings.
It’s also been proposed that continuous sleep deprivation can cause people to build a tolerance for it. Even if their brains and bodies suffer from lack of sleep, they may be unaware of their shortcomings because less sleep appears normal to them.
Sleep deprivation has also been related to an increased risk of certain diseases and medical disorders. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, poor mental health, and premature death are only a few.
It is critical to comprehend why sleep is so important. Getting adequate sleep improves your immune system, cognitive recall, and mental power, as well as helping your body heal from any pain or injuries. Furthermore, obtaining enough sleep is critical for keeping our hearts and other systems healthy and clean.
Without enough sleep each night, we risk mental health worries and physical disorders and problems. These include depression, anxiety, heart attacks, obesity (which can lead to various other issues), and weariness, all of which can disrupt one’s life. To appear, and feel, fresh and healthy every day, adequate sleep is a must.
8 Great Sleeping Habits that Promote Longevity
When it comes to sleep, quality is just as important as quantity. Below, are some good sleeping habits that can promote longer and healthier life.
1. Avoid caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol before bed.
These substances may help you fall asleep initially, but they will disrupt your sleep later in the night. Caffeine stays in your system for up to 12 hours, while nicotine has an effect on your brain that lasts up to 24 hours.
Both substances can take up to 10 hours to clear from your body and brain, so it’s best not to have these stimulants before bed.
2. Avoid napping during the day.
Napping for more than 30 minutes can disrupt your sleep at night and make it difficult for you to fall asleep. Therefore, if you must nap, do so early in the day for no longer than 30 minutes.
Short naps may improve memory function and alertness, but long naps can cause fragmented sleep at night. If you have difficulty sleeping at night, consider trying a short meditation session or reading instead of power napping during the day.
3. Set a regular sleep schedule.
Getting adequate sleep at consistent intervals is crucial for promoting longevity. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day -and yes, even on weekends.
This will help to regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Days are just as crucial as nights for rest and rejuvenation, so don’t cheat yourself out of sleep.
4. Avoid heavy or large meals before bedtime.
Overeating right before bed can cause discomfort and indigestion, and raise your body temperature, leading to poor sleep quality at night. If you need a snack before bed, opt for a light and healthy option such as yogurt, fruit, whole-grain toast, or cereal.
5. Get regular exercise.
Exercise has numerous benefits for overall health and longevity. It can help to improve sleep quality by reducing stress and promoting relaxation. However, avoid exercising too close to bedtime as this may make it difficult to fall asleep. Instead, try exercising first thing in the morning for maximum benefits.
6. Keep your bedroom and sleeping area dark, quiet, and comfortable.
Try to keep your room as dark and quiet as possible when you are trying to sleep. If there is too much noise or light in your bedroom, use curtains or earplugs to block it out. Your room should also be cool, dark, and comfortable. Invest in a good mattress if necessary to help you get the best sleep possible.
7. Avoid watching TV or working on your laptop right before bedtime.
This can make falling asleep more difficult as they are both stimulating activities that will keep your mind active. Instead, try reading a book or taking a bath to help you relax before bedtime.
Blue light filters are of questionable benefit and you should not consider them protection against sleep disturbance if you watch TV or work on your laptop right before bed. However, exposing your eyes to outdoor light in the early evening can mitigate the negative effects of artificial light later in the evening.
Similarly, exposing your eyes to outdoor light in the morning helps you wake up and be alert and improves your overall sleep cycle.
8. Practice some relaxation techniques before bedtime.
Several relaxation techniques can help you fall asleep more easily. Examples include progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and visualization. By focusing on your breath and relaxing your muscles, you can clear your mind and prepare for a good night’s sleep.
Are You Sleeping Too Much?
When it comes to sleep, more isn’t always better. In fact, sleeping too much can actually be just as detrimental to your health as not getting enough. But before we get into that, let’s take a look at how much sleep you really need.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends that adults aged 18-64 get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. However, they also note that some people may need more or less sleep depending on their age, lifestyle, and health.
For instance, young adults (aged 18-25) may need up to 9 hours of sleep per night, while adults over the age of 65 may only need 7-8 hours. In addition, people who have active lifestyles or work irregular hours may also need more sleep than those with sedentary jobs.
Whether you’re getting too much or not enough sleep, it’s essential to pay attention to how your body is feeling and use that as a guide for adjusting your sleep schedule. If you feel tired during the day despite sleeping for 8 hours or more, try going to bed a little earlier in order to get more rest.
Health Risks of Too Much Sleep
As with anything, the key is to find balance. Just as not getting enough sleep can negatively affect your health, so can sleeping too much. Oversleeping has been linked to a number of health risks, including:
Getting too much sleep can contribute to depression and other mood disorders. Oversleeping alters your circadian rhythm, leading to decreased production of serotonin, a hormone that plays an important role in regulating mood. Without adequate serotonin levels, your mood can suffer, and you may develop feelings of depression or anxiety.
Oversleeping has also been linked to weight gain due to changes in the hormones leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that helps to control appetite, while ghrelin is a hormone that triggers hunger. When you oversleep, your leptin levels drop, and your ghrelin levels increase, leading to increased feelings of hunger and cravings for unhealthy foods.
Sleeping too much has also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. One study found that people who slept for more than 8 hours per night were at a greater risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who slept for 7 hours or less.
It’s thought that oversleeping can increase inflammation throughout the body and negatively impact cardiovascular health.
Other Potential Health Risks
Some other potential health risks associated with oversleeping include diabetes, stroke, and an increased risk of death. The key to maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is to find the right balance that works for you.
If you’re sleeping too much, try making minor adjustments, such as going to bed earlier or waking up a little earlier each day. These small changes can make a big difference in your overall health and well-being.
Find Your Balance With Afiya Health
Overall, it’s clear that getting enough sleep is essential for your health and well-being. Whether you’re sleeping too much or not enough, it’s crucial to find a balance that works for you.
At Afiya, we believe that good night’s sleep is one of the keys to a healthy life. Afiya uses real data to understand your biological age, improve your performance, and track your progress as you sleep, eat, and move.
By providing you with actionable insights and personalized recommendations, you’ll be able to make the small changes that add up to a big difference in your overall health and well-being.
Interested in learning more about how Afiya can help you get more out of your sleep?
Schedule a discovery call today!