Sleep is one of the 5 basics to living a healthy life. Your body needs between 7 to 9 hours every night to stay healthy. Every system, function, and cell in your body requires you to get enough sleep to operate properly.
You can get used to less sleep and even seem to perform well on only 4 to 5 hours, but just because you are in the habit of getting little rest does not mean you are not paying for it. You can get used to inhaling cigarette smoke but that doesn’t make it healthy for you. Actually, I don’t know which one is worse. Seriously, sleep is that important.
According to the CDC, 1 in 3 people don’t get enough sleep and according to the National Institute of health, around 50 to 70 million people in this country have chronic sleep disorders. How do you know if you are getting enough rest each night? If you wake up tired even after a full nights rest, you may not be getting enough deep sleep.
The 4 Stages of Sleep
There are 4 stages of sleep, 2 light stages and 2 deep stages. Each stage is important but it’s the 2 deep stages that heal your body and detox your brain. These 2 stages take longer to reach and are frequently interrupted by a full bladder, indigestion, snoring, lights left on, stress, and so on.
The first stage (NREM 1), your brain, heart, and breathing slow down as you transition into sleep. This stage lasts for 5 to 10 minutes, until you cycle into the second stage. During the second stage (NREM 2), your temperature drops, and your body becomes more relaxed, slowing your brain waves, breathing and heart rate even more.
Stage 3 (NREM 3) is the first level of deep sleep and believed by experts to be the stage that your body starts repairing tissue, muscle, and bone. In this stage of sleep, you go into delta brain waves, removing toxins and repairing brain cells.
Stage 4 – REM (Rapid Eye Movement) is the deepest level of sleep. REM is the dream stage and should make up around 20 to 25% of the time you spend asleep.
During restful sleep, you will cycle in and out of these stages throughout the night, spending time in each one. But like I mentioned earlier, many things can interrupt your deeper, restful stages of sleep which can leave you feeling tired in the morning and missing out on their health benefits. One night of interrupted sleep will impact your body and mind. Continued poor sleep over a period of time will lead to serious health problems.
Signs you are not getting enough sleep.
It’s normal to fill tired when you first wake up, but if you can’t seem to get moving and need to regularly rely on caffeine to keep you up, then you need more rest. I look forward to my morning coffee, but when I find myself needing it to wake up instead of drinking it for my own satisfaction, then I know I didn’t get enough rest.
Hitting a wall mid-morning is another sign your body didn’t fully recover during the night. Your body’s to do list is different than your minds. Your body is telling you to go to sleep because it wasn’t finished repairing damaged cells or clearing toxins from your brain.
If you wake up with a cloudy mind and/or have trouble maintaining rational thought, then you most likely did not get enough deep sleep to clear your brain of toxins.
Ultimately, if you are not sick or growing, then you should have a clear mind and plenty of energy throughout your morning without caffeine or any other stimulant. If not, then something is interrupting your sleep.
Humans are the only species that will keep themselves awake outside of their basic survival. This means we choose to do something else over sleep, such as watch a movie or go out drinking. When an animal will only avoid rest if it’s necessary for survive, such as a potential danger near where they sleep.
Some of the most common sleep disruptions are, irregular bedtimes, leaving a TV on in the bedroom, drinking caffeine in the afternoon, eating too close to bedtime, drinking alcohol, stress, eating foods that restrict your airways, temperature, taking a nap late in the afternoon, sitting sedentary, and nutritional deficiencies.
If you do not have a sleep schedule and go to bed and wake up at different times each day, then I highly recommend you start one. By going to bed at the same time every night, your body learns and gets into the rhythm of secreting sleep hormones when it’s close to your set bedtime and does the same in the morning, secreting hormones that wake you up at the same time.
Avoid screen time from your phone, tablet, computer, and TV an hour before bedtime. Remove the TV from your bedroom and only lay in your bed when you are going to sleep. Bright lights can make it hard to fall asleep and will interrupt your sleep if left on. Reading and/or journalling is a great way to relax your mind and prepare yourself for sleep instead.
You should avoid drinking any caffeine past noon. It takes your body between 5 to 10 hours to remove caffeine from your system, depending on how much your drink. Some foods and drinks have small amounts of caffeine, even Decaf coffee has around 30mg per cup, so pay attention to what you consume in the later hours of your day. If you need a quick pick me up without messing with your sleep, then try some Ginseng.
Eating too close to your bedtime can cause digestive upsets that can keep you from falling into the deep stages of sleep. Your digestive system slows down during sleep which can build up gas and stomach acid if left breaking down food after you fall asleep. It’s best to have finished your last meal 3 hours before bedtime. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to do this, then taking a B Complex after dinner can help you digest your meal more efficiently. You can also add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to 8oz of water and drink after dinner.
Alcohol not only dehydrates you and deplete you of vital nutrients but it also will cost you valuable sleep. Just one to two alcoholic drinks can cause you to lose anywhere from 9 to 24% of sleep, much of it being deep sleep.
Restful sleep helps reduce stress and anxiety, but stress and anxiety can make it hard to fall asleep and, in many cases, prevent you from getting deep sleep. Good nutrition and exercise have shown to help with regular daily stress and support restful sleep.
Sugary foods, processed dairy, white bread, fried food, and processed meat are all mucus forming foods that can restrict your airways and shorten your breath during sleep which can cause you to snore. Eating healthier provides better nutrition and won’t block you up like unhealthy foods do. Herbs such as marshmallow, slippery elm, peppermint, and ginger help reduce mucus and open up your airways, but only with a healthy diet.
The ideal temperature for quality sleep is between 60 and 67. Anything above or below can keep you from getting enough restful sleep. If you don’t know your preferred sleep temperature, start at one end (60 or 67) and change it 1 degree each week to see which one you sleep the best at.
Naps are great for your health and I think you should take one everyday after lunch, but taking a nap too late in the afternoon can keep you from falling asleep at the time you normally go to bed. If you were unable to take a nap after lunch and find yourself needing one late in the afternoon, try taking ginseng instead. Ginseng is an herb that supports your body with energy without disrupting your nighttime sleep.
According to the national library of medicine, a study showed that people who sit sedentary for long periods of time were more likely to have insufficient sleep than those that are more active. You should be getting at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity. If you are not, grab a piece of paper and write down all the ways you can exercise. Try a different one each day until you find the ones you like the best.
Eating a unhealthy diet can leave you nutritionally depleted, which can cause you to lose much needed sleep. Getting enough Vitamins and minerals is important for restful sleep and your overall health. If you don’t get enough in your diet, then you should be supplementing them to ensure you are not going without.
What’s Your Sleep Type?
There are two types of people when it comes to sleep, the early bird, and the night owl. The early bird goes to bed early and wakes up early and the night owl goes to bed late and wakes up late.
If you are an early bird, then going to bed late is cutting into your sleep because in most cases you can’t sleep in. A night owl has trouble falling asleep early and most nights lay in bed awake until later hours.
I am an early bird, and my girlfriend is a night own. Until we learned this about each other, she would keep me up late at night and I would wake her up early in the morning, not realizing our differences were cutting into both of our sleep.
Upon learning this, we both set our own sleep schedule around the times we sleep the best. I sleep from 9PM to 5AM and she sleeps from 12AM to 8AM. Although this works great for us, I understand that this may be challenging for those of you that work or go to school in the hours that may contradict with a sleep schedule that best fits your type.
In this case, I encourage you to see if you can change your work or school schedule. If not, that’s okay because you can get used to changing your sleep schedule and there are healthy herbs that you can take to improve your sleep, even though it may not be your preferred time. Check out the Restful Sleep Pack.
The more I learn about sleep, the more I realize how important it is for our health and well-being. Because of its importance, I will continue to updated this blog with new information regularly. So make sure to check back every so often.