Sleep Awareness

Information

What is Considered Proper Sleep?

Sleep consists of alternate cycles of 80 minutes of non-rapid eye movement, and 10 minutes of rapid eye movement.  This 90 minute cycle repeats 3 to 6 times during a sleep session.  Both cycles of sleep are needed.  If part of the non-rapid eye movement is missed, the body will spend more time in this cycle the next time you sleep.  The same is true for rapid eye movement.
Sleep occupies 1/3 of our existence and is necessary for our physical and mental well-being.

Why is Sleep so Important?

Sleep affects almost every physiological and psychological process in the body.  Our body will psychologically crave sleep if it does not get enough.  Growth hormone for muscle building and weight loss and chemicals essential to the immune system are secreted during sleep, and sleep gives the body a chance to repair muscle and tissues and replace aging and dead cells.  Sleep also gives the brain a chance to organize and archive memories.  Furthermore, sleep lowers our energy consumption, so we do not need to eat as much.

What Happens if You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

After one night of sleep deprivation, a person will generally be irritable during the next day and will slow down or experience adrenaline highs.  After two nights of sleep deprivation, concentration is difficult, the attention span shortens and mistakes increase.  After three days of sleep deprivation, a person will start to hallucinate and clear thinking is impossible.  With continued wakefulness, a person can lose grasp of reality.  Sleep deprivation is strongly linked with the development of depression and/or other metal illnesses. 

A person who gets just a few hours of sleep a night can experience many of the same problems over time.  Sleep deprivation also breaks down your immune system and leaves you more prone to illness.  Furthermore, sleep deprivation can eventually lead to weight gain and an increased risk of developing Type II Diabetes.

How to Get Improved and Increased Sleep:

  1. Give yourself permission to go to bed at a decent time; make sleep a priority.
  2. Unwind early in the evening; deal with worries and distractions several hours before bedtime.
  3. Develop a sleep ritual.  Doing the same thing each night just before bed signals your body that it is time for sleep.  Avoid studying or reading just before bedtime.
  4. Keep regular hours; go to bed and wake up around the same time everyday-even on the weekends.
  5. Create a restful place to sleep.  Sleep in a cool, dark room that is free from disturbing noises.  Light can signal the brain that it is time to wake up.  Loud, abrupt noises can disturb sleep, however, low subtle noises, white noise such as fans, can block out other noises.
  6. Exercise on a regular basis.  Regular exercise will help relieve tension and stress, as well as help tire and relax the body.  However, do not exercise too close to bed time or this might make it difficult for you to go to sleep.
  7. Cut down on stimulants; caffeine and other stimulants make it more difficult to fall asleep.
  8. Don’t smoke; smokers take longer to fall asleep and wake up more often during the night.
  9. Reduce alcohol intake.  Drinking alcohol shortly before bedtime interrupts and fragments sleep and disrupts the brains normal sleep patterns.

How to Handle Sleep Deprivation:

  • Allow for at least 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep each day to maintain minimal functioning and performance.
  • Take frequent naps between 20 and 90 minutes.
  • Avoid stimulants and depressants (caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, sleeping pills, etc.).
  • Create a comfortable sleep area and establish a regular sleeping pattern.
  • Eat complex carbohydrates frequently and avoid large amounts of protein while awake. 
  • Eat a high protein snack 20 minutes before you plan to go to sleep.