December 23, 2011 9 Comments
Sleep isn’t merely a time when your body and brain shut off. While you rest, your brain stays busy, overseeing a wide variety of biological maintenance tasks that keep you running in top condition and prepare you for the day ahead. Without enough hours of restorative sleep, you’re like a car in need of an oil change. You won’t be able to work, learn, create, and communicate at a level even close to your true potential. Regularly skimp on “service” and you’re headed for a major mental and physical breakdown.
It’s not just the number of hours in bed that is important—it’s the quality of those hours of sleep. If you’re giving yourself plenty of time for sleep, but you’re still having trouble waking up in the morning or staying alert all day, you may not be spending enough time in the different stages of sleep—especially deep sleep and REM sleep. By understanding how the sleep cycles work and the factors that can lead to those cycles being disrupted, you’ll be able to start getting both the quantity and the quality of sleep you need.
The sleep-wake cycle:
Your internal 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, otherwise known as biological clock or circadian rhythm, is regulated by processes in the brain that respond to how long you’ve been awake and the changes between light and dark. At night, your body responds to the loss of daylight by producing melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. During the day, sunlight triggers the brain to inhibit melatonin production so you feel awake and alert.
This sleep-wake cycle can be disrupted by factors such as night shift work, traveling across time zones, or irregular sleeping patterns, leaving you feeling groggy, disoriented, and sleepy at inconvenient times. The production of melatonin can also be thrown off when you’re deprived of sunlight during the day or exposed to too much artificial light at night, disrupting the sleep-wake cycle and preventing you from getting the sleep you need.
Average sleeps needs per age group:
|Average Sleep Needs|
|Newborns (0-2 months)||12 – 18|
|Infants (3 months to 1 year)||14 – 15|
|Toddlers (1 to 3 years)||12 – 14|
|Preschoolers (3 to 5 years)||11 – 13|
|School-aged children (5 to 12 years)||10 – 11|
|Teens and preteens (12 to 18 years)||8.5 – 10|
|Adults (18+)||7.5 – 9|
Myth that six hours of sleep is enough:
It’s true that some people are born with a gene that allows them to have a quality and refreshing sleep in just 6 hours. The only problem is that this gene is so rare that is it prevalent in a mere 3% of the population. So 97% of the population do indeed require a significant amount of sleep.
Signs of being sleep deprived:
- Need an alarm clock in order to wake up on time
- Rely on the snooze button
- Have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning
- Feel sluggish in the afternoon
- Get sleepy in meetings, lectures, or warm rooms
- Get drowsy after heavy meals or when driving
- Need to nap to get through the day
- Fall asleep while watching TV or relaxing in the evening
- Feel the need to sleep in on weekends
- Fall asleep within five minutes of going to bed
Effects of sleep deprivation and chronic lack of sleep:
- Fatigue, lethargy, and lack of motivation
- Moodiness and irritability
- Reduced creativity and problem-solving skills
- Inability to cope with stress
- Reduced immunity; frequent colds and infections
- Concentration and memory problems
- Weight gain
- Impaired motor skills and increased risk of accidents
- Difficulty making decisions
- Increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems
How too little sleep affects your daily or weekly performance:
Lack of sleep affects your judgment, coordination, and reaction times. In fact, sleep deprivation can affect you just as much as being drunk.
All sleep is not created equal. Sleep unfolds in a series of recurring sleep stages that are very different from one another in terms of what’s happening beneath the surface. From deep sleep to dreaming sleep, they are all vital for your body and mind. Each stage of sleep plays a different part in preparing you for the day ahead.
- Non-REM (NREM) sleep- consists of four stages of sleep, each deeper than the last.
- REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep- when you do most active dreaming. Your eyes actually move back and forth during this stage, which is why it is called Rapid Eye Movement sleep.
|The Stages of Sleep|
|Stage N1 (Transition to sleep) – This stage lasts about five minutes. Eyes move slowly under the eyelids, muscle activity slows down, and you are easily awakened.|
|Stage N2 (Light sleep) – This is the first stage of true sleep, lasting from 10 to 25 minutes. Eye movement stops, heart rate slows, and body temperature decreases.|
|Stage N3 (Deep sleep) – You’re difficult to awaken, and if you are awakened, you do not adjust immediately and often feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes. In this deepest stage of sleep, brain waves are extremely slow. Blood flow is directed away from the brain and towards the muscles, restoring physical energy.|
|REM sleep (Dream sleep) – About 70 to 90 minutes after falling asleep, you enter REM sleep, where dreaming occurs. Eyes move rapidly. Breathing is shallow. Heart rate and blood pressure increase. Arm and leg muscles are paralyzed.The sleep cycle: Understanding the architecture of sleep|
Conclusively, adults should be getting around 7.5 to 8 hours of deep, quality sleep per night. This helps in maintaining mental stability and ambiguity throughout not only the next day but potentially the rest of your life.