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Value of Sleep


A woman with face half covered sleeping.

It is well known that sleep is an important biological function essential for life. While we sleep, many important functions take place that are essential to brain development, cardiac function, body metabolism, and physical recovery and repair. Quality sleep also supports learning and improves memory and mood. Sleep is especially important for children, playing an important role in growth and overall health, with babies and children needing a lot more sleep than adults.


Without enough sleep, we are more likely to have problems with thinking, concentration, memory, reaction times and mood, all of which make it harder to perform our daily tasks and increase the risks of mistakes and accidents. Regular insufficient or poor sleep contributes to long-term health problems.


Getting enough sleep each day is one of the most important things you can do for your health and well-being and to reduce your risk for ill health.


How Sleep Works

It’s easy to think that when we sleep we simply slip into a passive state of rest for (ideally) eight hours before waking the next day, but sleep is not simply a singular activity. It’s actually a multifaceted and very active process broken up into four stages, each with its own role to play.


Sleep Architecture

Did you know that the structure of a person’s sleep stages and cycles is known as their sleep architecture? You may have thought that deep sleep and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep are the most important stages, as they involve more profound changes in the body and brain. However, experts believe that each stage plays an important part in healthy sleep architecture and all are essential for quality sleep.


Stages of Sleep

There are four stages of sleep divided into two categories; Non-REM and REM. The first three stages fall into the category of non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The fourth stage is REM sleep. These stages are depicted in the diagram below and described in further detail over the page.


Stages of sleep chart

Stages of Sleep


  • Stage 01: Night 1

You’ve just dozed off into a slightly hazy phase of sleep which can last anywhere from 1-5 minutes before you start transitioning into.

  • Stage 02: Night 2

The activity in the brain and body slows down along with your heartbeat and respiratory rate. In this stage, which can range from 10 minutes to one hour, it’s much easier to be awoken.

  • Stage 03: Night 3

Also known as Deep Sleep, this is the deepest part of NREM (non-REM) sleep and has a brain activity pattern known as Delta Waves. This brain wave activity processes memories and experiences from the day while your body releases growth hormones to repair muscle tissue and strengthen your immune system. In this stage, brain waves show a clear pattern of slowed activity that contrasts substantially with waking brain activity. Your muscles and body also relax deeply. Deep sleep plays an important role in repairing the body and enhancing memory and cognition.

  • Stage 04: Night 4

Brain activity picks up significantly in this REM sleep phase, which is essential for brain health and development. The majority of the body - except the eyes and breathing muscles - experience temporary paralysis. However, in this phase, your brain is almost as active as it was when you were awake! The most intense dreaming takes place during REM sleep and has been known to contribute to insightful thinking, creativity, and improved memory.


"Always prioritise and invest in the power of a good night's sleep." ~ Katherine Anderson

Falling Asleep and sleeping soundly

Does the ability to fall asleep quickly often feel out of your control? Perhaps you’ve lost count of the nights you’ve crawled into bed, only to find yourself staring at the ceiling, cringing as the minutes somehow turn into hours. While it's frustrating, your mind and body are not like light switches. After a whole day of being on, it can take a while for them to “switch off” to fall asleep and to sleep soundly. Below are some sleep hygiene tips to help.

“Worry time” before bed

To better prepare your mind and body for rest, try a relaxing activity about an hour before you go to bed each night. Good examples include taking an Epsom salt bath and reading a book.


Consistency is key

Help your body establish a healthy sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at about the same time each day. This reinforces your circadian rhythm to promote healthy sleep-wake cycles.


No screens in bed

Build in a 1-2 hour pre-bed device-free buffer zone before sleep. Cell phones, tablets and laptops cause mental stimulation that is hard to shut off and also generate blue light that may decrease natural melatonin production.


Avoid stimulants

Caffeine can keep you wired even when you want to rest, so try to avoid it after midday. Also, be aware if you’re consuming lots of caffeine to try to make up for lack of sleep. Alcohol and Nicotine also stimulate in ways that disrupt sleep.


Healthy environment

Create a healthy environment where you sleep; your bedroom should be relaxing. Creating a clean and cozy retreat for sleep may help your mind switch off and assist your nervous system in winding down.


Exercise and get outside

Current research strongly suggests exercise and sleep share a bidirectional relationship, however, some types of exercise promote better, higher-quality sleep than others. Consider aerobic exercise and resistance training earlier in the day and Yin Yoga later in the day to improve sleep quality.


Sleep and intimacy zone

Leave your work and worries behind and honour the role of the bedroom. Your brain should only associate bed with sleep and intimate activities.


Consider sleep supplements

If you need a little extra help to get a good night’s sleep, consider trying to include supplements such as Magnesium Glycinate, Passionflower, California Poppy, L-Theanine or Valerian Root. But remember, even natural sleep aids should not replace good sleeping habits.


Start with sunlight

Light, especially sunlight, is one of the key drivers of circadian rhythms that can encourage quality sleep. To naturally burn off the melatonin from the night before and reset your circadian rhythm for the day, step outside and put your face in the sunlight for 15 minutes upon waking.


Block noise and light

A dark and quiet room is essential for a good night's sleep. Light exposure and noise can interfere with sleep quality and quantity.


Don't go to bed untired

An early night might sound nice, but don't force sleep. Heading to bed before you're tired may lead to sleep anxiety and insomnia.


Seek help

There are a wide range of treatments and modalities available at Ease Wellness that can help you find the root cause of your sleep problems, and help you sleep longer, better and more deeply. You'll be amazed at the effect improved sleep can have in all areas of your life, contributing enormously to health and well-being.


“There is a significant need for greater emphasis on sleep health in education, clinical practice, inpatient and long-term care, public health promotion, and the workplace.” ~ Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.


Junk Food vs. Sleep



Result

Intriguingly, researchers saw that deep sleep exhibited less slow-wave activity when the participants had eaten junk food, compared with the consumption of healthier food. This effect also lasted into a second night, once they had switched the participants to an identical diet. Essentially, the unhealthy diet resulted in a shallower deeper sleep.


Ageing + Insomnia

The unhealthy diet resulted in shallower deep sleep and researchers noted that similar changes in sleep occur with aging and in conditions such as insomnia. The study found that it can be hypothesised, from a sleep perspective, that greater importance should potentially be attached to diet in such conditions.


Limitations

The researchers do not currently know how long-lasting the sleep effects of the unhealthier diet may be. The study did not investigate whether shallower deep sleep may alter functions that are regulated by deep sleep, for example. The study noted that it would also be interesting to conduct functional tests, for example, to see whether memory function can be affected.


Implications

Researchers in his study do not know which substances in the unhealthier diet worsened the depth of deep sleep. As in this study, unhealthy diets often contain both higher proportions of saturated fat and sugar and a lower proportion of dietary fibre. The study notes it would be interesting to investigate whether there is a particular molecular factor that plays a greater role.


“Our dietary intervention was also quite short, and both the sugar and fat content could have been higher. It is possible that an even unhealthier diet would have had more pronounced effects on sleep,” -notes researcher and study author, Jonathan Cedernaes.


Sleep Quality and Massage

With the challenges of the current pace of life, insomnia (defined as having difficulty falling asleep or remaining asleep) is starting to occur more frequently for many of us and finding remedies to fight it has become an important part of our overall wellness.


Insomnia

There are various benefits of massage therapy, such as pain and stress relief, recovery from injury, blood circulation improvement, mood-boosting and relaxation, but lesser known are the positive effects of massage on sleep quality.


A growing body of research indicates that massage therapy is beneficial in combating insomnia, as well as the many chronic conditions that contribute to this sleep disorder. Massage helps to combat insomnia by increasing the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain. It is believed that the area of the brain that facilitates the body entering into deep sleep uses serotonin to communicate. The brain also uses serotonin to produce melatonin, which is the hormone responsible for telling the brain to “slow down” and to prepare for sleep.


Other research has found that delta waves – brain waves that appear in heaviest concentration during the deepest realm of sleep, increase as a result of massage. Massage is not a 'one style fits all' modality and different styles of massages are designed to meet different needs. Read on to learn the different types of massage and which might be right for you.


Massage is a natural night stress reducer

Dr. Chris Winter, the neurologist, says that the impact that massage has on sleep might be as straightforward as the fact that it takes your mind off of everything else in your life.

“Anything that not only relaxes your body but also distracts you, can be sleep-promoting.”

Adding to this is the fact that the environment you’re often in during a massage — a dark, quiet room — can be naturally calming. There is a forced break from the sensory stimulation of the day, with information overload to stimulate your brain. It’s very hard to think about that email that you have to write, or stressful world news when your eyes are closed and you are being massaged and calmed.


Do you have trouble sleeping? Schedule a Kinesiology and Coaching session with Katherine Anderson to learn how to manage your sleep routine.




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