Are you getting enough sleep?

In this day and age, sleep is often neglected… the weak link. And for that, you pay a price. Life is busy. There’s work, family, hobbies, sports, staying socially connected (physically and online), and there’s never a shortage of things to be done around the house. Who has time for 8 hours a night?

The world looks very different at 3 a.m. when you’re lying in bed staring at the ceiling or the clock. “How will I make it through tomorrow without any sleep?” you worry. If you regularly can’t get to sleep — or stay asleep — and it starts to affect you during the day. A good nights sleep foster’s our resilience, while persistent lack of it can lead to negative thinking and emotional vulnerability, which can lead to depression and anxiety if we’re not careful.

“Sleep isn’t just a nice bonus, its a health and well-being essential”

Sleep is an important part of your daily routine—you spend about one-third of your time doing it. Quality sleep – and getting enough of it at the right times — is as essential to survival as food and water. Without sleep, you can’t form or maintain the pathways in your brain that let you learn and create new memories, and it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly. Sleep is important to a number of brain functions, including how nerve cells (neurons) communicate with each other. In fact, your brain and body stay remarkably active while you sleep. 

Recent findings suggest that:

Sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins in your brain that build up while you are awake”

In a study conducted in 2008 on ‘Positive affect, psychological well-being, and good sleep’. A cross-sectional study was carried out with 736 men and women aged 58–72 years. Both positive affect and eudaimonic well-being were associated with sleep problems after adjustment for age, gender, household income, and self-rated health. Negative psycho-social factors including financial strain, social isolation, low emotional support, negative social interactions, and psychological distress were also related to reported sleep problems.

These survey results suggest that both positive affect and eudaimonic well-being are directly associated with good sleep and may buffer the impact of psychosocial risk factors. The relationships are likely to be bidirectional, with disturbed sleep engendering lower positive affect and reduced psychological well-being, and positive psychological states promoting better sleep.

How often do you wake up in the morning feeling rested and refreshedenergized to take on the day? On those days, you spring out of bed without hitting the alarm clock” snooze” bottom. As the morning progresses, you’re thinking clearly and able to tackle the tricky issues that have been around for a while and when something goes wrong, you take it in your stride without getting upset or frustrated, plus if an idea or opportunity comes your way, you’re open to it interested and curious.

“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together” – Thomas Dekker, The Guls Horn-Booke

What is good sleep?

Good sleep is restful and uninterrupted. Your muscles are relaxed. Your body rearranges itself once or twice each hour so your blood circulates. You go through the five sleep stages several times. You spend at least two hours dreaming, during which your brain tries to make sense of random thoughts and brain signals. Your body’s cells produce and store proteins to renew and restore all of your systems.

What are the stages of sleep?

  • Stage 1 (10%) It’s easy to be awakened from stage 1 sleep. You may experience slight muscle contractions that give you the sensation of falling.
  • Stage 2 (45-50%) Brain waves slow down, body temperature drops, breathing and heart rate remain constant.
  • Stages 3 and 4 (20%) You enter deep sleep. Your brain waves change from the waking alpha and beta waves to slower theta and delta waves. It is hardest to wake you up. Your blood pressure drops and your breathing slows.
  • REM (rapid eye movement) (20-25%) Your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises, males get erections, and you lose some ability to regulate your body temperature. Most dreams occur during this stage.

Which brain chemicals are involved in sleep?

  • Serotonin is a chemical that affects mood, emotion, sleep and appetite. Many antidepressants affect the amount of serotonin in the brain, and can also affect a person’s sleep. People beginning treatment with a new antidepressant may feel drowsier than usual for the first couple of weeks.
  • Norepinephrine is another brain chemical that affects stress response, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and metabolism. Antidepressants may also work on the activity and levels of norepinephrine.
  • Adenosine is a chemical that builds up in the blood when a person is awake and causes drowsiness. Adenosine is formed when the larger compound, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) breaks down and releases energy. Caffeine blocks the action of adenosine and keeps a person awake. Studies for future sleep medications focus on ways to affect a person’s adenosine levels. Adenosine also affects the heart and circulatory system.

Tips to Sleep Better

What are your habits in the hour before you go to bed? How well is your bedroom set up for a good nights sleep?

Try the following tips and develop happier sleeping habits and sleep better.

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About the Author: Nailah Aljasmi

Marketing & Advertising Manager | Health and Wellbeing Educator | Nutrition Health Advocate