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Why We Sleep

Why We Sleep

by Matthew Walker

There are two main reasons we go to sleep:

  • Circadian rhythm: Every living creature on the planet has some sort of sleep-wake cycle
  • Sleep pressure: Every second you’re awake, a chemical called adenosine is compiling up in your brain. The concentration of this substance is increasing your desire to sleep

There are two stages of sleep:

  • Rapid Eye Movement (REM): The brain activity is almost identical to when we’re awake. In this stage, we dream.
  • Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM): A dreamless sleep. During this stage, we’re calm, relaxed and the heart rate is slow and regular. There are four sub-stages of NREM Sleep: from 1 to 4, where 4 is the deepest form of sleep.

Each cycle lasts around 90 minutes with different NREM / REM ratios:

  • Cycle 1: NREM (80%) -> REM (20%)
  • Cycle 2: NREM (70%) -> REM (30%)
  • Cycle 3: NREM (60%) -> REM (40%)
  • Cycle 4: NREM (50%) -> REM (50%)
  • Cycle 5: NREM (40%) -> REM (60%)

  1. During REM sleep our body gets paralyzed by the brain in order to prevent us from executing on our dreams.
  2. Sleeping helps us improve. When we’re learning or practicing something and we stop, our brain will continue to work on these tasks on the background. This passive learning process gets even stronger when we shut our eyes.
  3. Sleep fuels our creativity. During sleep our brains build connections, nurturing our problem-solving skills and imagination.
  4. The main function of dreaming is to help us resolve past, or current, emotional problems.
  5. There is this thing called lucid dreaming where you’re completely aware of what you’re dreaming. In this state, you can manipulate the dream and decide what to do instead of simply going with the flow of the dream.
  6. Since the temperature decreases when the sun sets, and for thousands of years we slept in the wilderness, you’ll fall asleep easier in a colder room
  1. Consuming alcohol to persuade yourself to sleep is a bad practice. Alcoholic beverages mess up your REM sleep and you get a fragmented sleep.
  2. With age, our sleep efficiency declines. This is mainly because of our frequent visits to the bathroom. A simple fix will be to reduce the intake of fluids before going to sleep.
  3. Studies confirm that a lack of sleep can lead to a lot of nasty outcomes: diabetes, depression, chronic pain, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
  4. You can’t sleep it off: Even if you get enough sleep to recover from last night’s party, the brain cells that have died during the sleep deprivation will never heal.
  5. You start to gain weight if you don’t get enough sleep. This is caused by two hormones that are released in your body: leptin and ghrelin. In short, the imbalance between the two increases your level of hunger causing weight gain.
  6. Your immune system is getting weaker when you’re sleeping less. On top of that, your libido also suffers.
Matthew walker

"The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep."

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule. Create a sleeping habit by going to bed and waking up at the same time, every-single-day. Oversleeping on weekends feels good but it ruins your progress during the week.
  2. Exercise, but don’t do it before going to sleep. Your body needs at least 3 hours to calm down after a workout. Don’t train and hit the sack directly.
  3. Avoid caffeine and nicotine. The effect of stimulating beverages like coffee can take as long as eight hours to fully wear off.
  4. Avoid alcohol before going to bed. 
  5. Avoid eating and drinking plenty of water before going to sleep. 
  6. Don’t take naps after 3 PM
  7. Relax before going to bed
  8. A hot bath before bed might help. Taking a bath will help you relax. Along with that, your body temperature after the shower will decrease helping you feel sleepy.
  9. Diss the gadgets and dim the lights in your bedroom
  10. Expose yourself to sunlight. Daylight regulates your sleep patterns. Make sure you’re outside for at least 30 minutes a day.
  11. If you can’t fall asleep, do something. 

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