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The Science of Sleep: A Brief Guide on How to Sleep Better Every Night

Restoration

The first purpose of sleep is restoration.

Every day, your brain accumulates metabolic waste as it goes about its normal neural activities. Sleeping restores the brains healthy condition by removing these waste products. Accumulation of these waste products has been linked to many brain-related disorders.

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The Science of Sleep: A Brief Guide on How to Sleep Better Every Night

The Science of Sleep: A Brief Guide on How to Sleep Better Every Night

https://jamesclear.com/sleep

jamesclear.com

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Key Ideas

The Science of Sleep

The average adult spends 36 % (or about one-third) of his or her life asleep.

Purpose of Sleep:

  • Restoration
  • Memory Consolidation
  • Metabolic Health

Restoration

The first purpose of sleep is restoration.

Every day, your brain accumulates metabolic waste as it goes about its normal neural activities. Sleeping restores the brains healthy condition by removing these waste products. Accumulation of these waste products has been linked to many brain-related disorders.

Memory Consolidation

The second purpose of sleep is memory consolidation.

Sleep is crucial for memory consolidation, which is responsible for your long term memories. Insufficient or fragmented sleep can hamper your ability to remember facts and feelings/emotions.

Metabolical Health

When we sleep 5.5 hours per night instead of 8.5 hours per night (recommended is 8 hours), we tend to burn more energy using carbs and protein, instead of fat. This can result in fat gain and muscle loss. Also, insufficient sleep or abnormal sleep cycles can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Cumulative Stress

Cumulative stress takes place when the inputs in our body like nutrition, sleep and other forms of recovery are not able to fulfill the drainers, like exercise, stress, and other forms of things that take away our energy.

Keep your Bucket of Energy Full

  1. Refill your bucket on a regular basis. That means making time for sleep and recovery.
  2. Let the draining tasks in your life accumulate and drain your bucket. Once you hit empty, your body will force you to rest through injury and illness.

The Sleep-Wake Cycle

The quality of your sleep is determined by a process called the sleep-wake cycle. This cycle is dictated by your circadian rhythm.

There are two important parts of the sleep-wake cycle:

  1. Slow-wave sleep (also known as deep sleep)
  2. REM sleep (REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement)

How to Sleep Better

  • Develop a “power down” ritual before bed, limiting the use of technology and bright lights.
  • Use Relaxation Techniques like yoga or meditation.
  • Get some sun exposure every day.
  • Avoid Caffeine.
  • Stop smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Use the Bedroom for sleep-related activities only, keeping it uncluttered and inducive to sleep.
  • Get some exercise in the day.
  • Keep room temperature ideal for sleep.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol.
  • Avoid noisy surroundings and conditions.

The Circadian Rhythm

It is impacted by three main factors: 

  • Light: probably the most significant pace setter of the circadian rhythm. Staring into a bright light for 30 minutes or so can often reset your circadian rhythm regardless of what time of day it is.
  • The time of day, your daily schedule, and the order in which you perform tasks can all impact your sleep-wake cycle.
  • Melatonin: this is the hormone that causes drowsiness and controls body temperature. It increases after dark and decreases before dawn.

How to Fall Asleep Fast

  • Develop a “power down” ritual before bed: shut off all electronics an hour or two before sleep and resume all work early in the day, t calm your mind.
  • Use relaxation techniques: proven methods include daily journaling, deep breathing exercises, meditation, exercise, and keeping a gratitude journal.

Daily Habits for Better Sleep

  • Get outside. Aim for at least 30 minutes of sun exposure each day.
  • Turn out the lights. When it gets dark outside, dim the lights in your house and reduce blue or full-spectrum light in your environment.
  • Avoid caffeine and stop smoking or chewing tobacco. 
  • Use the bedroom for sleep and sex only. 

Also, consider these sleep aids: exercise (it will make it easier for your brain and body to power down at night), temperature (the ideal range is usually between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit/18 to 21 degrees Celsius) and sound (a quiet space is key for good sleep).

When choosing your bedtime, try not to fight your physiology. The best bedtime will differ a little bit for everyone, but it's crucial that you pay close attention to your internal clock and what your body is telling you. As long as you're getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep, just focus on finding the time that works best for you.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Keep in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle
  • Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day;
  • Avoid sleeping in, even on weekends;
  • Limit naps to 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon;
Melatonin

Is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. 

Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark, making you sleepy, and less when it’s light, making you more alert. 

However, many aspects of modern life can alter your body’s production of melatonin and shift your circadian rhythm

Influence exposure to ligh

During the day:

  • Expose yourself to bright sunlight in the morning. 
  • Spend more time outside during daylight. 
  • Let as much natural light into your home or workspace as possible.

At night:

  • Avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of your bedtime.
  • Say no to late-night television.
  • Don’t read with backlit devices. 
  • When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark.
  • Keep the lights down if you get up during the night.

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Sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation

Willpower, memory, judgement, and attention all suffer when you are sleep deprived.

You drop things, crave junk food sugar, overeat, gain weight. You’re more irritable, negative, emotio...

Get through sleep deprivation:
  • Stabilize your blood sugar, by eating hearty food (protein and fat) more often.
  • Reduce refined carbs and increase fats and proteins.
  • B-complex vitamin supplements can give you an immediate boost in alertness and mental clarity.
  • Soak in an Epsom salt bath - might even help you get enough energy to exercise the next day.
  • Drink more water than you usually do to help compensate.
  • Exercise is the single best way to “take out the trash” in your body, and after staying up more hours than you should.
Your Relationship With Sleep
Your Relationship With Sleep

Many of us have a broken relationship with sleep. It’s rare for most people to wake up refreshed, rejuvenated, and full of energy.

We need to look into something we always overlooked or neg...

Basics Of Sleep

A night of sleep is made of five cycles, making us go through various sleep stages. This can be light sleep, deep sleep and REM stage of sleep when we dream and have eye movement.

During sleep, our body produces Melatonin and Growth Hormones, which are required by your bodies for regulating our internal clock and to restore our muscles, bone and metabolism.

Sleep Myths Busted
  1. We all don’t need a standard eight hours of sleep, as it varies according to our age, genetics and level of activity.
  2. Insomnia is actually of various types, from Onset (unable to fall asleep) to Maintenance(struggling to stay asleep) and other types like chronic and acute insomnia.
  3. We all do not have to wake up at 5 a.m., and the wake up time depends on our chronotype.
  4. Sleeping pills, like the types of insomnia, are different too. Benadryl helps you fall asleep, while melatonin pills regulate our internal clock.

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Your body needs dark too
Your body needs dark too

While we are starting to pay attention to how important sleep is, the need for dark is still mostly ignored.

Being exposed to regular patterns of light and dark regulates our circadian ...

Our sleep and wake patterns

On its own, the circadian rhythm takes almost 24 hours. Our bodies rely on the Sun to reset this cycle and keep it at 24 hours, the length of our days. Light and the dark are important signals for the cycle.

During the night, body temperature drops, metabolism slows, and the hormone melatonin rises dramatically. When the Sun comes up in the morning, melatonin has already started falling, and you wake up.

Our bodies in the dark

During the dark, levels of the hormone leptin (hunger control), go up. This means we do not feel hungry while low levels make us hungry.

Ans research found that sleep disruption and turning on lights lowers leptin levels which makes people hungry in the middle of the night.

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The necessary amount of sleep
The necessary amount of sleep

Most adults function best after 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

When we get less than 7 hours, we’re impaired (to degrees that vary from person to person).  When sleep persistently fa...

Polyphasic sleeping

It's based on the idea that by partitioning your sleep into segments, you can get away with less of it.

Though it is possible to train oneself to sleep in spurts instead of a single nightly block, it does not seem possible to train oneself to need less sleep per 24-hour cycle.

Replacing sleep with caffeine

Caffeine works primarily by blocking the action of a chemical called adenosine, which slows down our neural activity, allowing us to relax, rest, and sleep.

By interfering with it, caffeine cuts the brake lines of the brain’s alertness system. Eventually, if we don’t allow our body to relax, the buzz turns to anxiety.

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The problem with staying up late

Long days can leave us tired and exhausted. But, our days would be less hard and exhausting if we weren't so tired through them.

Most night owls have to wake a similar time to other people...

Learn to love a good night's sleep

When trying to change your sleep habits, don't give up too soon. Keep it up for a week. The days will get easier, and you'll learn to love sleep again.

To get to bed earlier, slow down in the evenings. Read a book rather than engaging with your smartphone or laptop. Listening to music is good too.

Have something to get up for

Schedule something fun or desirable to look forward to in the morning before work. 

It could include coffee, the news, gym or uninterrupted smartphone access.

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Our sleep-wake pattern

Our molecular clock inside our cells aims to keep us in sync with the sun

When we disregard this circadian rhythm, we are at a greater risk for illnesses such as diabetes, heart...

The lifestyle imbalance

Thomas Edison said that sleep is "a bad habit." Like Edison, we seem to think of sleep as an adversary and try to fight it at every turn. The average American sleeps less than the recommended seven hours per night, mostly due to electric lights, television, computers, and smartphones. 

However, we are ignoring the intricate journey we're designed to take when we sleep.

Stage One Sleep

When we fall asleep, the nearly 86 billion neurons in our brain starts to fire evenly and rhythmically. Our sensory receptors become muffled at the same time.

The first stage of shallow sleep lasts for about 5 minutes.

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Slow-wave sleep (deep sleep) – SWS

About 80% of our sleeping is of the SWS variety, identified by slow brain waves, relaxed muscles and deep breathing.

Deep sleep is important for the consolidation of memories. New experience...

Rapid eye movement (dreaming) - REM

Dreaming accounts for 20% of our sleeping time.

The length of dreams can vary from a few seconds to almost an hour. During REM sleep, the brain is highly active. The muscles are paralyzed, and the heart rate increases. Breathing can become erratic. 

Sleep quantity

Although eight hours is the common mention, optimum sleep can vary from person to person and from age to age.

One review that worked through 320 research articles concluded 7 - 9 hours of sleep are enough for adults. According to experts, too little or too much sleep can both have a negative impact on your health.

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How alcohol affects sleep

A lot of the symptoms associated with a hangover are a product of sleep deprivation.

Alcohol affects our ability to get into what is known as rapid eye movement (REM...

Eating before bed

It is important to leave at least a couple of hours between eating and sleeping. 

There is a whole raft of so-called sleepy foods – anything containing tryptophan, serotonin, melatonin, magnesium, calcium, potassium – often eaten in the hope they will aid sleep. 

If you do want to eat these foods, do it because it’s a nice ritual, not because you need it to sleep.

A cure for sleepwalking

There isn’t a cure. 

People who sleepwalk usually are advised to keep their room safe by locking windows and doors, and to maintain what’s called good sleep hygiene: keep to a regular sleep routine, turn mobile phones off, avoid stimulants, and so on. Sleepwalking can often occur as a result of poor or disrupted sleep.

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