Deep sleep is an essential component of enjoying good health. Poor sleep can contribute to a number of chronic illnesses and disorders. Recent sleep investigations have provided researchers with some very fascinating information on the nature of sleep and factors that improve or detract from a good night’s rest. By better understanding the cycles of sleeping and waking, and by following some simple strategies we can greatly improve the quality of our sleep and health.
The Circadian Rhythm
The human body runs on 24 hours cycle. The 24-hour cycle of waking and sleeping is termed the circadian rhythm. The controlling factor of the sleep/wake cycle is the hormone melatonin, which is secreted by the pineal gland in the center of the brain. Studies have shown that our biological clocks are set every morning upon waking when we see the light. Bright light shone on the skin and eyes cause the pineal gland to cause its melatonin secretion and release the waking hormones into the system.
The Role Of Sleep
During the two stages of deep sleep our body secretes growth hormone, which assists with cellular repair. This includes regeneration of our immune function, bone density, connective tissues and muscle mass. It is also believed that the consolidation of memory takes place during REM sleep. Additionally, sleep is fundamental for mending damaged blood cells, repairing the daily wear and tear on the body, restoring the efficiency of the brain, and is essential for our emotional and mental wellbeing. Also, in the early hours of the morning, the immune system, manufactures the antibodies to combat the antigens (viruses, bacteria, toxins, etc.) to which the body has been exposed the previous day. Compromised sleep therefore, impairs antibody development, which means the immune system will be suppressed.
Five steps to a better night sleep
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including the weekends
2. Create a bedtime ritual before retiring at night (such as a glass of warm milk, shower, clean teeth, relaxing oil in an oil burner and 10 minutes of light reading)
3. Expose yourself to bright lights immediately upon waking
4. Avoid the sleep destroyers (caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine) several hours before bedtime
5. Avoid taking naps for longer than 20 minutes during the day
Having troubles falling asleep?
Go to bed only when you feel sleepy
Keep your bed as a place of sleep only
If you do not fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something else
Return to bed once you feel sleepy (and get up again if necessary)
Set your alarm to wake you up at the same time everyday – and do not sleep in
Avoid napping during the day