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In today's fast-paced world, it’s easy to get swept into a hustling, bustling lifestyle. Whether you are wrapping up a project at the office, working overtime at the factory, or planning meals for the family throughout the week, it is all too easy to push off sleep. But how long can you do this and at what point does it become unhealthy?
When we work through a busy day, week, or even month, we can easily become overwhelmed by our list of events, duties, and obligations.
More often than not, what gives is time spent sleeping. But how healthy is this, and does it actually help you achieve your goals or does it compromise them?
Let's start by first looking at what exactly sleep is and what it means to get a good night of it.
First off, sleep gets a lot of hype because it is linked to a multitude of health benefits. In fact, it’s a fundamental aspect of daily health. Everything we do in a day burns energy. If we take the dog for a walk or go to the gym for a quick exercise we use up glucose stores exerting energy that needs to be replenished. Even thinking through serious issues can exert a toll as our brain is designed to use up energy as well.
This energy gets replenished primarily through two methods, nutrition and rest. Our bodies weren’t designed to just keep running and running without fuel and proper rest. If we don’t give our bodies proper nutrition and rest, they won’t continue operating at maximum efficiency.
No matter your lifestyle, you have most likely experienced what it’s like to hit a brick wall with your energy. This is that moment when you are just going about your business and the next minute nothing on Earth sounds better than a nap.
Sleep isn’t just about gaining energy and keeping the yawns at bay. This fundamental part of our daily experience has been linked by multiple studies to have a positive impact on all of these systems and areas of our body:
So now that we know a little more about the known benefits of sleep and why we should be prioritizing it — let's take a closer look at what happens when we sleep.
Sleep itself has been studied extensively and it is believed that when we sleep we sleep in cycles. These cycles last an average of 90 minutes, however, it can change from person to person.
These cycles are broken into four unique phases that have a specific purpose in the sleep cycle and bring their own benefits to your sleeping experience. Further, these four phases of sleep have been divided into two different categories of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep.
The average adult is suggested to get at least seven hours of sleep each night, if not more. That is an average of nearly five sleep cycles per night. Let's take a closer look at each phase of these cycles and what they can provide.
N1 is the first phase of the sleep cycle and is a non-REM phase of sleep. As you may have guessed, this is the lightest stage of sleep when you bridge the distance between being awake and drifting off into a dose. If someone is a light sleeper, this is probably the hardest phase to pass and the easiest to be awakened from.
Once N1 has been completed, we move into N2. This is also a non-REM phase of sleep and is a deeper sleep phase than N1. The same way our mind was settling into the sleep cycle in N1, so now the body is doing a similar thing in N2.
This stage helps your body transition and get ready for deep sleep. Your muscles relax, your total temperature drops and you enter optimum energy saving mode.
N3 is one of two deep sleep phases and is also a non-REM sleep phase. This stage is considered deeply restorative and very important for you to physically feel refreshed and invigorated.
This first stage of deep sleep sees your body getting ready for REM, a stage of high brain activity. That means your body becomes completely relaxed and your mind goes deep into unconsciousness. If you get awoken out of this stage, chances are you will feel sleep inertia which is what happens when you feel groggy and foggy in the morning instead of refreshed and alert.
REM sleep is thought to be one of the most important phases in the sleep cycle. It is the last phase of the sleep cycle and the second deep sleep phase, making it one of the hardest to achieve. If you are going to have an interrupted sleep cycle, chances are you will have it happen before your mind even enters REM.
The benefits of this phase of sleep are extensive, being linked to regeneration and healing properties of sleep for your mind and body. During this phase, your mind is very active and this is the stage you will probably remember dreams from.
As we just saw, every phase of the sleep cycle is linked and has its own important benefits. In order to get the most out of a night of sleep, the goal is to have as many full sleep cycles as you need. Sleep deprivation takes this away from you.
When we don't get enough sleep we can start to think that a series of naps could substitute; however, naps that are not adequate to facilitate a sleep cycle won’t have the benefits of a good night's rest.
Sleep deprivation comes with hefty warnings and risks. Not only will it affect your mood and overall cognitive abilities during the day, but it has also been linked to multiple serious health conditions.
In the same way that sleep improves your immune system, cardiovascular health, and overall body wellness, so also a lack of sleep has adverse effects on those same systems.
Going without sleep can come from a multitude of different reasons. You could have one of many sleep disorders that keep you from falling asleep or doesn’t allow you to actually stay asleep. It could be less of a disorder and more of a lifestyle. Blue lights from screens, alcohol before bed, a lack of proper nutrition and exercise have all been linked to difficulty sleeping.
The truth is, everyone is different and will have a different threshold for sleep deprivation. Regardless of how well you feel you can operate without sleep or however little you may think you need, sleep is a deeply beneficial exercise and you should consider steps that can help you deepen your experience with it.
Our Calm and Unwind capsules are actually designed specifically to help your mind not only handle tension and restlessness but actually prepare for deep rewarding sleep.
You can check out more products that may help you on your sleep journey, here.
Stages of Sleep | Sleepfoundation.org
NIH-The Benefits of Slumber | newsinhealth.nih.gov