Are you getting enough sleep?
Getting enough sleep in today’s hyperactive world can feel like an elusive goal. Even when you get to bed at a decent hour, you stare at the ceiling recounting the day’s activities or scroll into the night on your phone. Sleep is an important component of your holistic health. Additionally, it’s one of the simplest ways we can restore our bodies: all you need is a comfy place to lay your head to get started.
In this article, we are going to discuss the amount, quality, and cycles of rest, as well as our favorite ways to hit the hay.
What is the right amount of sleep for your age?
In our early years, we need as much as 17 hours of rest, tapering off to a minimum of 7 hours per night in our adult years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, for all of you googling “Is 5 hours of sleep enough?” the answer is not really – or at least, not consistently.
This handy graph from the CDC shows the ideal amount of snoozing required for each age group. Of course, it isn’t always possible to achieve enough rest every single night. But, these benchmarks are great goals for optimizing your holistic health.
Quality of Sleep
Even when you are technically getting enough rest regarding the number of hours spent resting, you may not be getting quality sleep.
Quantity: The amount of time you spend asleep
Quality: Undisturbed sleep that leaves you feeling rested in the morning
Quality is largely subjective and heavily relies on how the sleeper feels the next morning. Do you still feel groggy or tired? Do you need a nap in the middle of the day or a cup of coffee by 2 p.m.? Chances are that your shut-eye wasn’t as restful as it should be. Poor sleep has a wide range of causes. The Sleep Foundation provides a good list of factors that may help you get to the bottom of your quality struggles:
- Irregular bedtime schedule
- Poor environment
- Drinking too much caffeine or alcohol
- Sleep disorders
- Mental health disorders
Now that you know where to start researching, you can become better equipped to help your body get the quality rest it needs.
Aligning Your Circadian Rhythm
Your body has several 24-hour cycles tied to a master clock in your brain. These are circadian rhythms, with the sleep-wake cycle being one of the most well-known. Circadian rhythms are largely prompted by light, which is why it is easiest to go to rest after the sun goes down. Sometimes this cycle gets off track and may be contributing to your poor quality of slumber.
There are several ways the sleep-wake circadian rhythm can be thrown off – jet lag, working at night, or sleep disorders to name just a few. Now onto the important step: realigning your circadian rhythm.
The Sleep Foundation provides a helpful list for getting back into the snooze groove:
1. Get into the sunlight early in the day (a sun clock may help!)
2. Stick to a consistent schedule
3. Exercise daily (check out our article on the right amount of exercise here)
4. Avoid caffeine
5. Limit light before bedtime (this includes light from electronic devices)
6. Keep naps short
If these tips don’t get you back on track, it may be time to seek professional advice from a doctor. Sleep is one of the most restorative things you can do for your holistic health and is worth the time investment.
REM and Non-REM Sleep
Beyond the 24 hours, sleep-wake circadian rhythm is your nightly sleep cycle. A full cycle lasts approximately 90-110 minutes and moves through three stages of non-REM sleep and one stage of REM sleep. You should go through several cycles on a given night.
Non-REM sleep comprises your first 3 stages in the cycle after you begin drifting off.
- Stage 1 – light sleep for the first 5-10 minutes
- Stage 2 – light sleep that gradually becomes deeper. Heart rate, muscle movement, and eye movement decrease.
- Stage 3 – The deepest stage of sleep in your entire cycle. No muscle or eye movement. It is extremely difficult to wake someone up at this stage.
REM sleep stands for Rapid Eye Movement, named for the way your eyes move under your closed eyelids while asleep, without sending any visual information to your brain. This is the stage that concludes a full cycle of 90-110 minutes; it is also where you will experience vivid dreams.
The Holistic Benefits of Sufficient Snoozing
Other than leaving you rested and refreshed for the day, getting enough sleep provides a host of unsung benefits for your body:
- Growing: Your body releases growth hormones while you rest, which is why children need naps and early bedtimes as they grow.
- Protein production: While resting the body creates proteins for cell growth and repairs cell damage.
- Nervous system benefits: sleep helps your memory, clarity, and physical performance. It also allows neurons in your brain to repair themselves, creating opportunities for new ways of thinking.
- Longevity: scientists don’t entirely understand what’s in sleep’s secret sauce, but they have deduced strong correlations between healthy sleep patterns and long lives.
- Holistic health: slumber is a major factor in staving off chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart issues. It also aids your immune system.
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