The importance of sleep
Our sleeping patterns are controlled by our internal clock. A natural sleep and wake behavior is programmed deep within us. However this mechanism can easily get confused. The reasons differ, however stress, fears and worries are the common factors that lead to sleeping problems. This results in disrupted sleeping patterns that ultimately make us sick, fat and tired.
Melatonin – The sleep hormone
Melatonin is a hormone that is activated by the darkening of the pineal gland, located in our brain. This pineal gland regulates our Day and Night rythm and produces the so called sleep hormone. Daylight therefore is the natural signal to wake up, as the production of melatonin is inhibited.
Long periods of light-deficiency (ex. winter months) result in high levels of melantonin in our blood, thus make us more tired.
With increased age the average sleeping time reduces and can result in medical problems. The reason is that our bodies produce lower levels of melatonin as we age. Some jobs that have irregular working time, such as shift work or travelling a lot due to work, can also disrupt the natural hormone production of melatonin, thus make us sick.
What happens when we sleep?
To master our daily life and activities the importance of sleep is undeniable. We need our regular sleep to relax and save energy. In this time the body works on all the parts that are not active during the day. The most activated organ while we sleep, is the brain.
Essential functions such as the blood pressure, digestion process or relaxation of the muscles are activated during our night sleep. Depending on which sleep circle we are in the blood pressure will be reduced and/or the digestion process is highly active. There is also a link between the importance of sleep and Blood Pressure. Interruptions such as waking up increases the blood pressure. thus resulting in High Blood Pressure.
Some body cells are particularly active. The digestion of proteins is inhibited to use the proteins for cell repair. So after all sleeping is a beauty treatment. The brain regenerates itself and activates the cleansing of itself. Scientists are still looking into this mechanism to understand what exactly is happening. The confusion of an overactive nervous system, as you can see with individuals who are lacking sleep is evidence that our brain needs this time to regenerate the nervous system.
New connections are created inside the nervous system. Newly learned skills are therefore manifested inside the structure of our brains.
Each person has their own sleeping pattern. Despite this we all share the same sleep stages. There are 4 – 6 sleep cycles each night. The sleep cycles are known to be:
- Light sleep
- Deep sleep
- Dream sleep (paradecial sleep) or REM-sleep
Around 90 % of our dream activities happen in the so called REM-sleep cycle. Expereinces and information that was collected throughout the day are mentally worked on. The REM-sleep takes about 20 minutes. REM stands for „Rapid Eye Movement“. The heart rate increases and the respiration becomes irregular. Fingers, legs and also the face can start to move. Dreams are most intense during the REM stages.
Tips to help sleep
Sleep can’ t be forced. The more we force it the less likely we actually fall asleep. To help you have your healthy nap, these tips might be helpful for you:
- Make sure you have a regular time you go to bed.
- The bedroom should be a little below normal room temperature.
- Make your bed a cozy oasis. Decorate your bed with whatever makes you feel cozy and comforty.
- Find your own personal sleeping ritual. Read a book, listen to some relaxing music, practice sleep yoga, or write in your diary.
- You should have enough excercise throughout the day that will make you tired towards the evening.
- Don’t eat too heavy for dinner. Make sure you eat easy digestive food, that won’t interrupt your sleep. Bananas are known to help increase the bodies serotonin levels. This increases also your mood and helps your body to relax.
- Don’t lie awake inside your bed. Make sure you get up and distract yourself until you feel sleepy.
- Avoid coffein containing drinks such as coffee, green tea or energy drinks. Also do not smoke, as this is a stimulant which makes it harder for you to fall asleep.
- Drink a glass of red wine. It helps relax and calm down.