Sleep: Everything You Need to Know

What time do I go to bed? How long should my sleep be? What are the most common causes of insomnia? These are just some of the questions people often ask themselves when it comes to sleeping, but now there might finally be an answer. Learn more about how you can make your life easier by getting a better night’s rest with this article.

Sleep is a process that the human body goes through. It can be broken down into 5 stages of sleep, and each stage has its own benefits.

Vintage man in bed sleeping with smiling face.

When you think about it, sleep is a strange phenomenon. “There are tens of millions of individuals right now laying unwittingly in their beds, momentarily immobilized and experiencing terrible hallucinations,” I’ll think to myself as I go off to sleep.

That’s because that’s what occurs while you’re sleeping. Isn’t it crazy?

But why do we have to go through this nightly routine? Sleep has been a great enigma for much of human history. It wasn’t until lately that scientists began to comprehend why animals and people need sleep. Even those new ideas are simply that: guesses. When asked why humans need to sleep, Dr. William C. Dement, who established Stanford University’s Sleep Research Center and has studied sleep for over 50 years, said, “As far as I know, the only reason we need to sleep that is really, really solid is that we become drowsy.” So, despite modern technology like MRIs and EEGs that allow us to peek into the brain, sleep remains virtually as mysterious to us as it was to the ancients.

While we don’t know why we need to sleep, we do know that it has a slew of advantages and that if we don’t get enough of it, we risk a variety of physical and mental issues. The irony/irony is that, despite the fact that sleep is a vital component of general health, it does not get the same level of attention as food and exercise. People seldom talk about their proclivity for consuming large amounts of Cheetos, but they love to brag about how little sleep they get; it’s become a badge of pride to demonstrate how busy one is with more essential things. Unfortunately, sleep has come to be linked with lethargy — a luxury reserved for the non-achievers. However, if you want to become larger, stronger, leaner, and manlier, as well as smarter and more emotionally robust, you’ll need to prioritize your sleep just as much as your deadlifting and paleo diet. Sleep is one of the most overlooked aspects of laying the groundwork for a successful life. In reality, the typical person spends an incredible 24 years of their lives sleeping; it’s important to realize this and make the most of it.

We’re going to take you on a tour of the marvels of sleep in this article. We’ve already discussed napping, so this time we’ll concentrate on nocturnal rest. You’ll discover what occurs when you sleep, the factors that influence your sleep, what happens if you don’t get enough sleep, and the advantages of having enough sleep. Then, the following week, we’ll go through how to get the greatest night’s sleep of your life.

Let’s get started with a glass of warm milk and your PJs.

 

The Sleep Cycle: An Overview

Prior to the twentieth century, scientists and physicians believed that when we sleep, our brain essentially shuts down and the only bits that remained active were those that were necessary to keep us alive. That idea altered with the discovery of electroencephalography (EEG) and the capacity to quantify brain waves.

There are two primary forms of sleep that we currently understand: Non-REM (silent sleep) and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep are the two types of sleep (dreaming sleep). Over the course of the night, these two cycles will alternate.

Non-REM (Quiet) Sleep is a kind of sleep that does not include rapid eye movement.

There are four phases of non-REM sleep (or three, depending on who you ask):

  • Stage 1: Although we aren’t really sleeping at this stage, we are well on our way. This phase lasts around 5 minutes, although it might last longer. The brain slows down, the body temperature drops, muscles relax, and the eyes move slowly from side to side. We lose awareness of our surroundings during Stage 1 sleep, but we are still readily startled awake. If you’ve ever awoken from a nap and pretended to be “resting your eyes,” you were most likely awakened during Stage 1.
  • Stage 2: This is the first stage of genuine slumber. It lasts 10-25 minutes the first time it happens at night before moving on to the next stage. Your eyelids are normally closed during Stage 2 sleep, and your breathing and heart rate are slower than while you’re awake. The EEG will pick up intermediate-sized brain waves interspersed with bursts of quick activity because brain activity is erratic.
  • Stages 3 and 4 are sometimes lumped together by researchers and referred to as “deep sleep” or “slow wave sleep.” Deep sleep may last anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, although it becomes shorter as you get older. Large, sluggish waves characterize brain activity at this period. Breathing slows down, and blood pressure decreases 20 to 30% below that of an awake person. Deep sleep makes you less susceptible to environmental cues, making it more difficult to wake up. Our bodies also heal and rejuvenate themselves throughout this era. Our pituitary gland produces a burst of human growth hormone at the start of deep sleep to aid tissue repair and growth. In our blood, levels of chemicals that stimulate our immune system, such as interleukin, rise.

REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep

The four phases of sleep alternate with REM sleep, which is essentially when your mind enjoys a party. What occurs to our bodies and minds during REM sleep is as follows:

  • A little quantity of DMT is released by the brain, which has strong psychedelic characteristics.
  • Because we’re dreaming, our brain activity spikes.
  • We can’t move during REM sleep because muscles that aren’t used for breathing or eye movement are immobilized.
  • The eyes flit back and forth quickly (hence the name)
  • The blood pressure rises.
  • Heart and breathing rates return to normal throughout the day.
  • The amount of testosterone in the body rises.
  • Men get erections on a regular basis.
  • Our sympathetic nervous system is twice as active while we’re paralyzed as when we’re awake.

In a normal night, we have three to five REM periods. The initial episode lasts just a few minutes, but as the night progresses, REM sleep becomes more longer. It’s possible that the last REM session will last up to an hour. Architecture of Sleep 

 

Hypnogram chart of rem sleep cycles.

Over the course of the night, a typical sleeper switches between these two sleep modes in a rather regular way. You’d go through four to five non-REM and REM cycles if you had eight hours of undisturbed sleep. The graph above depicts a typical sleep cycle throughout the course of eight hours of sleep. As the night develops, notice how REM and Stage 2 begin to alternate.

Make sure to listen to our sleep-related podcast: 

 

What Regulates Our Sleep?

Circadian Clock

Your sleep and waking cycles are controlled by an internal clock in your brain. The circadian clock is found in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a group of cells in the hypothalamus. In humans, the clock (also known as the circadian rhythm) cycles on a 24-hour cycle in response to light and dark in the environment. At various periods of the day, the circadian rhythm for sleep and wakefulness in humans falls and rises. Between midnight and morning, as well as in the middle of the day, the need to sleep is often greater. The precise cycle will differ from one individual to the next.

Timekeepers (External Cues for Sleep)

While our circadian rhythm is internal and cycles between drowsiness and wakefulness on a fairly regular basis, zeitgebers (German for “time giver” or “synchronizer”) play a part in regulating our naturally occurring rhythms. Changes in your circadian rhythm might be caused by changing or disrupting specific zeitgebers, making it harder to go asleep when you’re ready. The following are some of the most important environmental factors that influence our sleep/wakefulness cycle:

  • Light. The most powerful zeitgeber is light. The SCN and our retinas have a direct relationship. As we’re exposed to light, our brain creates more chemicals that make us feel alert, such as serotonin; when it becomes dark, our brain produces more melatonin, which makes us drowsy. Artificial lighting was invented in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it has been criticized for disrupting normal sleep cycles. While any kind of light may disturb circadian rhythms, research has shown that blue-wavelength light is the most disruptive to melatonin synthesis. Unfortunately, most of us place electronic gadgets that predominantly generate this blue light in front of our faces every night. It’s possible that you’re having difficulties sleeping since you’re late at night perusing Reddit on your laptop and scrolling through Instagram photographs on your smartphone. Do not be concerned. There are a few things you can take to ensure that you can use your electronic gadgets without their interfering with your sleep. Next week, we’ll discuss about them.
  • Exercise. Exercise, for example, might serve as a stimulus to remain alert and postpone sleep. In one research, evening activity was shown to be an effective technique to delay the commencement of melatonin production at night, making sleep more difficult. Of course, if you don’t want to sleep, this may be beneficial, which is why a late workout is beneficial when you’re trying to pull an all-nighter.
  • Social interactions that are negative. Negative social interactions might cause your internal circadian rhythm to be disrupted. Disruptive social events, such as breakups or the loss of a loved one, may create sleep disturbances, leading you to toss and turn at night.

Because our sleep cycle developed to sync up with something as predictable as the rising and setting of the sun, altering your day and evening routine as little as possible will help you sleep better. I know, it’s easier said than done, but we’ll give you some pointers next week.

 

Do I Really Need That Much Sleep?

Every individual is different, and to operate on all eight cylinders (notice, I didn’t say four cylinders), they’ll need various amounts of sleep. The need for sleep generally follows a bell curve: some people can get by fine on as little as 4 to 6 hours of sleep (some people actually have a genetic variation that allows them to get by on less); the vast majority of people require 7 to 8 hours; and a few require as much as 9 to 10 hours of sleep.

You’ve probably seen stories about incredibly successful people who claim to get by on just 4 hours of sleep every day. While it’s conceivable that they’re one of those lucky mutants that doesn’t need a lot of sleep, it’s more probable that they’re slipping in a nap or two throughout the day and therefore receiving more sleep than they admit. (Thomas Edison was like this; he loved to brag about getting just 3-4 hours of sleep every night…while ignoring the fact that he had one or two 3-hour naps every day.) Either that, or they’re a walking zombie who might be doing a lot better in their day-to-day activities.

You need less sleep as you get older. Total sleep time falls with age, from roughly 7.5 hours at 20 to 7 hours at 40 to 6 hours at 60. We not only sleep less, but our sleep architecture also changes. Sleep rises in stages 1 and 2, but declines in stages 3 and 4. You’ll also notice that you’re waking up more often at night. What is the reason behind this? As we become older, our bodies produce less melatonin, and the body’s nighttime temperature drop, which aids sleep, becomes less prominent.

Simply listening to your body is the greatest approach to figure out how much sleep you need. You’ve discovered your ideal amount of sleep if it’s simple to get out of bed, you’re not drowsy throughout the day, you have no trouble focusing, you’re normally in a good mood, and you feel totally refreshed after a night’s sleep. Next week, we’ll give you a helpful suggestion on how to figure out how much sleep you need and what your ideal sleep/wake pattern is.

Sleep Deprivation’s Horrible, No Good, and Very Bad Consequences

Vintage man in bed looking at the clock.

When you don’t receive the sleep your mind and body need, a slew of things might go wrong. There are two forms of sleep deprivation: total and partial.

Sleep Deprivation to the Extreme

When you spend a night without sleeping at all, you are experiencing complete sleep deprivation. Complete sleep deprivation may result in instant focus loss and damage to long-term and working memory (which means that all-night cramming session for your history test might actually make you more forgetful). Cortisol levels will also rise, causing you to feel anxious and lowering testosterone levels.

(Skipping a night’s sleep, on the other hand, might cause sensations of exhilaration and increase your brain’s drive and need for reward.) This may lead to bad decision-making and unsafe behavior, but I’ve also discovered that pulling an all-nighter now and again is precisely what I need to break the code on a particularly difficult topic I’m working on. The crucial word here is “occasional”; keep in mind that a little amount of short-term stress may be beneficial, but chronic stress is nothing but bad news.)

 

Unless you’re one of those all-nighters-loving architects, you’re unlikely to go through many periods of total sleep deprivation in your life. It’s too much for our bodies and minds to bear. Your body will just compel you to sleep after a few days of non-sleep. In fact, sleep deprivation would kill you faster than famine.

Sleep Deprivation in Parts

Partial sleep deprivation occurs when you obtain some sleep but not all of the sleep you need – in other words, when you have a lousy night’s sleep. You can operate at regular levels the following day after one night of partial sleep deprivation, but you don’t feel wonderful. After two or three nights of less-than-ideal sleep, partial sleep deprivation causes problems. You’ll get irritated, and your attention and job performance will suffer; in fact, after just two weeks of only 6 hours of sleep each night, your response time will be comparable to that of someone who has a blood alcohol level of.1%, which is regarded legally intoxicated. You’ll be in a world of pain if you spend many weeks, months, or years (we’re talking insomniacs here) without getting enough sleep. Here’s a rundown of some of the consequences of being somewhat sleep deprived for a lengthy period of time:

  • Nerve cell production is impaired.
  • Depression risk is higher.
  • Reduced activity in the prefrontal brain, making us more impulsive and unable to regulate our emotions.
  • Emotional and mental stress are on the rise.
  • Grey matter loss in the brain
  • High blood pressure raises the risk of heart disease.
  • Obesity and diabetes are more likely to occur.
  • Reduced amounts of testosterone
  • Mortality rate has increased.

So, if you live by the dictum that you’ll sleep when you’re dead, you could arrive sooner than you expected. Unfortunately, many individuals believe that they can simply adjust to less sleep and that none of the negative consequences would occur since their bodies will get used to being deprived of sleep. However, evidence indicates that this is simply not the case. When you don’t receive the sleep your body requires, you gradually build up “sleep debt” (the amount of sleep you owe your body). Your brain and health will deteriorate as your sleep debt grows. You must settle the debt that has accrued in order to reverse the issues that occur with sleep deprivation. If you’ve had a sleep debt for days, weeks, or months, you may pay it off by continuously increasing your sleep duration.

If you’ve had a spate of abbreviated sleep periods over the course of a week, a few days of receiving the sleep you need, plus an extra hour or two every night, should put you back on track.

If you’ve racked up hundreds or thousands of hours of sleep debt as a result of months of poor sleep, it’ll take many weeks of obtaining the sleep you need, plus an hour or more every session, to pay off your debt.

 

In most situations, we can payback our sleep debt because our sleep-deprived bodies sleep more efficiently once we start obtaining the sleep we need, bypassing Stages 1 and 2 and moving on to the more restorative Stages 3 and 4.

Researchers aren’t sure whether recovering your sleep debt is even feasible if you’ve been carrying it for years; it might cause lasting harm to your physical and mental abilities.

Sleep’s Advantages

We all know that not getting enough sleep is harmful for us, but what are the advantages of obtaining a good night’s rest? There are a slew of them:

  • Immune system booster
  • Muscle mass is increased
  • Reduces body fat
  • It boosts testosterone levels.
  • Reduces irritability
  • Toxins are removed from your brain.
  • Inflammation is reduced.
  • Encourages inventiveness
  • Enhances athletic ability
  • Focus and concentration are improved.
  • Reduces stress
  • Enhances memory

Everyone is looking for that one-of-a-kind drug or esoteric hack that will make their lives better on every level. Meanwhile, the key to being stronger, happier, and more intelligent has been staring them down the whole time. They can’t see it since their vision is blocked by a computer or tablet. So, if you’re reading this late at night and are tempted to check out just a “few more things” before going to bed, close your laptop lid and head to bed, my friend.

________

Sources:

Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep is a book on the strange science of sleep.

The Harvard Medical School Sleep Guide is a comprehensive guide to getting a good night’s sleep.

 

 

 

Watch This Video-

REM sleep is the stage of sleep that occurs most often during dreaming. REM stands for rapid eye movement, and it happens when your eyes move back and forth rapidly as you dream. Reference: rem sleep.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I need to know about sleeping?

A: To sleep in a healthy way, it is important to get at least 8 hours of sleep every day. Its also important to have regular sleeping cycles so your body can properly rest and rejuvenate.

What are 5 interesting facts about sleep?

A:
1. Sleep has been studied to have a profound effect on the immune system, mood and mental health, physical performance and cognitive function.
2. In humans sleeping in an environment with reduced light pollution is associated with reduced risk of cancer development.
3. An estimated 50% of sleep disorders are caused by abnormalities in circadian rhythmicity – our internal body clock that regulates when we wake up and go to sleep every day- while 25% or more can be attributed to disruptions in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycles that occur during deep slumbering stages of the night cycle

What is the most important thing about sleep?

A: Sleep is incredibly important to your health, so its best not to sleep deprive yourself. But the most important thing about sleep is time of day.

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