Sleep takes up approximately one third of your life. Have you ever thought of why you need to sleep? Isn’t it odd that we go from being awake and fully present to being more or less unconscious for several hours? Let’s dive into how it works.
When you are awake, your brain constantly processes information. That’s why sleep is essential for your brain to have some time to recover and sort through all the impressions received throughout the day. Important knowledge will be stored in the “hard drive” and unnecessary knowledge will be deleted – meaning, it gets forgotten.
The sleep-wake cycle is regulated by a natural internal process, called the circadian rhythm, that repeats itself roughly every 24 hours.
How long should we sleep?
Sleep is essential for optimal health, but exactly how many hours one should sleep can vary depending on the individual. When looking at group level, the recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7 hours or more each night on a regular basis. The equivalent for adolescents is 8 hours, and for children – around 9 hours. However, some people seem to have better prerequisites to handle less sleep than the recommended amount.
The four stages of sleep
While you sleep, you go through several sleep cycles with different sleep stages. Every sleep cycle lasts 90-120 minutes. There are two main types of sleep:
- Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) - also known as quiet sleep
- Rapid eye movement (REM) - also known as active sleep or paradoxical sleep
NREM Stage 1
Stage 1 is the beginning of the sleep cycle and is a relatively light stage of sleep. Stage 1 can be considered a transition period between wakefulness and sleep. This period of sleep lasts only for a brief time (around five to ten minutes). If you wake up someone during this stage, they might report that they were not really asleep.
NREM Stage 2
During stage 2 sleep, you become less aware of your surroundings, your body temperature drops, and breathing and heart rate become more regular.
Stage 2 is the second stage of sleep and lasts for approximately 20 minutes. According to the American Sleep Foundation, people spend approximately 50% of their total sleep in this stage.
NREM Stage 3
During stage 3 sleep, your muscles relax and your blood pressure and breathing rate drops. This is when your deepest sleep occurs and it’s also the most valuable part of your sleep. The reason is that at this stage your body and brain can repair and recover the best as well as consolidate factual memories. This is also when growth hormone is released.
During this stage, you become less responsive, and noises and activity in the environment may fail to generate a reaction from you. This stage also acts as a transitional period between light sleep and a very deep sleep.
Interesting fact: sleepwalking tends to occur most often during the deep sleep of this stage.
During REM sleep, the brain becomes more active, while your body becomes relaxed and immobilized. This is when your dreams occur and your eyes move rapidly. REM sleep is characterized by such eye movement, increased respiration rate, and increased brain activity. The American Sleep Foundation suggests that people spend approximately 20% of their total sleep in this stage.
This is the stage at which your brain learns how to process the factual memories and creates connections between the information and how to make it into action. In other words, it’s problem solving time!
On average, we enter the REM stage approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep. The first cycle of REM sleep might last only for a short amount of time, but with each cycle it becomes longer. REM sleep can last up to an hour as sleep progresses.
NREM stage 1 – 5-10 minutes
NREM stage 2 – app. 20 minutes
NREM stage 3 – app. 60 minutes
REM stage – each cycle becomes longer, up to 60 minutes
Dangers of sleep deprivation
A good night’s sleep is as important to your health as eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis. It gives your body a chance to renew and regenerate itself. Sleep is beneficial to your problem-solving skills, long-term memory, executive ability, and sustained attention.
Most of us have experienced lack of sleep at some point in our lives, but sleep deprivation over a longer period of time can be unhealthy and also harmful to your body. Sleeping for fewer than 7 hours per night on a regular basis is associated with adverse health outcomes, including weight gain and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, depression, and increased risk of death. Sleeping for fewer than 7 hours per night is also associated with impaired immune function, increased pain, impaired performance, increased amount of errors, and greater risk of accidents. New evidence also shows that your microbiota can be impaired by lack of sleep. Let’s dig deeper into some of these factors!
Weight gain and obesity
Some studies show that lack of sleep can decrease your metabolism, but the relationship is not entirely established yet. However, one thing that is well-established is that our craving for something sweet increases when we haven’t slept enough or when we are tired. If you think about it, isn’t it more common to open your fridge late in the evening than early in the morning, trying to find something sweet and fatty to eat?
Research has shown that poor sleep quality affects hormones that regulate appetite. Increased food intake during the period of insufficient sleep or tiredness is, presumably, a physiological adaptation to provide energy needed to sustain additional wakefulness. Those who get adequate sleep tend to consume fewer calories than those who don’t.
It’s not only sleep deprivation that can lead to gaining weight. Obesity in itself can also give rise to bad sleep, caused by fat being stored in the throat area resulting in sleep apnoea (breath hold).
Decreased productivity and performance
Lack of sleep will decrease both your productivity and creativity. A study conducted in the USA has found that insufficient sleep causes costs of more than $2,000 per employee per year in lost productivity.
When it comes to activity, research has shown that more sleep can enhance an athlete’s performance in their field of sports – such as speed, endurance and reaction time. Chronic lack of sleep is associated with greater risk of sports and musculoskeletal injuries as well.
Increased risk of diseases
A review of 15 studies found that people who don’t get enough sleep are at far greater risk of heart disease or stroke than those who sleep 7–8 hours per night. Those who sleep less than 6 hours per night have repeatedly been shown to be at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and increased insulin resistance.
Decreased immune function
Decreased amount of sleep has deleterious effects that increase inflammatory compounds in your body and thereby can lead to a higher risk of developing chronic inflammatory diseases.
Impaired gut microbiota
There is new emerging research revealing that lack of sleep can alter your gut microbiome composition. Sleep deprivation tends to increase the quota of the bad microbes and decrease the quota of the good microbes. It’s also shown that a healthy microbiota in itself can promote healthier sleep.
Tips for better sleep
What can you do to improve your sleep?
When deciding when you should go to sleep, take into consideration what time you need to get up in the morning. Unwind before going to sleep: take a warm shower or bath before going to bed. Do not expose yourself to strong light or loud sounds immediately before going to sleep. Avoid staring at your computer or phone – blue light from the screen is reminiscent of daylight and interferes with the body's circadian rhythm. Choose to unwind with a book, a much better option than surfing the internet. Make your bedroom a “screen-free zone’”. Keep the room dark and cool by pulling the curtains closed and avoiding turning on a night light. By keeping the bedroom cool, it signals to the body that it's time to sleep.
Move that body
Physical activity strengthens your circadian rhythm and results in better sleep. Ensure to be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day.
Soak up the sun
The most important factor for your circadian rhythm is daylight. Go outside! People who expose themselves to sunlight in the morning have better quality of deep sleep the following night.
Eat a healthy diet high in fibrous foods, such as fruits and vegetables, to increase your fibre intake – including the prebiotic fibres – and thereby promote a healthy gut microbiome.
Best conditions for sleep with Wellness by Oriflame
If you promise to make time for sleep, Wellness by Oriflame promises to help you get the best conditions for eating healthy!
Natural Balance Shake & Natural Balance Bars [ONLY SK CZ PL]
Fuel up with nutritious food during the day so you’re not shifting the energy intake to the evening and night time. Our healthy, nutritious snacks, such as the Natural Balance Shakes and Natural Balance Bar, can be enjoyed between the main meals, when hunger strikes.
If you feel an urge to eat something unhealthy late in the evening, try convincing yourself that it’s just your brain trying to find a way to be more awake. Or perhaps you’re just thirsty? Go to sleep instead, and if you still think you need to eat something, it’s better to get a delicious and nutritious shake or bar instead of something unhealthy. Savour the moment and go to bed content.
Prebiotic Fibre Drink [PL ONLY]
As presented earlier, the microbiota tend to be impaired by lack of sleep. Boost your microbiota with food for the good microbes during the day to provide the optimal conditions. Let’s also eat more fibrous foods that include plenty of prebiotic fibre, such as: chicory root, sugar beet, banana, garlic, asparagus, watermelon, chickpeas, lettuce, beans, artichoke and leek. And you can top up your prebiotic fibre intake with our Prebiotic Fibre Drink!
Take care of your beauty sleep and help prevent overeating and diseases! Sleep is one of the pillars of health, alongside a healthy diet and being physically active.
Plan your sleep, just as you plan your day. It’s the only way to achieve optimal health.