Found this good article about sleeping. I had to post it so that I can share it, so for those of you who only have 4-5 hours of sleep then read this.
You have to know several things like sleep is one of the body’s most mysterious processes. The idea of sleeping well conjures up restful images of fluffy pillows, comfortable blankets and minimal activity. This article provides information to help you get the sleep you need.
What is a Good Night’s Sleep?
Many people would reply by saying a minimum of eight hours of rest. But the answer doesn’t depend solely on how many hours you log in bed. Night after night, you need deep uninterrupted sleep in a bed that provides adequate comfort support and space. What matters most of all is how you feel in the morning. If you wake up full of renewed energy, you’ve had a good night’s sleep.
There is no one formula for how much sleep is enough for you. Expecting all people to need the same amount of rest would be as absurd as expecting them to eat the same amount of food every day. Each of us seems to have an innate sleep “appetite” that is as much a part of our genetic programming as hair color, height and skin tone. Normal sleep times range from five to ten hours; the average is 7 1/2. About one or two people in one hundred can get by with just five hours; another small minority needs twice that amount.
How much sleep is enough for you? To figure out your sleep needs, keep your wake-up time the same every morning and vary your bedtimes. Are you groggy after six hours of shut-eye? Does an extra hour give your more stamina? What about an extra two hours? Since too much time in bed can make some people feel sluggish, don’t assume that more is always better. Listen to your body’s signals and adjust your sleep schedule to suit them.
Keep in mind that sleep needs change with age. And the older you are, the less total sleep time you may need. A newborn may spend 18 hours asleep. From infancy to adulthood, sleep decreases by more than half. Throughout the middle decades of life, seven or eight hours of sleep generally are needed to provide adequate rest. For older individuals, six hours may suffice.
What is sleep?
Sleep is a periodic state of rest during which consciousness of the world is interrupted. According to the University of Wisconsin Department of Medicine, a sleeping person does not respond to low intensity sounds, touches, and other sensory perceptions that he or she would normally respond to immediately while awake. Additionally, sleep is marked by:
- decreased movement of the skeletal muscles,
- slowed-down metabolism,
- and complex and active brain wave patterns.
Sleep consists of five stages and is essential for a healthy body and mind. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute note that a number of vital tasks during sleep help maintain good health and enable people to function at their best.
Why do we need sleep?
Sleep helps the body restore and rejuvenate in many different ways including:
- Memory, Learning and Social Processes – Sleep enables the brain to encode new information and store it properly. REM sleep activates the parts of the brain that control learning. The parts of the brain that control emotions, decision-making and social interactions slow down dramatically during sleep, allowing optimal performance when awake.
- Nervous System – Some sleep experts suggest that neurons used during the day repair themselves during sleep. When we experience sleep deprivation, neurons become unable to perform effectively and the nervous system is impaired.
- Immune System – Similarly, sleep also enables the immune system to function effectively. During deep sleep, the body’s cells increase production while proteins break down at a slower rate. Without proper sleep, the immune system becomes weak and the body becomes more vulnerable to infection and disease.
- Growth and Development – Children need much more sleep than adults. Growth hormones are released during sleep, so sleep is vital to proper physical and mental development. The effects (positive and negative) of sleep for babies and children are magnified. Tired children are often cranky, fussy and become easily frustrated and difficult. It is often easier for adults to interpret and remedy the effects of tiredness in children than for them to listen to their body’s own signals for more rest.
What are the stages of sleep?
There are five stages of sleep: stages 1, 2, 3, 4 and REM (rapid eye movement). The body cycles through the different sleep stages from stage 1 to REM and then begins again with stage 1. Each stage represents a different physical and mental state of the body during sleep. During some stages, the body is in a lighter sleep and can be awakened more easily, while others indicate a very deep sleep.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides this description of the five sleep stages (from Brain Basics, see references & resources):
- Stage 1 (Drowsiness) – We drift in and out of sleep for about 5 to 10 minutes and can be awakened easily. Our eyes move very slowly and muscle activity slows.
- Stage 2 (Light Sleep) – Our eye movements stop and our brain waves (fluctuations of electrical activity that can be measured by electrodes) become slower, with occasional bursts of rapid waves called sleep spindles. Our heart rate slows and body temperature decreases.
- Stages 3 and 4 (Deep Sleep) – Slow brain waves called delta waves begin to appear, interspersed with smaller, faster waves. By Stage 4 the brain produces delta waves almost exclusively. It is very difficult to wake someone during stages 3 and 4, which together are called deep sleep. There is no eye movement or muscle activity. People awakened during deep sleep do not adjust immediately and often feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes after they wake up. Some children experience bedwetting, night terrors, or sleepwalking during these stages.
- REM Sleep – During REM sleep, our breathing becomes more rapid, irregular, and shallow, our eyes jerk rapidly in various directions, and our limb muscles become temporarily paralyzed. Our heart rate increases, our blood pressure rises, and males develop penile erections. People dream during this stage.
The average length of time for a complete sleep cycle is 90-110 minutes. About 50 percent of sleep time is spent in stage 2 and about 20 percent in REM sleep. The remaining 30 percent is split among the other stages. On average, a person will cycle through the stages 4 or 5 times in an eight hour period. After a person falls asleep, the first REM sleep period generally happens 70-90 minutes later.
The first cycles of the night will tend to have shorter REM periods and longer periods of deep sleep. This trend reverses as the night goes on. The later cycles have longer REM periods and shorter deep sleep periods. By morning, most sleepers spend almost all of their time in stages 1, 2 and REM sleep with very little or no deep sleep (stages 3 and 4). Infants are unique in that they spend approximately 50 percent of their sleep time in REM sleep.
How much sleep do I need?
Many people don’t assess how much sleep they need to function at their best; they just know they don’t get enough. Each person’s sleep requirement is different. Some people find that they only need 5-6 hours of sleep, while others need 10-11 hours for optimal performance. The average adult functions best with 7-8 hours of sleep a night; however, it is important to consider how much sleep you need on an individual basis.
Some guidelines to help you consider how much sleep you or your loved ones might need are:
- Infants and Children – Infants require about 16 hours a day. From 6 months to about 3 years, children’s sleep requirement decreases to about 14 hours. Young children generally get their sleep from a combination of nighttime sleep and naps.
- Teenagers – Teenagers need about 9 hours of sleep a night. Sleep is crucial for teenagers because it is while they are sleeping that their bodies release a hormone that is essential during their growth spurt.
- Adults – For most adults, 7 to 8 hours a night appears to be the best amount of sleep, although the amount ranges from 5 hours to 10 hours of sleep each day depending on the individual. It should be noted that a recent research study conducted by Boston University School of Medicine found that study participants that reported sleeping less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours a day had an increased incidence of diabetes, compared to those who slept 7-8 hours.
- Pregnant Women – Women in the first trimester of pregnancy, and sometimes throughout pregnancy, need significantly more sleep than usual.
How do I know if I am getting enough sleep? How will sleep deprivation affect me?
Some of the signs that indicate you may need more sleep include:
- difficulty waking up in the morning,
- inability to concentrate,
- falling asleep during work or class, and
- feelings of moodiness, irritability, depression or anxiety.
If you are consistently tired or drowsy during the day, you probably aren’t getting enough sleep. Microsleeps, brief episodes of sleep during the day, are also an indication that you are sleep deprived.
Getting less sleep than needed can cause a “sleep debt,” meaning that your body expects to make up that missed sleep. Remarkably, a person can make up for missed sleep during a night by sleeping more the next night, or compensate for missed sleep during the week by sleeping more on the weekend. Getting the missed sleep is important because the body needs it to recover and restore itself. Some people claim to get used to sleeping less. They may think their body adjusts to a sleep deprived schedule, but this probably isn’t the case. Generally, people who aren’t getting enough sleep show mental and physical signs of sleep deprivation during their waking hours.
The importance of sleep is emphasized by the effects of sleep deprivation. Coordination, judgment, reaction time and social functions will likely be harmed by lack of sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, several things can occur:
- Impaired memory: Drowsiness during the day interferes with your brain’s ability to concentrate, learn and remember things.
- Physical impairment: Simple tasks may prove more difficult to perform and complex tasks may become seemingly impossible.
- Emotional response: You may become anxious, moody, and impatient, and notice increased difficulties during interaction and cooperation with others.
Severe sleep deprivation can lead to physical incapacity, hallucinations and mood swings. Proper rest supports the body’s ability to perform at its best whereas sleep deprivation impairs the body and mind, preventing optimal performance.
It is clear that sleep deprivation is dangerous – studies have shown that:
- Sleep-deprived people who are tested by using a driving simulator or by performing a hand-eye coordination task perform as badly as or worse than those who are intoxicated.
- Sleep deprivation magnifies alcohol’s effects on the body. A tired person who drinks will become much more impaired than someone who is well-rested.
- Driving while drowsy can – and often does – lead to disaster because drowsiness is the brain’s last step before falling asleep. Fatigue is responsible for thousands of car accidents each year and probably many other types of injuries and deaths as well. Caffeine and other stimulants cannot overcome the effects of severe sleep deprivation.
What if I have trouble going to sleep? Is it insomnia?
The American Insomnia Association (AIA) states that insomnia is defined as trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Different types of insomnia include:
- Acute / Transient Insomnia – Lasts from one night to a few weeks and is often caused by a temporary situation in a person’s life, such as an argument with a loved one, a brief medical illness, or jet lag.
- Intermittent Insomnia – Occurs on and off and most commonly in people who are temporarily experiencing: stress, environmental noise, extreme temperatures, changes in the surrounding environment, sleep/wake schedule problems such as those due to jet lag, or medication side effects.
- Chronic insomnia – Occurs on most nights and lasts a month or more (sometimes years). Chronic insomnia can be secondary to causes such as medical, physical or psychological conditions, sleep disorders (i.e., sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, etc.), medications or other substances.
- Psychophysiological insomnia – Occurs when an individual worries so much about whether or not he/she will be able to go to sleep, that the person’s bedtime rituals and behavior actually trigger insomnia. The more the person worries about falling asleep, the harder it becomes.
Though symptoms of insomnia are most commonly found in women and older adults, insomnia can be experienced by people of all ages. Over 90 percent of people experience transient or short-term insomnia at some point during their lives, and up to 30 percent of the general U.S. population struggle with chronic or long-term insomnia. Typical symptoms of insomnia include:
- difficulty falling asleep,
- waking frequently during the night or early morning,
- and not feeling refreshed from sleep.
Insomnia is not defined by the number of hours of sleep a person gets, but by the quality of sleep achieved.
Transient and intermittent insomnia are often caused by stress or emotional struggles and are usually not cause for concern. Often, the events and activities of the day have a way of taking over the night, too. If there is something that is consuming you when you are awake, whether it is a problem at work, a relationship issue or a family difficulty, chances are that it might also keep you up at night.
If you are able to overcome your sleeplessness after just a few nights, the effects of the sleep loss will not be great. Chronic insomnia is more concerning as it will eventually take a significant toll on your body and overall well-being.
What causes insomnia?
There are a number of factors that may cause a person to experience insomnia. Some include:
- Lifestyle factors. The use of alcohol and stimulants (i.e., caffeine, nicotine, and nonprescription medications), erratic hours, changes in sleep/wake schedules (i.e., jet lag) and/or inactive behavior are known to contribute to unrestful sleep.
- Environmental factors. Noise, light, extreme temperatures and changes in the surrounding environment can contribute to sleepless nights.
- Psychological disorders. Insomnia is one of the most frequently reported symptoms of depression. It has also been linked to other psychological disorders including anxiety, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress .
- Menopause. Insomnia is frequently reported by women experiencing menopause. Hot flashes that occur during sleep can negatively affect the quality of sleep by bringing women from a deeper, more restful stage of sleep to a lighter, less restful and restorative stage.
- Illness or medical problems. It is not uncommon for people experiencing illness or medical problems to suffer from insomnia. Common conditions that often cause or exacerbate insomnia include: arthritis, chronic pain, breathing problems, heart conditions, hormonal or digestive disorders.
- Sleep-related disorders. Circadian rhythm disorders, sleep apnea, periodic limb movement or restless legs syndrome can accompany insomnia symptoms. To learn more about these conditions, see related Helpguide articles.
How is sleep affected by caffeine, medications, heavy smoking and alcohol?
Some foods and medicines alter the brain signals which control sleep and wakefulness, causing us to feel more alert or drowsier than we might otherwise. Some of the common products and their effects are listed below:
- Caffeine (contained in popular drinks like coffee, tea and cola or foods such as chocolate) is a stimulant and may prevent you from getting the sleep you need. The National Sleep Foundation reports the effects of caffeine can cause problems falling asleep as much as 10-12 hours later in some people. Consider halting your caffeine intake earlier in the day to ensure you get quality sleep.
- Spicy and acidic foods or eating a big meal close to bedtime can cause heartburn and indigestion. Instead, eat lighter meals earlier and then allow 2-3 hours to digest before heading to bed.
- Herbal supplements and over-the-counter or prescription medications are also known to cause sleep disruption. Diet pills, decongestants, energy-boosting herbal supplements and other over-the-counter products activate parts of the brain and prevent quality sleep. In addition, many antidepressants suppress REM sleep leading to disrupted sleep cycles. Be sure to read labels carefully and consult with your physician should you have any questions on a particular medication or supplement.
- Nicotine also stimulates the brain. Regular smokers often sleep very lightly and have reduced amounts of REM sleep. They also tend to wake up after 3 or 4 hours of sleep due to nicotine withdrawal.
- Alcohol can induce a light sleep but impairs the more restorative stages of sleep. Many people who suffer from insomnia try to solve the problem with alcohol – the so-called night cap. Alcohol prevents sleepers from achieving REM sleep and deeper sleep. Instead, it keeps them in the lighter stages of sleep, from which they can be awakened easily.
How can I improve my sleep?
Establishing a consistent sleep routine is one of the most important ways to ensure that you get a good night’s sleep. If you consistently go to bed at 11:00 pm, but find yourself always tired during the day, forgo the extra hour of TV or reading to see if you notice a difference in your daytime alertness. Chances are you will see an improvement. The human body has a wonderful way of self-regulating.
What are some tips for getting to sleep?
Recent studies have shown that there is a natural correlation between the onset of sleep and a drop in body temperature (see “Trouble Sleeping – Chill Out” in References and resources).
If you are a person who has difficulty going to sleep, it may help to be aware of this drop in body temperature or even help it along by taking a hot bath 90 minutes before bed time. If you listen to your body’s desire to sleep as its temperature lowers, you may find that you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply. Other tips for a pre-sleep ritual include:
- Keep a regular schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday, even on the weekends. Keeping a regular schedule will help your body expect sleep at the same time each day. Don’t oversleep to make up for a poor night’s sleep – doing that for even a couple of days can reset your body clock and make it hard for you to get to sleep at night.
- Incorporate bedtime rituals. Listening to soft music, sipping a cup of herbal tea, etc., cues your body that it’s time to slow down and begin to prepare for sleep.
- Relax for a while before going to bed. This may include meditation, relaxation and/or breathing exercises, or taking a warm bath before bedtime. Try listening to recorded relaxation or guided imagery programs.
- Eat only a light snack before bed. Eating a large, heavy meal can interfere with your normal sleep cycle. Try to make sure you eat dinner at least 2-3 hours before your bedtime.
- Drink warm milk before bedtime. In addition to being soothing, milk and dairy products contain tryptophan, a natural sleep enhancer. Plus, the warmth may temporarily increase your body temperature and the subsequent drop may hasten sleep. Other foods which contain tryptophan may also help – see below under “Get up and eat some turkey.” for more information about tryptophan.
- Jot down all of your concerns and worries. Think about your worries and possible solutions before you go to bed, so you don’t need to ruminate in the middle of the night. A journal or “to do” list may be very helpful in letting you put away these concerns until the next day when you are fresh.
Will sleep medications and sleep aids help me sleep better?
Often, people turn to sleeping pills to help them sleep. While sleeping pills can be helpful in the short term, doctors generally agree that sleep medications may compound the problem of chronic sleeplessness over time. Medications are rarely helpful for long-term sleep issues because they do not treat the root cause of the problem and can ultimately exacerbate insomnia. In addition, some sleeping pills are addictive and have negative side effects.
It is very important that you and your practitioner try to identify the cause and type of your insomnia before considering medication. For example, short-term insomnia that is linked to a specific stress or situation in your life is probably best treated by addressing the situation and attempting to reduce the stress through behavioral modifications. Most chronic insomnia will benefit from an improvement in sleep hygiene and gradual attempts to change your mindset towards sleep.
There are numerous non-medical sleep aids available, from herbal remedies and nutritional recommendations to relaxation tapes and meditation exercises, many of which are worth investigating as a longer-lasting alternative to medications.
Is there a connection between sleep deprivation and depression?
There is a clear link between sleep deprivation and depression. It has been reported that 80% of people with depression experience sleep problems. People suffering from depression tend to share similar sleep characteristics including:
- Less sleep time overall
- Less deep sleep
- REM sleep earlier in the night
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Frequent night waking
- Early morning waking and an inability to go back to sleep
In the same way that a sleepless night can lead to feelings of lethargy and irritability, it can also lead to mild depression and – should the sleeplessness persist – major depression. When people experiencing depression are able to achieve better sleep, their depression tends to improve. Although sleep is not a cure for depression, it can improve a person’s mental state significantly. Plenty of rest and quality sleep can contribute to feeling capable of handling the challenges of life.