WHY IS SLEEP SO IMPORTANT AND HOW TO IMPROVE IT
Good sleep is essential. Since we started offering Ashwagandha, which can improve your sleep significantly, we have developed an interest in sleep and its effect on our everyday life. After all, we’re all about improving our lives, and we feel like this is something everybody can relate to.
Sleep is more than rest; it is the time during which the body renews itself, consolidates memories, and accumulates energy. Although we are unaware of our surroundings during sleep, many processes in the body are necessary for normal human functioning. Unfortunately, not everybody is blessed with good sleep. Whether this is a consequence of stress-filled life or insomnia, the bad sleepers among us will testify to how much it impacts their lives. But, as always, there’s always something that we can do about it. So let’s get to it.
During our sleep, we go through four or five sleep cycles, each lasting about ninety minutes. Each cycle is divided into the following stages: drowsiness, light sleep, two stages of deep sleep, and REM sleep. And the quality of each one translates differently to your waking hours.
Stage 1: Drowsiness
This is the time of transition from wakefulness to sleep. Brain waves and muscle activity begin to slow, and sudden muscle spasms or a feeling of falling are also characteristic.
Phase 2: a period of light sleep
During this phase, eye movements stop, and brain waves slow down. Heart rate slows down, and body temperature drops.
Stages 3 and 4: a period of deeper or undulating sleep
In this phase, blood pressure drops, breathing slows down, and body temperature drops even more. This is the stage of deep and restorative sleep. While all stages of sleep are necessary for good health, deep sleep offers specific physical and mental benefits.
Deep sleep is essential for cognitive function and memory and is thought to play a role in language learning, motor skills, and the developing brain. During deep sleep, your body releases growth hormones and works to build and repair muscles, bones, and tissue, and immune system functioning. Additionally, slow-wave rest may be necessary for regulating glucose metabolism. Elite athletes value slow-wave sleep as it helps replenish energy stores.
In addition to causing feelings of fatigue, a severe lack of deep sleep can have a number of impacts on your body.
Because deep sleep is part of the memory formation process, you may struggle to consolidate memories after nights without enough deep sleep. Even after one night of insufficient sleep, you may experience difficulty learning or remembering information.
On a physical level, insufficient deep sleep may decrease your immune response to vaccines and leave you more vulnerable to infection. During deep sleep, potentially harmful waste products are eliminated from the brain.
Stage 5: REM sleep
An active phase of sleep characterized by intense brain activity. Brain waves are fast and uncoordinated; breathing becomes quicker and shallower, heart rate increases, and blood pressure rises. Most dreams occur in this phase of sleep. You can experience about three to five periods of REM sleep each night, and each period lasts about 10 minutes, with the last one going up to an hour.
HOW CAN WE IMPROVE OUR SLEEP
As you probably noticed, deep sleep is perhaps the most important. And not coincidentally, everything we do throughout the day affects it in some way or another (unless you’re one of those lucky people who have zero problems with sleep). To make this blog readable, we’ll go over the methods and fundamental principles, and then if you find something interesting, we strongly encourage you to look deeper into it on your own.
- Limiting blue light
This is probably the most common problem and, in a way, the easiest to do (or most challenging for some). The thing is, everything from phones, televisions, and computer emits blue light. And can you guess where we can find blue light in nature? The sun is the only source that can produce it besides our modern devices. And this blue light is closely connected with the hormone called melatonin.
If we simplify the role of melatonin, it helps make us sleepy in the evening (among other factors). So when we wake up in the morning, the sunlight allows us to get rid of melatonin in our system and, in turn, stop feeling sleepy in the morning (if you had enough sleep, of course, but that is a whole other deal). In the evening, the process is reversed. When the sun (which emits blue light) goes down, our brain produces melatonin, making us sleepy.
And can you guess what happens when you take away the natural source of blue light and instead continue staring at telephones or other devices late at night? The hormonal balance behind a healthy sleep pattern collapses, significantly and strongly impacting the quality of our sleep. Of course, we can fix this by limiting our exposure to blue light at least 2 hours before bed…maybe grab a good book; it can be a great alternative! Also, avoid phone screens when you wake up for at least an hour; it will do wonders for your brain.
Also, make sure to have a good sleep schedule!
2. Watching the sunlight
This one is partially connected to the first one. The whole cycle of being awake and asleep is connected through a series of highly complex systems that could be summed up as an “internal clock.” This internal clock is responsible for regulating a bunch of hormones that help us usually perform throughout the day. In times not long ago, when phones and blue light were just stuff from sci-fi movies and books, this internal clock was primarily controlled by the cycle of the day. And with modern life, the internal clock got confused and ultimately collapsed in many of us.
Andrew D. Huberman is an American neuroscientist, and tenured associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine studied this thoroughly and has a series of highly informative podcasts about this topic for anybody interested. For the sake of this blog, let’s get to the core of it. The idea is, that by making sure you get enough direct sunlight directly when you wake up for at least 2 minutes, preferably 5 minutes or more. This way, the internal clock can be partially reset. And this, in turn, can affect the quality of your sleep. The sunlight has to be direct, not through a window, as you need direct exposure.
This fascinating topic is getting more and more attention and could provide effective treatments for sleep disorders. We barely scratched the surface of it, but we strongly advise you have a look at it.
3. Get enough exercise and watch about caffeine intake
We can’t emphasize this one enough. So many of us have stationary jobs where at the end of the day, the only thing that is tired is our mind. Research has shown that physical activity can be as effective as prescription sleep meds. There are a few reasons why. Specifically, moderate-to-vigorous exercise can increase sleep quality for adults by reducing sleep onset – or the time it takes to fall asleep – and decreasing the time they lie awake in bed during the night. Additionally, physical activity can help alleviate daytime sleepiness and, for some people, reduce the need for sleep medications. Also, during exercise, a whole bunch of hormones like endorphins and dopamine are released, which were proven to play a vital role in helping us get a good night’s sleep.
And lastly, caffeine. One of the most common addictions in the world. While a cup of hot coffee in the morning is perfectly okay, drinking coffee late in the afternoon can seriously affect your sleep mechanisms, even if you feel like the effects of caffeine wear off by the time you go to bed.
4. Try a supplement
Lastly, this one. And no, we’re not talking about medication. The Ashwagandha mentioned above is a perfect example. Ashwagandha’s effects may stem from its content of triethylene glycol, a compound shown to induce sleep. It is also rich in withanolides, substances that appear to influence the body’s ability to cope with stress — and stress is known to have negative effects on sleep quality and increase daytime sleepiness. Additional undiscovered compounds likely contribute to Ashwagandha’s apparent therapeutic effects.
One recent study of 150 people with poor sleep quality found that those who were supplemented with 120 mg of standardized ashwagandha extract once daily for six weeks reported a 72 percent improvement in the quality of their sleep compared to a 29% improvement in those who didn’t take the herb.
Another study of 80 people found that those who took Ashwagandha for eight weeks experienced improvements in sleep quality, mental alertness, and other measures, particularly if they had insomnia at the start of the study.
Another 2019 study showed that supplementation with the standardized ashwagandha extract for six weeks improved the overall quality of sleep by significantly improving the NRS condition in healthy subjects.
There are other supplements, but to be honest, we find Ashwagandha to be most effective and helpful in this case.
We hope you can see why good sleep is critical for your everyday performance and long-term health. Sleep is actually the single most effective thing you can do to reset the health of your brain and body. So give it the attention it deserves.
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