Sleep is not only about rest. Sleep is about survival. That's correct, without enough sleep you die. This has been proven through studies although scientists aren't exactly sure why. Most of us need between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. Without those all important hours we might be raising our risk of an earlier than expected death by as much as thirty percent. A pretty sobering statistic, I'd say.
Sleep also is not a passive activity as most of us might imagine. Our brains are active throughout the night doing some very important work on our behalf. To better understand, let's take a look at the five stages of sleep.
We typically spend five percent of our sleep in this stage. Our brain waves increase in amplitude and we are still aware of sounds. This is the "falling asleep" part of our sleep cycle.
As much as fifty-five percent of our sleep cycle happens here. Our brain waves, breathing and heartbeat all slow down with intermittent peaks called sleep spindles.
STAGES THREE AND FOUR
This is when our breathing becomes the deepest and slowest along with our heart rates. Our muscles are completely relaxed. Our brains in this stage "paralyze" the rest of our bodies for the purpose of deep, restorative rest. We begin to dream. Some of us may walk or talk in this stage of sleep. Scientists are unsure of why the brain seems unable or unwilling to shut down for those that do experience these two sleep activities. As much as twenty-five percent of our sleep is spent in these two stages.
Throughout the night our bodies and brains will experience REM sleep in cycles with each cycle lengthening in time from one to ten minutes. REM sleep usually accounts for approximately one hour of our sleep time. During these cycles our brain is awake. We will have an increased heart rate, faster breathing and rapid eye movement.
Along with sleep stages, scientists have also given us some of the reasons why they think we might sleep.
Sleeping improves our chances for survival even though the reasons why remain unknown at this time.
It is believed sleeping helps conserve energy for future needed bursts of energy. This has been found to be especially true in those with higher metabolisms.
Scientists believe that during sleep our brains are programming and reprogramming themselves. Much of the "useless" information we have gathered throughout our waking hours is being deleted while the "useful" information is stored deeper within our brains.
There are those that also believe sleep is where much of a persons spiritual healing comes through. When we sleep our spirits are quieted and better able to hear God speak directly or through our dreams.
Twenty-five percent of our lives will be spent sleeping. Many things can affect how this time is experienced. The food we eat, medications we take and even the temperature of the room are all factors. It is possible to create the sleep experience you want much more than you probably realized.
1.Go to bed and wake up at the same times daily, including weekends.
2.Establish a calming bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath, reading a book or listening to soothing music.
3.Create a calm, cool and comfortable sleep environment.
4.Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
5.Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.
6.Avoid eating or drinking at least three hours before bedtime.
7.Exercise regularly in the evenings.
8.Avoid nicotine close to bedtime.
9.Avoid caffeine close to bedtime.
10.Avoid alcohol close to bedtime.
Following these few simple ideas can help ensure you live a longer, happier, well-rested life.