Catching your Zzz’s

May 17, 2009

Hi there, Ya’ll!
I hope this finds you all feeling healthy and happy!

People that know me well, know I LOVE to sleep (and don’t function very well without enough), so I decided to delve into the latter to better understand it.

Basically, what you need to know is:

  • As an adult, you need approximately 7-8 solid hours of sleep a night.
  • Sleep helps your body rest and restore energy levels.
  • Sleep is a great way to deal with stress and solve problems.

Seems pretty simple and straight-forward.  In more detail, here’s how it works:

There are 2 kinds of sleep that happen at night and alternate between one and the other, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM).  In NREM, there are 4 stages which last 5 to 15 minutes each.  During this time of NREM, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, and appears to strengthen the immune system.  Very important stuff!  During Stage 1, you can be awakened without difficulty, however, you may feel as if you haven’t actually slept. Also, many may notice the feeling of falling during this stage of sleep, which may cause a sudden muscle contraction.  I know that I have felt that way and actually ‘jerked’ myself awake and wondered if I was even really sleeping.  In Stage 2, sleep is light. During this time, the heart rate slows and the body temperature decreases.  It is gearing you up (or down) for deeper sleep.  Then, finally, at Stages 3 and 4, deep sleep is upon you.  Think Sleeping Beauty!  If aroused from sleep during these stages, you probably feel disoriented for a few minutes.  I know I’ve been there before!  THEN, after you go through these 4 stages, after about 90 minutes, REM sleep is upon you!  This is when your eyes literally move back and forth rapidly, and you have intense dreams.  The first period of REM typically lasts 10 minutes, with each recurring REM stage lengthening, and the final one may last up to an hour. Brainwave patterns in REM are similar to that recorded during wakefulness.  You are literally working your stress/issues/etc out during this unconscious state!  The difference between this and being awake is that(even though there is the heightened brain activity), there is simultaneous paralysis in the major voluntary muscle groups.  Then, this process starts all over again.

The amount of sleep a person needs depends on the individual. The need for sleep depends on various factors, one of which is age. Infants usually require about 16-18 hours of sleep per day, while teenagers need about 9 hours per day on average. Most adults need about 7-8 hours of sleep per day.  I am someone who needs a lot, in fact, 9 hours is perfection; whereas my boyfriend is fine on a lot less than me.

Can’t seem to get enough sleep during the night?  Remember, there is also great power in napping!  The research shows that a 20 minute nap in the afternoon is ideal.

Last, but not least, remember that caffeine affects your sleep.  If you drink something with caffeine at 4 pm, it will be in your system until nearly midnight!

Happy sleeping, dreaming, and rejuvenating the body!
In peace,
Heather

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