Sleep. Sometimes we get more of it. Sometimes we get less. Often there are things that distract us from resting peacefully. Sometimes we sleep like the dead.
We know we need it, yet we tend to burn the candle at both ends. I am more of a night owl than anything. Yet my alarm and rise time is 6’ish each morning and I know that. I’ve disciplined myself whether it’s a weekend, school is off or on, or whatever, to get up at the same time.
So when I make choices to stay up late, I understand I am eating into my rest time.
Sometimes, I don’t care 😛
Another way to understand your need for rest? Turn into an endurance athlete and you will welcome pillow time 😛 I have my deepest sleeps after long training days.
This is how I’ve learned to consider “rest and sleep” as valuable as how I eat or train. Sleep is crucial for our bodies, athlete or not. I’ve learned if I’m going to train well, I need to make sure my body has proper rest to heal and recover from what it goes through. Sleep is as important to health as eating well and getting exercise.
First of all, what IS sleep?
Sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind and body characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, and reduced interactions with surroundings.
Sleep is an important part of your daily routine—you spend about one-third of your time doing it. Quality sleep – and getting enough of it at the right times — is as essential to survival as food and water. Without sleep you can’t form or maintain the pathways in your brain that let you learn and create new memories, and it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly.
Stages of sleep.
There are actually two basic stages of sleep.
REM (rapid eye movement) and non-rem which has 3 stages. You cycle through all stages in a night with increasingly longer REM periods closer to morning.
Stage 1 rem sleep is the change over from wakefulness to sleep. It is a short period of relatively light sleep.
Stage 2 non-rem sleep is a period of light sleep before entering deeper sleep. You spend more of your repeated sleep cycles in stage 2 sleep than in other sleep stages.
Stage 3 non-rem sleep is the deep sleep you need to feel refreshed in the morning. It occurs in longer periods during the first part of the night. You are so relaxed this is when it would be very difficult to wake you.
REM sleep occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep.
Your eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids. Mixed frequency brain wave activity becomes closer to that seen in wakefulness. Your breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels. Most of your dreaming occurs during REM sleep, although some can also occur in non-REM sleep. Your arm and leg muscles become temporarily paralyzed, which prevents you from acting out your dreams. ( Isn’t that freaky?! I always just thought it was a weird feeling I had) As you age, you sleep less of your time in REM sleep. Memory consolidation most likely requires both non-REM and REM sleep.
How much sleep do you need?
Sleep and sleep patterns change and vary as we age and there is no “magic number” of sleep that works for everyone. We are all different and have different needs and requirements. Most adults need 7-9 hours a night. A few may get by on less and do fine. Others require more.
Cutting your hours during the week thinking you can “make it up on the weekend”? No… there is no making up sleep. Try to get adequate rest during week so you don’t feel a need to make it up.
Getting good rest is vital for your overall health and wellness.
Below are a few suggestions for a good nights rest:
Set a schedule – go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
Exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day but no later than a few hours before going to bed.
Avoid caffeine and nicotine late in the day and alcoholic drinks before bed.
Avoid eating big meals.
Relax before bed – try a warm bath, reading, or another relaxing routine.
Create a room for sleep – avoid bright lights and loud sounds, keep the room at a comfortable temperature, and don’t watch TV or have a computer in your bedroom.
Don’t lie in bed awake. If you can’t get to sleep, do something else, like reading or listening to music, until you feel tired.
See a doctor if you have a problem sleeping or if you feel unusually tired during the day. Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively.
Of course there are lots of “smart” ways people are tracking their rest time now days. Smart phone apps, bedside monitors, and wearable devices ( like smart watches, fit bits etc) all give us a look at how our rest time goes. I have a Garmin Vivoactive HR and for almost a year now I’ve been able to track my sleep patterns ( among a lot of other things!) seeing my data can convict me if I feel I need more rest, or confirm that yes, I did indeed rest well last night.
Sleep is one of the essentials we all require for a healthy productive life. Make sure you are taking steps to get adequate amounts to have strong, alert, energetic days, every day.