Everything You Need to Know About Sleep

 

The story of Rip van Winkle is an example of the delicate case of sleep and wakefulness. Rip had moved into the deep layers of sleep as we all do every night when we go to sleep — some more easily than others.

He looked around for his gun, but in place of the clean well-oiled piece, he found the barrel incrusted with rust ... As he rose to walk, he found himself stiff in the joints, and wanting his usual activity ... As he approached the village, he met a number of people, none of whom he knew ... they crowded round him, eyeing him from head to foot ... they bustled up to him and inquired on which side he voted. Rip stared in vacant stupidity.
— Joseph Campbell

 

He had slept for 20 years, but when he woke, it didn't count for anything.

If we do get the amount of sleep we need, we tend to take it for granted. It seemingly doesn't give us the wits demanded of us by those active parts of our lives that we value most.

Though we are refreshed and sustained by our nightly visits, these don't drastically reform our life. We sleep, and we return, like Rip, with nothing to show for the experience. Yet we love sleep and ever return to it's bliss.

 

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It’s the most interesting paradox — we love sleep and we tend to ignore it.

 

But devaluing it comes at our own peril.

Insomnia is rampant and on average people are not getting enough sleep.

Here, I'll provide specific strategies for placing the proper value on sleep.

I aim to illuminate the essence of the bliss of sleep, why do we love it so much? 

I'll also give you everything you need to know, based on the most current research, as well as what yoga therapy and meditation bring to the table.

Scroll all the way to the bottom, and you'll find a reliable and blissful meditation for falling asleep easily.

 

We Love Deep Sleep 

Deep sleep is the time we spend doing one of the most important things — that we never remember. The reason we don't remember is that our conscious mind shuts down in order to abide in ourselves, without all that stuff. It's the most liberating thing —  to cease to exist to ourselves, to our problems and ambitions!

It's the one thing that every human appreciates, across the spectrum of our personal preferences.

In the yogic view, this deep-sleep state is the time we spend recharging with the source of our energy, kind of like when we plug in our iphone at night. 

Recently sleep has been on the mainstream radar, as we see just what a massive and fundamental component it plays in our lives. 

 

We Need Sleep

The sheer amount of time we spend sleeping tells us that it's a massively important part of our overall well-being.

Sleeping is 36% of our biology, and Russel Foster, a circadian neuroscience researcher, says that we wouldn't do for this much of our lives if it weren't absolutely critical. 

To point out just how much we need sufficient sleep, take Psychologist Maslow's heirarchy of human needs. All motivators stacked like a pyramid, physiological needs making up the base.

The most primary at the base is sleep, though most of us don't treat it that way.

We need 7-9 hours a night to stay healthy. Before you try and spread out your hours though, it doesn't work like a bank. Sleep guru, Professor Matthew Walker proves that for the brain, it doesn't work to be deprived during the week and "make up" for it over the weekend.

 

We Ignore Sleep

The studies show that across all ages, we are on average not getting enough sleep. Since the beginning of the post industrial era, people have treated sleep as an illness that requires a cure, and unfortunate inconvenience.

Many people have boasted about "doing an all-nighter." 

This is the problem. We know that we need sleep, and that the quantity and quality are important — so why are we proud of lacking it?

Our excessive value on wakefulness, activity and achievement may be contributing.

 

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Science is recovering the importance of sleep and helping us place it in our priorities once again.

Image Source: Boston University: The Nerve Blog

Image Source: Boston University: The Nerve Blog

Memory

The brain processing and memory consolidation theory of sleep is proven in studies where people are asked to learn a task. When that person is sleep-deprived, their ability to learn that task is just smashed

When we sleep, our brain enters a process called "encoding." Certain salient, or meaningful, pieces of information are encoded and stay with us. Other less salient information, like where you parked your car that day, doesn't get encoded and matters less until it's forgotten.

What's really exciting about what research has shown now is that it's not just memory recording, but our creativity as well.

Our ability to come up with new solutions to complex problems is enhanced three-fold from a good night's sleep — so sleep enhances our creativity.

Jugement

We're very poorly able to judge our behaviors when we're sleep deprived, and we underestimate the effects of our sleep deprivation.

Meanwhile, throughout our day we absorb literally billions of puzzle pieces of information. At night we get the time to fit those pieces of the puzzle in with our whole framework of what we've experienced in life.

I believe sleeping gives us the opportunity to see the broader picture.

Immune System

Sleep deprivation makes us foggy, irritable. But most importantly, the body's ability to defend itself is eliminated.

Only 1 night without sleep can reduce elements of the immune system by about 25%. Professor Walker also found that 1 night of getting 4 hours of sleep renders a 70% reduction in natural killer cells. 

Food Choices

If we're sleep deprived, we're releasing a hunger hormone called Ghrelin which massively increases your appetite for carbohydrates and sugars in particular.

Metabolism

Sleep deprivation and circadian misalignment leads to a disruption in endocrine function. This has now been shown to lead into the now widespread Metabolic Syndrome, or pre-diabetes.

Professor Walker's research reports that we are plummeted into this state of Metabolic Syndrome just from getting 5 hours of sleep for 5 nights in a row.

 

THE BRAIN AND SLEEP

There is not one mental illness in the books without an aspect of a sleep disruption. This is shocking, and useful because we can do something about our sleep! 

Sleep is the brain's cleaning system and helps restore the brain by flushing out toxins that build up during waking hours. 

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By shrinking and swelling, like a sponge, the brain gets a bath of cerebrospinal fluid {a clear liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord}. This fluid moves through the brain along a series of channels that surround blood vessels.

Each night the brain gets a cerebral spinal fluid wash.

A landmark discovery was made when it was shown that this system, the Glymphatic system, removes a certain toxic protein called beta-amyloid from brain tissue.

This protein is renowned for accumulating in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease.

This cleaning system is so complex that it has not yet been mimicked by medications. Therefore, with sleeping aids, the brain doesn't get the wash that it needs — a phenomenon that is now linked with Alzheimer's.

 

PROTECTING SLEEP

It's simply not true that as we age, we need less sleep. The reality is that sleep protection becomes increasingly important because at the age of 50, we start naturally loosing some deep sleep cycles, and by the age of 70 they are down to 5%. It doesn't come naturally because there are so many really important things to do — but we need to protect our sleep. 

Sleep therapy and meditation are options that are very, very effective.

 

sleep HYGIENE

Sleep Hygiene is a variety of necessary steps you take to get good sleep. How do you prepare to sleep? Do you have a routine?

Yes, you've likely heard the recommendations: no caffeine late in the day, no screens before bedtime, sleep in a dark, cool place. We've all heard of these things but we just don't do them.

Why not?!

Right now you're invited to hone and fine tune your sleep routine. 

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Considerations:

  1. Get a blue light filter tool for your screens like f.lux

  2. Make your bedroom a haven {Invest in blackout blinds}

  3. Eat 3-4 hours before going to bed

  4. Consider one good that happened during the day

  5. Have a warm shower or bath {Try: warm oil self massage}

  6. Nourishing sleepy-time tea or milk {Recipe}

  7. Start working your way towards bed by 10pm in order to peacefully fall asleep {due to physiological cycles}

  8. *Use Meditation*

Meditation has been helping millions of people improve sleep and their relationship to it.

It can help, try it out and let me know!