Ha ha! This is not going to be what you were thinking. Jonathan at Advanced Life Skills published an article called What is Your Brain Doing While You Are Sleeping?. Please check it out. I would like to expand on the sleep topic with some other interesting and important information.
I used to think sleep was a waste of time and since I could function on a lot less than most people, I did. Big mistake. Please don’t make the same mistake. Over many years of too little sleep, I have paid a big price and maybe even done permanent damage.
How Much Do You Need?
This varies from person to person but most people need between seven and nine hours. Teenagers need more than any other age group except babies, typically 9 or more. People who sleep eight hours score better on mental tests than people who sleep six. I would go for the longer times if I were you. Active people and especially those who exercise a lot need more deep sleep to repair their bodies.
Stages of Sleep
Sleep is broken up into REM and Non-REM (NREM) sleep. NREM sleep consists of four stages:
Stage 1: This is the period between wakefulness and sleep. Eyes are closed but most people think they are still awake and if woken will insist they hadn’t fallen asleep yet. This stage lasts five to ten minutes.
Stage 2: This is a period of light sleep where heart rate and temperature slows in preparation for for deep sleep.
Stage 3 and Stage 4: These are the deep stages of sleep. During these stages the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. It is difficult to wake someone or awaken spontaneously out of these deep sleep stages.
REM: After a complete NREM cycle the body goes in to REM sleep. The brain is very active in REM sleep and shows patterns similar to an awake brain. Your major muscle groups are paralyzed during this stage and that is what prevents you from moving and acting out your dreams. The first REM stage lasts about 10 minutes and each REM cycle through the rest of the night increases in length and the deep sleep stages decrease in length.
Men maintain erections through much of their REM sleep. It’s not because we are having sex dreams. Researchers do not fully understand REM sleep and dreaming. However, they do know it is important to long-term memories and learning.
A complete sleep cycle of stage 1 through REM takes an average of 90 to 110 minutes. After REM, you start over with stage 1. This Cycle repeats itself throughout the night.
The decreasing length of deep NREM sleep and the increasing length of REM sleep as the night progresses has very important consequences. The body emphasizes the most important stages first. Since the deep stages are when the physical body is repairing itself, you will spend a lot more time in deep sleep early. That means if you get too little sleep your body will complete the physical repair stages first before it works heavily on the memory and learning aspects of REM sleep. So when you skimp on your sleep, you are impacting your brain more than your body. That is why people who sleep longer have better mental performance.
Don’t Set Your Alarm Clock
Forcing yourself awake unnaturally is bad for you. I know most people are going to say they won’t wake up without an alarm clock but that’s not true. It is fairly easy to train yourself to wake up about when you want, but there is a very important consideration. If you are awakened when you are in one of your deeper stages of sleep, you will suffer much of the day as a result. In fact you will feel better and are better off by getting less sleep and waking up at the appropriate stage. You want to wake up in the light stages and ideally at the end of a cycle. This is when you will naturally wake up.
You can determine the length of your natural cycle by noting the time you go to sleep and then waking up naturally several nights. Do this on the weekend if you must. Adjust your go to bed and get up times around your cycle and try to get at least seven hours per night. Eight is better. I naturally wake up after about 5 hours and 45 minutes or about 7 hours. I can sometimes sleep over 8 but not often. I attribute this to a lack of strenuous physical activity.
If you must set an alarm, try to time it according to your natural cycle by using the data you learned during natural awakening experiments. If you typically wake up after 7 1/2 hours then set your alarm to wake you up after 7 1/2 hours of sleep. If you have to get up at a certain time, then adjust your going to bed time accordingly.
Waking Up Frequently
Many people who wake up frequently in the night think that they are not sleeping well. This is not true if you go back to sleep. During the light stages of sleep there is very little difference between wake and sleep. There is very little negative impact of waking up during this time and then falling back to sleep. I sleep very sound the first few hours and then wake up multiple times later in the night. This is very normal for many people. Especially middle aged and older men. LOL!
Light and Dark
Your body’s circadian rhythm is regulated by several factors and one of the most important is light. Another is activity. The single best approach for clock setting for your body is to get bright light, preferably sunshine very early in the morning. You also need to move your body. If you get very early movement and sunshine you will have a very effectively mechanism to set your clock daily. Exercise in the early morning sun will give you many other additional health benefits as well.
It is also critical to sleep in total darkness. Light and darkness trigger the hormone cycle of melatonin which regulates sleep and wakefulness. Even tiny amounts of light at night, such as nightlight or streetlight will suppress melatonin production and result in a lower quality of sleep. Seal up the cracks that let light leak into your bedroom.
As body temperature drops in the late afternoon and evening you will start getting tired. If you have a problem with wanting to go to bed too early or getting sleepy in the evening, try exercising in the late afternoon or early evening. This will raise your body temperature and delay the desire to sleep.
The need to sleep is heavily driven by two factors. The amount sleep you got the night before and the length of time since you last slept. Throughout the day the pressure rises and by late evening it will be high. If you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, you will get tired earlier than normal.
Power naps work because they reduce sleep pressure. If you think of sleep pressure as a graph line rising throughout the day, a power nap will create a dip in that in that line. It buys you more time since it decreases the length of time since you last slept.
You need to wake up after 20 minutes or sleep an entire 90+ minute cycle for your power naps. If you go past 20 minutes and don’t sleep a full cycle, you will wake up groggy. You would have been better off to not have taken a nap at all.
The Bedroom and Bed Are For Sleep and Sex Only!
You are a creature of habit. You need to train your brain that when the light goes out and your head hits the pillow, that it should go to sleep immediately. This is a wonderful habit that can be learned fairly easily. I was a terrible insomniac and I had to go through multiple cycles of reading and falling asleep each night. I created a terrible habit that was very bad for my physical and mental well being.
The absolute worst thing you can do is stimulate your brain with the TV while you are in bed. You really shouldn’t watch TV for an hour before bedtime (or quite frankly ever).
If you cannot go to sleep then get out of bed and do something to relax like yoga or meditation. You can even do light reading. When you feel tired again go back to bed. Teaching your brain and body that bed is a place to toss and turn in restlessness will only make the problem worse. If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep, get up and do something that makes you sleepy. Stay out of bed when you can’t sleep.
Brainwave entrainment means stimulating the brain with some kind of periodic beat which causes your brainwaves to synchronize or fall into step with the frequency of the beats. Your brainwaves have typical frequency patterns associated with various activities, both when you are awake and when you are asleep. The highest frequencies are associated intense focus and concentration and the the lowest frequencies with deep sleep.
This stuff really works and can be proven scientifically by measuring brainwaves after an entrainment session. I use this and I believe it has helped me a great deal. The great thing about brainwave entrainment is that you actually train your brain to more easily slip into these states. As a result, you usually don’t have to continue the sessions for a long period of time.
As it regards sleep, the various stages of sleep are associated with different brainwave frequencies. Thus listening to brainwave entrainment audio as you sleep will result in better sleep. These audios guide your through the various stages. I first used entrainment techniques for sleep and I believe it made a huge difference. If you are interested take this survey Optimal Sleep, and sign up for some free information. You will have the opportunity to purchase a $58 program that was worth 100 times that to me.
There are two different types of beats I have used: binaural beats and isochronic tones. I think the science is on the side of isochronic tones being more effective, but I have used both with good success.
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