We have evolved in tandem with the alternating cycles of light and darkness.
The process of sleep is undoubtedly one of the primary drivers associated with kickstarting one’s metabolism. It is the way in solidifying our daily need for recovery and serving as the primary regulator for bringing balance to our hormones. Anyone who wakes up from a restful night’s sleep can attest that feeling refreshed and filled with energy to embrace a new day is one of the most satisfying experiences.
Sleep acts like a skilled librarian, collecting, organising, sorting, and cleaning up information. Its logistical pathways are exceedingly complex. Scientists continuously uncover new insights into how our brain operates and collaborates with sleep.
While we often perceive our awakened state and our sleep state as disconnected. The transition from wakefulness to slumber is internally governed by our circadian clock. This central clock comprises myriad body clocks regulating all our biological processes in roughly a 24-hour cycle (to be more precise, 24 hours and 15 minutes).
Our body thrives on rhythm, craving a sense of structure and continuity to function optimally.
While certain body processes are upregulated during wakefulness, they are downregulated during sleep. Those moments of shut-eyes create essential patterns that significantly contribute to our overall health and well-being. These rhythms impact various aspects such as hunger levels, repair mechanisms, fat loss, muscle repair, and the regulation of blood sugar levels.
In Western culture, achieving proper sleep has become challenging. Constant exposure to sleep-depriving stimuli has proven to be detrimental, often without us realising it. The general duration and quality of sleep have declined over the past century to unhealthy levels.
Insufficient sleep is increasingly identified as a potential cause for conditions such as diabetes, obesity, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, and other emerging diseases of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Although sleep disruptors like insomnia and sleep apnea may impede the much-needed downtime, there are practices one can adopt to enhance the likelihood of a good night’s sleep.
On average, the human body thrives best after sleeping for 7-9 hours, traversing through two cycles, each with its unique healing power. The NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) phase, occurring in the first part of the night, is the non-dream state and serves as the cleaning stage. These initial hours involve essential work to ensure waking up refreshed before the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage sets in. Associated with dreaming, the REM phase sees the brain sorting, cleaning up, and storing both essential and non-essential information.
Throughout the night, these cycles between NREM and REM sleep repetitively dominate the sleep stages, with NREM sleep prevailing (up to 75%). These cycles of NREM and REM sleep occur in recurring rhythms of approximately 60-90 minutes, called ultradian cycles.
Achieving optimal sleep may be elusive, but I believe in progress through consistency, not seeking perfection from night one. There are certainly practises one can incorporate into their bedtime routine to increase the likelihood of enjoying a substantial amount of shut-eye.
There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep. | Homer, The Odyssey