Sleep is a basic need of all living organisms just like food and water.
Not only does lack of sleep have adverse effects on the immune system, weight, memory, emotional state, but drowsiness during the day can also increase the number of accidents and injuries.
Once you don’t get a good night’s sleep you feel tired and sleepy during the day.
You decide to compensate and the next night you sleep for 10 hours straight. But the result is the same: you feel tired.
The reason behind this is that sleeping excessive hours may also have negative effects.
Therefore, the next question you ask yourself would be:
“How much sleep do I need? What amount of hours is just right for me?”
The answer depends on your age. Newborns need 14-17 hours of sleep per day; teenagers need 9-10 hours. The recommended amount for adults is 7-9 hours, and for older adults (65+ years) the sleep range shortens to 7-8 hours.
Understanding sleep cycles
So, what happens in those hours? Sleeping is divided into two types:
NREM (Non-rapid time movement) and REM.
They happen in four stages, which repeat several times over the night.
NREM Light sleep first stage: takes up about five to ten minutes and serves as a transition between wakefulness and sleep.
NREM Light sleep second stage: occupies half of the night’s sleep. During this stage, the temperature of the body drops, and the heart rate slows down.
NREM Deep sleep is the most important stage.
The first phase can last from 30 to 90 minutes, and each subsequent phase of deep sleep gets shorter and shorter.
This is when the maintenance of the body happens. We get rid of toxins and our body produces melatonin – sleeping hormone.
The secretion of melatonin happens when our eyes can sense no light. Our body also secretes the growth hormone we need for repairing and rebuilding. The brain is resting, so we don’t see any dreams.
REM sleep is the fourth stage of sleep. It is the opposite of deep sleep.
This stage is the time when our brain is the most active, while the body is almost paralyzed. This is when most of the dreaming happens. Breathing becomes more shallow and irregular, heart rate increases, and eyes move in different directions.
The brain gets rid of all junk and regulates emotional state.
How much deep sleep should you get a night? Benefits of deep sleep.
The recommended number of 8 hours is not a guarantee to feel crisp and rested the next morning.
What also matters is the quality of sleep, and exactly, how much deep sleep you had a night.
Deep sleep should normally take up 13 to 23 percent a night.
So, that would constitute 62 to 110 minutes if you sleep for eight hours. During this time the brain processes the information it received during the day, consolidates all the data and memories.
The body goes through physical recovery, immune system recharges, metabolism, and blood sugar levels balance out.
Lack of deep sleep – and how to get more of it
Not getting enough deep sleep has its negative consequences. Sleep deprivation affects your both physical and mental state.
People who don’t get enough sleep can observe the following effects:
- weakened immune system
- weight gain
- risk of diabetes
- risk of heart disease
- low sex drive
- bad coordination.
Deprived of slumber, our brain fails to form new connections and perform chemical regulation. Negative effects on mental health can include:
- memory loss
- mood swings
- inability to focus
How to improve and get more deep sleep?
Three things can disturb your sleep: humidity, temperature, and light.
If the air is too dry, biological processes in our bodies slow down, which leads to bad sleeping quality.
The best level of humidity in the bedroom would be around 45 percent.
During the night our body temperature drops, so high temperature may also disrupt your sleep.
According to the experts, the best temperature is 16 – 20 ºC. You may also consider taking a cool shower to help to get your body into the “sleepy” temperature.
In the dark room, the secretion of melatonin intensifies. The more we have of it, the better, as it helps us to fall asleep faster, and makes our deep sleep phases longer.
One of the options is to use an eye mask to block out the light.
Please make sure to not use your phone, laptop, or e-book before going to bed since the blue light produced by these devices tricks your brain into thinking it is daytime.
During the day you have to keep an eye on your diet since some products like caffeine can make you toss and turn during the night. To get a healthy sleep you should also avoid alcohol, nicotine, low in fiber, and high in saturated fats food. Eating too many carbs can also wake you up at night.
Some other small tricks include drinking lots of water during the day, exercising, and listening to the white noise while falling asleep.
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