Every one of us must know the feeling when we open our eyes and wake up with the feeling of fullness of what a good sleep can give us….. but unfortunately, we also know the opposite of this.
Can we do something to help ourselves get a better sleep? Yes, of course, but first of all, let’s see what science says about sleeping, what is REM, and is it good for us to sleep before midnight, and why do we need darkness?
All of us need different amounts of sleep. While adults usually need 7-8 hours to feel rested, children need 10-11 hours, teenagers need approximately 9 hours (I’m sure, many of us would argue with this last number of hours).
When we sleep, we all go through different stages of sleep, approximately 5-6 cycles each night. All cycles are approximately 90 minutes long.
The first stage is called NREM
which is a stage without rapid eye movement (non-Rem: non-Rapid Eye Movement). The heart pressure and breath-taking starts to decrease in this stage but our muscle tone is still alike when we are awake.
NREM includes 4 stages:
- 1st: Napping. Eye movement slows down and muscle tone decreases.
- 2nd: This stage takes 50% of sleeping, it’s a shallow sleeping condition. No eye movements, more relaxed muscles. (If you take pills to help you sleep, they it will lengthen this stage.)
- 3rd: Middle-deep sleeping. Blood pressure decreases, breath-taking decreases, brain activity is slow.
- 4th: Deep sleeping. It makes 15-20% of sleeping.
The 3rd and 4th are the most important, the stage of deep sleeping, when our body starts to regenerate. It's especially important for children because the body produces the hormones for healthy growing in this stage. This is the reason for the longer NREM stage experienced by children, and regenerating is the reason for longer NREM stages at elderly people.
If you try to wake somebody up in the 4th stage of NREM, he won’t wake up until he won’t go through NREM 3-2-1, REM. Even if we recognize awakening immediately, these stages will run before it.
Rapid eye movement sleep or REM follows all NREM stages. It is characterized by quick, random movements of the eyes, high neurological activity but relaxed muscles. This stage is a learning process, the brain “thinks over” all the information we get along the day and selects them. This is the stage of dreaming.
The amount of time spent in REM sleep varies significantly with age; it normally makes up around 20-25% of an adult human's total time spent asleep.
People usually experience REM sleep 4 or 5 times a night. The first REM stage is shorter, but each following REM lasts a little longer as NREM stages shorten. It is common for some people to experience light sleep, or even to wake up after a cycle. The amount of time one spends in REM sleep has a lot to do with certain psychological factors - people with depression tend to be in the state for a shorter duration than those without it.
Studies have shown that people who go to sleep after being sleep-deprived enter REM sleep faster than those who weren't. While in REM sleep, most of the muscles become paralyzed. This inactivity can affect the breathing muscles and it is a cause of snoring and other breathing problems in sleep. REM sleep is also sometimes known as paradoxical sleep. It's during this stage of sleep when most people are able to have especially vivid dreams.
Waking up mostly happens during a REM stage.
Which is the more important: NREM or REM?
For adults, longer NREM is important to let the body regenerate. Some scientists tell that for babies REM is more important as their brain works more effectively during this stage by stimulating itself and this way, it supports mental development better than NREM stage.
The sleep before midnight is really healthier?
The myth of the sleep before midnight came from long ago when 8pm was bedtime. The fact behind this is that the first period, the first 3-4 hours of sleeping is the most resting for the body, the NREM stage is longer in the first few cycles, so the chances of feeling more rested is higher if you have at least 6 hours of sleep. So it’s not about the time that the clock shows, but the amount of time you spend for sleeping.
Another reason is according to the levels of Melatonin as you see in the following part.
It's a Greek word / molasses: dark – toni: activated /. Melatonin is a homrone activated in the dark and produced at night. This is not an anesthetic, but the physiological regulator of physiological sleep. Melatonin influences the sleep-wake rhythm, mood of life, thermoregulation, lipid metabolism, sexual functions, other hormones, and perhaps also the life length. It has a very good “side effect,” it works as an antioxidant, this is the reason for having a smoother face after a good sleep.
Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid- to late evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours. I think this is a good reason for going to bed before midnight…
Falling asleep, sleep, biorhythm, and night activities depend on this hormone.
As light affects how much melatonin our body produces, having a dark room for sleeping is very important, especially in summer when days are longer. During the shorter days of the winter months, the body may produce melatonin either earlier or later in the day than usual. This change can lead to symptoms of winter depression.
Natural melatonin levels slowly drop with age. Some older adults make very small amounts of it or none at all.
Side effects of not satisfying sleep
Not sleeping enough or not sleeping well increases the risk of real severe diseases such as heart problems, metabolic diseases. It also causes headache, decreases our capacity, indicates real danger when driving, and lowers the immune system’s defending power.
Tips for the better sleep
Sufficient sleep is 7-8 hours - but how can we make it?
- Try to go to bed in fixed time
- Establish a routine for relaxation or meditate before going to bed
- Ventilate! Refresh, replace the air in the bedroom, and even better if you can do a cross ventilation
- Make the room dark
- Do a few relaxing exercises before going to bed
- Light workout – regular exercises help you to sllep faster and deeper
- Put down everything that needs serious brainpower an hour before bedtime – not only computer, watching TV is also included, because that is also a hard work for the brain, just passive
- Don’t feel cold or hot – find your most comfortable temperature
- Imagine that we should get up soon. Soon we can feel the objection of our body, and it makes it easier to fall asleep
- If you can’t make it, don’t force it. If you cannot fall asleep in half an hour, get up, go to another room, read, or do something else – but do not eat, smoke or use electronic devices - then try again
- Choose a perfect mattress and pillow – it's different for everybody – hard mattress is offered because that is the best for the spine
- Make a nice lavender, lemon grass, valerian, chamomile, or hops tee
- Put some lavender under your pillow or use a scent of lavender
- Put your phone away from your head and preferably from the bedroom
- Don’t go to bed with a full stomach
- Do not make hard exercises or training 3-4 hours before sleeping since it boosts up the energy and makes it harder to feel relaxed (I think this might be a personal preference, I can imagine that somebody needs training to clear his mind before resting).
And when you made all of this, everything is done, and you still can’t sleep…. Don’t bother…give it up, get up, and try to do something else until you collapse :)