Sleep and Wellbeing

From air traffic controllers, pilots, IT professionals, health care workers, truck and transport drivers, hospitality, police, firefighters, bakers, farmers, engineers, road construction and maintenance. The list is endless. It’s well documented that the non-traditional work hours can and does have negative emotional, social and physical impact on their lives. Some thrive working night shift and prefer it while others find it challenging and tiresome.

Whether you’re a night owl or not, staying up all night influences your well-being.

When you don’t sleep for long periods, your sleep/wake patterns end up out of sync along with your biological clock (circadian rhythm).

This disrupted pattern has been associated with increased risk of developing cardiovascular, metabolic and gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes and mental health issues.

We live on a clock, whether we want to or not, a natural body clock. The rhythms of our days are at least partly biological.  Physiological functions, as well as social and cultural events, occur in cycles.  Even in our modern technological world, these cycles are important and measurable differences in abilities are everyday tasks (cognitive and physical) depend on the time of day and where the body is within its cycles.

It is important that we are aware of our rhythms and the rhythms of others.

The body’s physiological processes vary considerably in how sensitive they are to circadian rhythms.  Some respond more to circadian clock changes and others more to the sleep-wake process.  A variety of mechanisms in the body keep it all together and external cues from the environment entrain the body to the larger world.  The most important external cue is daylight and temperature and our food intake which tells the body where it is on the timeline.  Man-made, cultural cues are important, too. These include work and school times, television and radio programs, as well as the activity of friends and family.  Sometimes man-made clocks clash with the body’s natural clock and this can result in circadian rhythm sleep disorders.

It is important to do your best and stick to one sleep schedule—every day. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time. Get enough sleep and make sure it is high-quality rest. When sleep has a regular rhythm, your biological clock will be in sync and all of your other bodily functions will go smoother, including your sleep.

The Stages of Sleep
Usually, sleepers pass through five stages: 1, 2, 3, 4 and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. These stages progress cyclically from 1 through REM then begin again with stage 1.
A complete sleep cycle takes an average of 90 to 110 minutes, with each stage lasting between 5 to 15 minutes. The first sleep cycles each night have relatively short REM sleeps and long periods of deep sleep but later in the night, REM periods lengthen and deep sleep time decreases.

There five stages of sleep.

Stages 1-4 are non-REM sleep, followed by REM sleep.

Stage 1 is light sleep where you drift in and out of sleep and can be awakened easily.

In this stage, the eyes move slowly and muscle activity slows. During this stage, many people experience sudden muscle contractions preceded by a sensation of falling.In stage 2, eye movement stops and brain waves become slower with only an occasional burst of rapid brain waves. The body begins to prepare for deep sleep, as the body temperature begins to drop and the heart rates also slows.

When we enter stage 3, we experience extremely slow brain waves known as delta waves. This is where we experience deep sleep. It is during this stage that a person may experience sleepwalking, night terrors, talking during one’s sleep, and bedwetting. These behaviours are known as parasomnias and tend to occur during the transitions between non-REM and REM sleep.

In stage 4, deep sleep continues as the brain produces more delta waves almost exclusively. People awakened from this state can feel disoriented for a few minutes.

During REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) the brain waves copy the same activity as the waking state. The eyes remain closed but move rapidly from side-to-side, related to the intense dream and brain activity that occurs during this stage.

During the sleep cycle, one doesn’t go straight from deep sleep to REM sleep.

The sleep cycle progresses through the stages of non-REM sleep from light to deep sleep, then reverse back from deep sleep to light sleep, ending with time in REM sleep before starting over in light sleep again.

For example:

  • Stage 1 – light sleep
  • Stage 2 – light sleep
  • Stage 3 – deep sleep
  • Stage 2 – light sleep
  • Stage 1 – light sleep

REM Sleep

After REM sleep, the individual returns to stage 1 of light sleep and begins a new cycle. As the night progresses, individuals spend more time in REM sleep and equally less time in deep sleep.

The first sleep cycle takes about 90 minutes from there it can average between 90 to 120 minutes. An individual can experience four to five sleep cycles a night.

Deep sleep reduces your sleep drive and provides the most restorative sleep of all the sleep stages. This is why if you take a short nap during the day, you’re still able to fall asleep at night. But if you take a nap long enough to fall into deep sleep, you have more difficulty falling asleep at night because you reduced your need for sleep.

During deep sleep, human growth hormone is released and restores your body and muscles from the stresses of the day. Your immune system restores itself.

The brain also processes, deletes information like a recycle bin and refreshes itself for a new learning day.

Slow wave sleep comes mostly in the first half of the night, REM (Rapid Eye Movement) in the second half. REM sleep typically begins about 90 minutes after you first fall asleep, with the first REM cycle lasting about 10 minutes. Each successive REM cycle lasts longer, with the final REM stage lasting up to 1 hour. Most people experience three to five intervals of REM sleep each night.

In the REM phase, breathing becomes more rapid, irregular and shallow, eyes jerk rapidly and limb muscles are temporarily paralyzed. Brain waves during this stage increase to levels experienced when a person is awake. Also, heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, males can experience erections and the body loses some of the ability to regulate its temperature.

What Stage of Sleep Do Dreams Occur?

REM sleep is the time when the most vivid dreams occur because the brain is so active during this stage. If awoken during REM sleep, a person can remember the dreams.

Muscle paralysis often accompanies REM sleep. Scientists believe this may be to help prevent us from injury while trying to act out our dreams. A person may dream 4 to 6 times each night. All people do in fact dream, whether they remember their dreams or not.

Being deprived of REM sleep some people can experience psychosis. Those who take drugs or alcohol lose out on the REM sleep stage and this is well documented that a lack of REM sleep can alleviate clinical depression. Scientific research links REM sleep to learning and memory.

The amount of time you spend in each stage also depends on your age. Infants spend almost 50% of their time in REM sleep. Adults spend nearly half of sleep time in stage 2, about 20% in REM and the other 30% is divided between the other three stages. Older adults spend progressively less time in REM sleep.

But what about sleep quality? Sleep quality is achieved by sustained rest, with sufficient time spent in each of the four sleep stages—Stages 1-3 and REM sleep—to maintain physical and mental health and function.

To all those people who are up at night while the rest of the world sleeps. Thank you for taking care while we sleep. Live well, Sleep well!

Sleep Tips

Poor Sleep habits attribute to less sleep. Stress is a major factor that contributes to sleep deprivation. When the stress hormone is activated it governs the fight or flight response. This then floods the body with adrenaline identified by our perception of urgency and burden which makes it difficult to sleep. Even the thought that we have to and must sleep brings stress and anxiety into our body. Turn the mind off by bringing your focus to your breathing.

This is a simple and effective exercise aimed at calming the nervous system.

  1. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose counting to 5
  2. Hold your breath for the count of 5, then
  3. Exhale through the mouth slowly and completely for the count of 7. Repeat 3-5 times.

Better sleep can happen by making some simple lifestyle changes and simply following the practices of good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene can help you develop a pattern of healthy sleep.

Following these tips can give you a head start down the path to better sleep.

Always check with your health professional or practitioner first.

  • Have a comfortable bedroom, dark and quiet. If light is a problem, use heavy curtains or block out blinds to cover the windows.
  • Avoid caffeine within 4 hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol: while alcohol may help one to fall asleep initially, it generally causes the restorative quality of sleep to suffer.
  • Keep yourself well hydrated – with water preferably
  • Avoid computer screens and phone screens shortly before bed.
  • Refrain from vigorous exercise for three hours before bedtime.
  • Relax for a while before going to sleep.
  • Having sex induces sleep
  • Go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time every day, seven days a week, so that your body has a better chance of adapting to the desired schedule.
  • One of the triggers that keeps people awake is light, so it helps to decrease your light exposure at least 30 minutes before trying to sleep, wear sunglasses on your way home, even on a cloudy day.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake. If you’re drinking caffeine to stay awake, try not to drink any within four hours of the end of your shift to give your body time to metabolise the caffeine.
  • Let people know what hours you will be sleeping, so they know to leave you alone
  • Switch off the mind – What you think about determines your brain activity
  • Reduce your Stress
  • Taking quality Vitamin supplements – Magnesium, Vitamin D
  • Melatonin – stimulates the pineal gland in the brain to release melatonin
  • ReDormin is a natural insomnia medication that helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer. Available at Pharmacies and Health Food outlets. (Check with your Health Professional)
  • Chamomile tea
  • Lavender oil few drops around your pillow
  • Soak in Epsom salt bath for relaxation (which is magnesium)
  • Eliminate carbohydrates before bed and consuming quality fats (Avocado and yoghurt)
  • Low carbs and sugar – replace with good fats – milk, bananas cherries (cherries are rich in melatonin) cheese, almonds (almonds contain tryptophan and magnesium)
  • Shut off all electronics 1 hr before sleep – blue light the stimulates brain
  • Relaxing Music
  • Establishing a regular bedtime routine and stick to it
  • Making your environment conducive to sleep (e.g., keeping your bedroom dark, cool, comfortable quiet)
  • Set a regular waking time regardless of how little sleep you received and stick with it.

Every single one of us began as a blank canvas, molded by family, teachers, religion, culture, friends, peers, media, society all have influenced and brainwashed us unconsciously since time began on who we are and who we have to be.

There has been a major shift happening on our planet for some time trying to awaken us all on a conscious level. It’s as if we have been in a deep sleep and everything globally is being shaken up to awaken us to a new level of being, understanding and living.

As we all have a conscious and a subconscious mind. Much of our behaviour is directed through our subconscious mind corresponding with our beliefs, values, experiences and habitual patterning’s. We’ve all been influenced positively and negatively by life’s experiences as well as by our positive and negative influencers.

It’s these influences that have shaped our thinking and beliefs. Most people are unaware the level that their unconscious beliefs strongly influence their lives by the choices and decisions they make. Ideally, we need to make conscious what is currently unconscious which can only happen through learning self-awareness.

We are governed by our ego (personality) and a higher mind or soul.  Our Soul is the unique expression of the divine. It’s the bridge between our spiritual self and our individual physical/self and a higher power.

As humans, we all tend to have an understanding of our physical self and minimal awareness of our soul-self, the true self. The wisdom of the ages suggests that our challenge as human beings is to become conscious of what is unconscious in us.

Our life journey is to explore those parts of our nature that are presently hidden from us so we may express ourselves more genuinely. To become acquainted with our shadow side, the dark and unknown parts of our psyche that we have not yet owned, as well as know and own the soul side of our nature. Our ultimate aim is to embrace the opposing forces within us, the “bad” and the “good,” and bring them together creating the “Whole Self” or wholeness.

To do this we need to move through the things that block the awareness. These blocks are our challenges to unlock something greater that is within us all. These blocks function in the mental, emotional and physical aspects of our foundation of well-being. They block the natural flow of energy creating stress, pain and dysfunction in different areas of our life.

They indicate that something within us is out of alignment with the true nature of who we are. The blocks signal that we have unresolved issues that may be repetitive in nature and our unconscious and conscious programming is needing an upgrade.

Often this reflects the character shadows that reside in our subconscious mind. The blocks are related to our character in who we think we are. They hide our true nature, our true essence.

Our personality – ego, views these blocks as problems, challenges, limitations, difficulties and hurdles. These blocks limit our ability to enjoy life fully and completely usually leaving us with the feeling that something is missing.

From the spiritual perspective, these blocks are the gateway and path to growth and transformation.

Paradoxically, we can only get to the positive through the negative. Like it or not, pain gets our attention. Pain also challenges the ego’s perception that it has complete control of our life. If we want to be rid of the pain, we must do the work that leads us to a greater consciousness and a greater self.

In the university of life, the challenges come to us for good reasons to make the unconscious more conscious. If we deny and block the pain to avoid it, our problems continue to grow until our suffering becomes so great, it is forced upon us to learn the lessons it brings. The human journey is to evolve to greater level of consciousness and experience the opposing pulls of our world of duality and bring soul to help us learn, grow and evolve. The question now shifts from who are you, to who do you want to be?