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Sleep is Important, Are You Getting Enough?


by Lauren Hixon 0 Comments

Every one of us has experienced sleep deprivation, to some degree, at some point in our lifetime. But do you truly know how this disruption affects the body? Let’s discuss the effects of poor sleep, the different stages of sleep and their importance, list the major contributors that lead to poor sleep, and provide tips on how you can get optimal rest. 

1 in 4 Americans develops insomnia each year. (1) Many of which recover suffering mild cases of drowsiness, irritability, and/or lack of focus. These short-term effects are relatively easy to overcome by getting a good night's rest. However, there is more concern for those who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation. Those effects can impair how the body functions and can include some of the following. 

Effects of Chronic Poor Sleep

  • Heart Disease (2)
  • Excessive body weight & obesity (3)
  • Type 2 Diabetes (4) 
  • Mood disorders (5) 

Over the years, much emphasis has been put on sleep, recognizing it as vital for proper metabolic function and the recharging of our bodies. So how can we ensure we are getting enough quality sleep? Let's first take a look at the different stages and learn the function of each.

Sleep Stages

Sleep has traditionally been divided into two main categories: REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (no REM). For the sake of this conversation, let's focus on three: Light, REM, and Deep. Each of these plays a critical role in maintaining our mental and physical health. 

LIGHT

    • 50% of total sleep time for adults
    • Typically starts the sleep cycle
    • Aids in recovery and re-energizing the bodY
    • Muscles relax and may jerk
    • Body temperature drops
    • Respiration slows
    • Heart rate decreases
    • Easy to wake up

REM

    • 5-50% of total sleep time
    • The optimal amount for healthy adults is around 1.5 hours
    • Associated with dreaming, memory consolidation, and creativity
    • The body becomes immobile to stop you from acting out dreams
    • Plays an important role in re-energizing the mind and body
    • Recent research shows REM disruption is related to the amount of food consumed, proving that it’s essential for stabilizing food intake (6)
    • Regulated by circadian rhythms, which is why it’s important to set a sleep routine
    • Respiration increase
    • Heart rate increase
    • Temperature regulation is switched off

DEEP

    • Between 0-35% of total sleep
    • On average adults spend 1-1.5 hours of their total sleep time in deep sleep
    • Most restorative and rejuvenating sleep stage
    • Blood pressure drops
    • Heart & breathing rates are steady
    • Arm and leg muscles are relaxed
    • Harder to wake up
    • Muscles grow and repair
    • The immune system is refreshed
    • Brain flushes out toxins
    • Deep sleep typically happens during the early night

Now that we have insight into what the body is doing while we sleep, and we understand just how important sleep is, the next step is to point out what could be contributing to poor sleep. Once we establish sleep disruptors we can make the proper adjustments to ensure we are getting proper rest. Let me start by saying that most of these disruptors are creating a stress response in the body and flooding it with stress hormones that ultimately keep you awake when you should be resting. Knowing this, it’s critical that we learn methods of de-stressing.

Poor Sleep Contributors

STRESS

Our bodies make hormones that provide us energy, like cortisol and adrenaline, and others that make us sleepy, like melatonin. At the end of the day, our cortisol levels should be coming way down while our melatonin levels start to rise. This signals to the body that it’s time for bed. When the body is stressed, cortisol levels remain high and will keep you up. 
Solution:
      • Practice stress-reducing exercises like deep breathing, hot and cold therapy, and regular movement to keep your stress hormones in line.
      • Review the demands for tomorrow well before bed. This may include to-do lists and appointment scheduling. This gives you a chance to put them aside so you’re not thinking about them while lying in bed. 

CAFFEINE CONSUMPTION

Caffeine increases the level of cortisol in the body. (7) This may be fine in the morning when cortisol is at its peak for the day, but you don’t want to interrupt the natural decline as cortisol levels start to drop throughout the day as it very well could affect your sleep/wake patterns.
Solution:
        • Limit yourself to one cup of coffee a day, and avoid other forms of caffeine.
        • Avoid caffeine after noon. This provides an ample amount of time for your cortisol levels to taper off before bed so that melatonin can be released. 

    Alcohol Consumption 

    While alcohol may cause someone to fall asleep quicker, it’s been known to reduce the REM stage of sleep. (8) Additionally, the liver has to work hard overnight to metabolize the alcohol raising your body temperature and usually causing you discomfort and restlessness since we sleep more soundly in cooler environments. 
    Solution:
          • Avoid drinking alcohol three hours prior to turning in and if you do choose to drink, make it a low-sugar beverage.

      Blue Lights 

      Exposure to blue lights in the latter part of the day can contribute to circadian rhythm disruption. This can cause your body to produce higher levels of cortisol and lower levels of melatonin when winding down for bed.
      Solution:
            • An hour before sleep dim your lights, and stop looking at screens like the television, computer, iPads, and phones. 
            • You can purchase blue-light-blocking glasses to help keep the "awake" light out. 

        Eating a Late Dinner

        Eating late doesn’t allow your body ample time to digest food causing it to work harder throughout the night when it should be recovering. There is also a chance that foods could come up and cause reflux. Remember, digestion is a north-to-south process and you need to be sitting upright for it to work properly.

        Solution:

              • Stop eating 2-3 hours prior to bed to give your body enough time to digest. 

        To recap, getting a full night of sleep is imperative for proper metabolic health and the recharging of our bodies. A disrupted night here or there isn’t going to have lasting impact aside from drowsiness and a lack of focus and motor skills. But getting poor sleep on a chronic more regular basis is linked to many negative health effects like heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Fortunately we have the power to ensure our bodies are getting the rest it deserves. Remember to stick to a regular sleep schedule, get a full 7-8 hours per night, and avoid napping. Happy sleeping!

        References:

        1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180605154114.htm 

        2. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea-and-heart-disease-stroke

        3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25450058 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25715415

        4. https://www.pnas.org/content/117/32/19590  

        5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2257922/  

        6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23347102/




        Lauren Hixon
        Lauren Hixon

        Author




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