Sleep is the most effective way to reset your brain and so a considerable degree, mental health. That said, sleep as a subject, is incredibly complicated. The brain goes through a wider range of of activity during sleep than it does when awake. Human beings are different, or sleep needs differ as do our individual experiences of sleep day in and day out. So there is no singular solution to better sleep. However the specialists like Neurologist Prof Andrew Huberman - more from him later in this series - agree on the anatomy of a hypothetical perfect 8 hours of sleep as the target outcome. In this article we discuss this hypothetically as if you sleep from 22h00 to 06h30. We accept that our human differences are many, so apply the thinking below as the ideal that is possible, and that your sleep pattern over time can be compared to the ideal, giving you a place to work back from when you try to improve the quality of your own sleep.
The current research presented by Dr. Matt Walker, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology and the Founder & Director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, has identified a complex set of biological processes that take place during sleep, and having a basic understanding of what happens neurologically, when we sleep, and how key aspects such as the duration and what happens anatomically at certain times of that total sleep period, are key to developing a strategy that will produce improved sleep.
What is sleep
There are 2 types of sleep broadly speaking - Non-REM and REM sleep - and this sates are measured in terms of intensity of the brain waves as well as in changes in the physiological state. The brain and body do different things during different stages of sleep.
- Non-REM and REM sleep happen in stages and in cycles, in other words, we recycle through stages of both of these sleep types during a typical nights sleep, multiple times, depending on the length of the total night sleep.
- Non-REM sleep (slow wave sleep) - this is where we dip into four stages from light sleep into deep sleep - 1 being the lightest and 4 the deepest. Later in the duration this Non-REM then gives way to more REM type sleep.
- REM sleep - Rapid Eye Movement of the eyes, moving from left to right mostly - during which the brain is very active but paradoxically the body is absolutely still, paralysed almost. This allows for the mind/brain to enter the “dream state” and for that to be uninterrupted by unwanted bodily/muscular activity.
- The above REM phase mixed with Non-REM types of activity, takes place for a duration of approximately 90 minutes in humans, and then the cycle begins again. So sleep consists of a series of 90 minute cycles of the two kinds of sleep at evolving levels of activity through the night..
- Then, importantly, throughout the night the ratio of the duration of each “kind of sleep” - more or less REM vs less or more Non-Rem sleep - changes.
- The first half of the sleep duration is different to the second half.
- The first half of the night is where deep sleep takes place - “stage 4 Non REM” is predominant in the first half of the night during those 90 minute cycles.
- The 90 minute cycle is also different in terms of it’s content and this “content” (Non-REM, at different stages vs REM) is influenced by the time in the total sleep duration that the 90 minute cycle is taking place.
- As we age we are inclined to wake up to go to the bathroom - this occurs naturally and is normal - and this awakening usually occurs at the end of one of the 90 minute cycles.
- Typically in the second part of the total duration of sleep - this half the 90 minute cycles are characterised by more lighter stage Non-REM sleep and REM sleep, ie there is more lighter stage Non-REM and REM sleep during early morning in a typical night of sleep.
- It makes sense that dreams will take place in the early to waking parts of the morning due to this ratio shift between the kinds of sleep.
- There is a clear physiological and neurological difference between the first half and the second half of an ideal nights sleep.
- If you are deprived of parts of the second half (predominantly REM Sleep) eg waking up at 04h00 you will experience a deficit in biological processes that are different to your deficit experienced when you struggle to go to sleep - in the first half of the process - and are therefore deprived of Deep Non-REM sleep.
- Broadly speaking the first half of the night - slow wave sleep - appears to focus on metabolism, heart function (Blood pressure and blood content regulation), restorative to the muscular system and motor learning.
- The second half of the nights sleep focuses on emotional aspects of the mind such as letting go of stress, reset of emotional perspective, and not coincidentally Testosterone regulation, among other processes.
Why is sleep so important
Rest equals Recovery - it might be as simple as that!
The first half of the sleep ticks a bunch of boxes and the second half ticks another bunch of boxes so like a petrol car needing both the oil as well as the spark plugs to be changed - you need both halves of a nights sleep to get a full service.
Sleep has survived our evolutionary process and changing its nature has potential negative short and long term consequences.
Quality Sleep is non-negotiable says Dr. Matt Walker.
Things you can do to improve your quality of sleep
Develop good sleep habits…
Be as regular or habitual as your circumstances will allow ie keep to a format where you approach the bedroom ready for sleep and match that to the same time to wake up every day of the week. Aim for this until it becomes a regular habit or protocol. This habit will obviously be shifted from time to time but sticking to the routine keeps the brain regular.
The Room, The Bed and the atmosphere
- Dark Room - in the dark our brain secretes melatonin naturally and this hormone causes “tiredness”.
- Flashing digital clocks and light from electronic devices should be covered and avoided.
- No TV or cellular phone screens in the last 30 minutes before the time that you go to bed. Light intensity such as the intensity of light coming off these screens tell the brain that it is time to wake up!
- Put the cellular phone on Aeroplane Mode to avoid disturbances
- Make use of ear plugs if you sleep in an environment that is prone to irregular noises
- No Caffeine drinks after 18h00
- Be aware that Vit B 12 and other natural supplements such as Spirulina and Ginkgo Biloba / Ginseng may have a very long effect on your system, and take days to clear the system and can over repeat / ongoing daily dosages build up to a point that they influence sleep quality
Don’t beat yourself up in the middle of the night!
- Anything above 85% of time spent in bed actually asleep, is regarded as good, efficient sleep so don’t consider a visit to the Loo or a short period of wakefulness to be a bad nights sleep
- Remember that when you wake up some nights in the dark moments of early morning that you are probably just at the end of a 90 minute cycle part of the rhythm and that this is not cause for stress.
- A meditation for those moments - While taking two or three deep breaths with slow exhalations, imagine your mind to be the reflection of the moon on the surface of a slow flowing mountain stream. See any thoughts that pop up as the water flowing beneath the reflection - let go of them as soon as they flow in.
Get regular exercise!
- Find a physical activity that you enjoy, that gets the heart rate up and do this 3 to 4 times a week for 40 minutes of more and as this becomes part of your routine so too will the quality of your sleep improve.
- Try a 12 hour metabolic break - no food between 19h00 and 07h00 - giving your body a chance to focus on the processes that should have priority during sleep,
Part 2 - for part 2 will be shared here in the days ahead
Entourage Oil & An Example Of a Successful Sleep Protocol
- A case study as an example of how to use Entourage Oil to develop a positive sleep protocol to suit an individual with specific needs and lifestyle
- What works and why it works (with references)
Looking forward to hearing from you...