Are you in debt? I’m not talking about your bank account…I’m talking about your sleep account! If you are not sleeping 7.5 to 9 hours a night, even if you don’t feel like it, you are sleep deprived. When you don’t get the sleep you should, you start a sleep debt and the more sleep you miss, the larger the debt.
Dr. David Dinges, chief of the Division of sleep and Chronobiology at the University of Pennsylvania estimates that only 10% of Americans can consistently sleep for eight hours per night without harmful effects on one’s health. Another research at the University of San Francisco discovered some people have a gene that enables them to be ok with 6 hours of sleep. If you think that’s you, the probabilities are against you as the gene appears in just 3% of the population. The rest of us, or 97%, need the 7.5 to 9 hours to reach full potential during our waking hours.
The average American gets 6.8 hours of sleep a night which puts them in a 42 minutes sleep debt each night. Let’s say you go 42 minutes a night each night (Monday through Friday) you will have acquired a 3.5 hour sleep deficit coming into Friday night. Now, if you can make up almost 2 hours on each of Friday and Saturday night…kudos to you! But, even if you can make it up on the weekend, it will not completely make up for the lack of sleep. Sleeping later on the weekends can affect your sleep-wake cycle making it much harder to get up on Monday morning. On top of that, even minimal sleep loss takes a toll on your mood, energy, and ability to handle stress.
Without enough hours of restorative sleep, you won’t be able to work, learn, create, and communicate at a level even close to your true potential!
You may be sleep deprived if you…
Need an alarm clock in order to wake up on time.
Rely on the snooze button
Have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning
Feel sluggish in the afternoon
Get sleepy in warm room
Fall asleep within 5 minutes of jumping in bed
Effects of being sleep deprived include…
Fatigue, lethargy, and lack of motivation
Moodiness and irritability
Reduced creativity and problem solving skills
Inability to cope with stress
Weakened immune system, frequent colds/illnesses
Trouble concentrating and remembering
Unable to make a decision
Increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.
Have you ever noticed when you don’t get enough sleep you crave sugary foods. Sleep deprivation has a direct link to weight and overeating. This is because we all have two hormones that regulate hunger and feeling full. Ghrelin stimulates appetite and Leptin sends signals to the brain when we’re full. When we don’t get enough sleep our level of Ghrelin goes up stimulating the appetite, so we want more food. At the same time your level of Leptin goes down so we don’t feel satisfied which keeps us eating. So, the more sleep we get, the less food we will crave…that’s a pretty good incentive!
Stages of Sleep
How does sleep actually work? There are stages of sleep which act in different ways to our bodies and mind. First, we have stage 1 which is falling asleep…it is the transition between awaken state and light sleep. Stage 2 is Light Sleep which lasts between 10 and 25 minutes. Stage 2 is the first true sleep stage. Stage 3 is Deep Sleep, this stage is when it is difficult to wake you up, and if you are awakened out of this stage you feel groggy and cranky. This is because in stage 2 your blood flows away from the brain and into the body where it heals and restores the body and muscles. Last is the infamous REM Stage…you probably know this as the “dreaming” state. This is true, REM sleep is where the dreaming occurs. During REM your breath shallows, heart rate and blood pressure rise, your arms and legs become paralyzed and males get erections. Just as Deep Sleep (stage 3) repairs the body, REM or stage 4 repairs the mind as it replenishes its supply of neurotransmitters, including the feel good chemicals serotonin and dopamine that boost our mood….and who doesn’t want to be in a better mood!
Each sleep cycle which contain the 3 stages (I consolidate stages 3 and 4 as they are both Deep Sleep) and REM takes approximately 90 minutes and then repeats. As you can see from the chart…sleep takes care of the body first in Deep Sleep, or stage 3–4, during the first few cycles, then it moves deeper into the REM sleep and replenishes the mind. In this chart you will see 5 stages at 90 minutes…that is 7.5 hours…the minimum to get “healthy sleep” and not begin a sleep debt.
(Tip: if you have to wake up by an alarm, set it in intervals of 90 minutes so you wake up out of REM sleep….you will feel refreshed and ready to go as the brain waves during REM mimic our awake state)
Some things to avoid to help sleep are…yes, you guessed it…Caffeine or stimulants, alcohol, and nicotine just to name a few. An example of how nicotine disrupts good sleep is people addicted to nicotine tend to wake up after 3 or 4 hours as their body starts the withdrawal process. Alcohol, although it may help you fall asleep keeps you in a “Light sleep” and doesn’t allow you to fall completely into Deep or REM sleep, the sleep we need most! Finally, Caffeine…do I really have to explain this one? Ok, even if you drink caffeine in the morning, it’s half-life is 6 hours which means it is still in your system when you go to bed and up to 24 hours after you ingest it….ok, I did have to explain.
Daytime naps can be one way to treat sleep deprivation, says Sara C. Mednick, PHD, sleep expert “you can get incredible benefits from 15 to 20 minutes of napping,” She says. “You reset the system and get a burst of alertness and increased motor performance.”
What about caffeine vs. napping. The answer is simple, they will both give you a boost of energy, but the difference is caffeine can decrease your memory performance. You will be more prone to make mistakes from caffeine, and as for overall health…do I really need to go there, plus I just told you it will stay in your system for 24hrs. A 20 minute nap is all you need to get the benefits of napping which include improved alertness, enhanced performance, and better mood.
Types of Naps…
Planned Napping is taking a nap before you actually get sleepy.
Emergency Napping occurs when you suddenly get tired and cannot continue.
Habitual Napping is when you have your “nap time” scheduled each day.
As for the length of a nap, is that important? Well, let’s go back to the sleep stages and think…up to 20–25 minutes you are in a light sleep and will wake up refreshed. 30–60 minute naps mean you enter the Deep Sleep stage which if you are woken up during this stage you will feel sleep inertia which is the feeling of grogginess and disorientation that comes when waking out of a Deep Sleep. Now, if you can get more than 60 minutes you will enter the REM stage and are one lucky pup. You will not only wake up refreshed, but your body will have done some repairs in Deep Sleep, and if you made it through your full REM cycle your mind would have done some repair and boost your memory and creativity….you will have won!
Is there only one way to nap? NO! In fact, more than 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers, meaning they sleep for short periods of time throughout the day. Humans are part of the Monophasic sleepers…the minority.
As we are programed from birth to be a monophasic sleeper, there are 4 other polyphasic sleep cycles…
Uberman Cycle: This is 20–30 minute naps every 4 hours, resulting in 6 naps a day.
Everyman Cycle: This is either a 3 hour “long” nap with three 20-minute naps. Or, 1.5 hour “long” nap with 4–5 20 minute naps.
Cycle Dymaxion: 30-minute nap every 6 hours…that is a total of 2 hours!
Biphasic/Siesta Cycle: Sleeping 4.5 hours at night and then a 90 minute nap around noon.
The crazy thing is…there have been many people who have tried these nap schedules and most report feeling healthy and refreshed, and some who were tested by doctors got “great” bills of health. This may seem absurd to you, but it is only because society programs us to be monophasic sleepers. Although, if you were ever to try any of these napping schedules there will be side effects for the first 1–2 weeks before your body adjusts.
There is a lot of talk about what sleep deprivation or having a sleep debt does to one’s body and mind, and that should be enough for you to at least make an attempt at improving your sleep. If you think you are just fine with your 6 hours a night of sleep, and are not one of the 3% that have the gene that allow that to be ok, think about your life, where you are and what could be better. Are there things you wished you could do, or have, whether it is more energy or more money? Think about if you did start getting the correct amount of sleep, what would you be able to accomplish? You would have more energy, think clearer, handle your emotions more intelligently, and just be more productive in general…basically, you would be a better you!
So, let’s start making some adjustment to become a better you and start getting the sleep you deserve and need. Here are some basic tips to start…
Set a schedule — Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time without “sleeping in” on the weekends. If you have to set an alarm, try and get an amount of sleep that correlates with the 90 minute sleep cycle. It’s best to get 7.5 to 9 hours a night.
Exercise — Try to get 20–30 minutes a day of whatever activity you enjoy…running, yoga, lifting, spinning, swimming…the list goes on…pick one you enjoy! (Note: do not exercise within 3–4 hours of going to bed)
Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine — AVOID! Besides being bad for your overall health, it will screw your good sleep up.
Room Temperature — Try and sleep in a cool room…does not have to be “cold”, but your body temperature decreases in stage 2 (Light Sleep) and a cool room helps you get there.
Do not lie in bed awake — If you can’t sleep, don’t lie there and think about how miserable you are…do something. You can read, watch tv or something that may relax you.
The bottom line is Sleep should be a priority for you, if you want to be the best person you can be. It has an impact on your energy, mental capacity, mood, emotional intelligence, and overall short term and long term health…uh, that’s your life! Take care of it!
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about sleep, or if you have other questions about how to be a better YOU… Sleep well, my friends!