Father Andrew's Hot Body Gym

January 20, 2010

Sleep 101 – An Introduction to Physical Well-Being

Filed under: real talk — Tags: , — Lady Who Cooks @ 5:51 pm

Sleep, it’s no new revelation that it is essential to our daily lives. When we get enough sleep we feel better, more relaxed, we’re more coherent, have more energy, and generally we eat better.  I once saw a documentary about this rare hereditary disease that caused the unfortunate sufferers to wake up one morning and to never again fall asleep. The person suffering this rare disease would steadily go insane and then they would eventually die within a month or two. Ok, so happy story I know, point being that extreme lack of sleep is very bad but what about too much sleep? Some research says that too much sleep is almost as bad as too little sleep. I know when I get more than 9 hours of sleep I tend to feel groggy and tired all day.

Wikipedia states:

Researchers at the University of Warwick and University College London have found that lack of sleep can more than double the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, but that too much sleep can also be associated with a doubling of the risk of death, though not primarily from cardiovascular disease. Professor Francesco Cappuccio said, “Short sleep has been shown to be a risk factor for weight gain, hypertension, and Type 2 diabetes, sometimes leading to mortality; but in contrast to the short sleep-mortality association, it appears that no potential mechanisms by which long sleep could be associated with increased mortality have yet been investigated. Some candidate causes for this include depression, low socioeconomic status, and cancer-related fatigue. …In terms of prevention, our findings indicate that consistently sleeping around seven hours per night is optimal for health, and a sustained reduction may predispose to ill health.”

Furthermore, sleep difficulties are closely associated with psychiatric disorders such as depression, alcoholism, and bipolar disorder. Up to 90% of adults with depression are found to have sleep difficulties.

As the old saying goes, “Everything in moderation” is especially relevant when it comes to sleep. How do you know if you’re getting too much or too little? Listen to your body, it’ll let you know if something is off kilter. If you have no daytime sleepiness or dysfunction, then you are getting adequate sleep. So what is the appropriate amount of sleep? Is there even a specific amount? Most sources state that anywhere between 7-9 hours is required of adults, but what about the quality? If you get 9 hours of restless sleep your body is still not getting what it needs. A person’s sleep is inefficient and inadequate when it occurs at the ‘wrong’ time of day. The timing is effective when the following two circadian markers occur after the middle of the sleep episode and before awakening:

-maximum concentration of the hormone melatonin, and

-minimum core body temperature.

I’ve read where quality sleep is more important than diet and exercise. Which makes sense because if you’re eating well and exercising but not getting enough sleep, your body is still not able to repair and restore itself like it needs too. So if you’re not sleeping but trying to do your body right, it will be like you’re swimming upstream, in a bad current, and you don’t know how to swim. So get some dang sleep!

What should you do if you are not getting the quality of sleep you need? Here are some simple tips from Mark’s Daily Apple:

1. Eat a light dinner tonight.

Keep the portions small this evening. Going to bed on a full stomach is not healthy, and it also keeps you from getting the deepest possible sleep. You don’t have to go to bed hungry. But do not stuff yourself simply because it is now the weekend.

2. Have a glass of wine.

One fine glass will relax you and help you unwind from the week’s pressures. More than that may cause you to have intermittent sleep at best. It’s tempting to go out and let loose a bit on Friday, but practice moderation so you’ll feel your freshest tomorrow. If you’re typically a Friday night reveler, just try this – it will change your whole weekend.

3. Toss back a handful of nuts.

The magnesium and tryptophan in nuts – just before bed – can help you get to sleep faster. Just a small handful, though, and choose salt-free.

4. Write it out.

By Fridays many of us are frazzled and stressed out. We want to relax and sleep peacefully, but we’re still wired and thus wake up feeling crabby Saturday morning. Take just five or 10 minutes to write out everything from your week – the accomplishments, the tasks, the stress, the worries, the pressing concerns. It’s easier to arrive at solutions if you don’t try to consciously force them. Get them down on paper. Let your sleeping mind do the work for you. You’ll wake up feeling clearer and more positive.

5. Watch instead of read.

Reading is better for your mind than watching television. But sometimes it’s a wise idea to intentionally do something mindless. So tonight, if you were planning to dig into that new book or finish up paperwork, maybe a movie rental is in order. Of course, if reading helps you fall asleep, do what works for you.

Those are some great tips, right?  Here are a few things that I personally do to to ensure I get a full night’s rest.

1. Reading:

I personally find that reading puts me to sleep pretty fast, especially if I’m resting in comfortable position.

2. Keeping the bedroom for sleep only (well…maybe not just for sleep):

Micah and I don’t have a TV in our room nor do we usually read in bed. This keeps our minds associating the bedroom with sleeping.

3. Activity:

I tend to go full throttle all day. I don’t take naps and rarely slow down till it’s an hour or two before bed. By around 10 or 11 o’clock, I’m pretty much passed out.

4. Don’t over indulge:

I love wine but I find the nights where I over indulge are usually the nights I’m wide awake at around 3AM. Same goes with food.

5. Routine:

I try to go to bed at the same time, it doesn’t always work but it helps my body gets use to knowing when it’s time for bed.

Hope you find this helpful, there will be more to come for sure. There’s plenty of information regarding the subject of sleep but I didn’t want to write a novel and I feel this is a good introduction. I think the most important thing is to remember that sleep is rated above diet and exercise.

Some additional reading:

Here’s some more details on the different stages of sleep ( anyone experiencing some N3 bed wetting?):

NREM sleep

Stage N1 This stage is sometimes referred to as somnolence or drowsy sleep. Sudden twitches and hypnic jerks, also known as positive myoclonus, may be associated with the onset of sleep during N1. Some people may also experience hypnagogic hallucinations during this stage, which can be troublesome to them. During N1, the subject loses some muscle tone and most conscious awareness of the external environment.

Stage N2 is characterized by sleep spindles, during this stage, muscular activity as measured by EMG decreases, and conscious awareness of the external environment disappears. This stage occupies 45% to 55% of total sleep in adults.

Stage N3 (deep or slow-wave sleep) This is the stage in which such parasomnias as night terrors, bedwetting, sleepwalking, and sleep-talking occur.

REM sleep

Rapid eye movement sleep, or REM sleep, accounts for 20%–25% of total sleep time in most human adults. The criteria for REM sleep include rapid eye movements as well as a rapid low-voltage EEG. Most memorable dreaming occurs in this stage. At least in mammals, a descending muscular atonia is seen. Such paralysis may be necessary to protect organisms from self-damage through physically acting out scenes from the often-vivid dreams that occur during this stage.


  1. Thank you Abby. An important article for those of us who have always needed seemingly more sleep than others. Also, I loved seeing the word “hypnogogic”. I have used this for years to describe a state I get into during a massage. No one else has heard of it!

    Comment by Joan — January 21, 2010 @ 10:57 am

  2. ummmm sleep.

    Comment by joe — January 21, 2010 @ 11:05 am

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