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Helping women reconnect with their body and achieve well-being

what is a good night's sleep

June 2024

 

Sleep

  • The Science & Art Of A Good Night’s Sleep
  • Living With The Rhythem Of Nature
  • Sleep & Metabolism
  • Sleep & Your Mood

Rather watch and listen?

 

 

Why Sleep?

The saying ‘As above, so below, as within, so without, is attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. One of the ways this saying manifests itself is in the way our inner clock beats with the rhythms of nature: the seasonal and the daily.

The circadian cycle is the internal clock that ticks with the sunrise and sunset, day and night. Your inner circadian clock regulates many biological functions including:

  • Sleep and awake times
  • Core body temperature
  • Immune system function
  • Hormone production and release
  • Metabolism
  • Cognitive function
  • The body’s reaction to stress.

 

Circadian Rhythm

It reminds us that we are not solitary beings floating in meaningless space but rather a wheel in the cosmic clock.

Michael Ende, in his epic book Momo, writes:

“Time is life itself, and life resides in the human heart.” 

 

The night was a shut-eye time for most of the human race’s evolution. But sleep has become a scarce commodity. Sleep is not a priority in a culture that values being busy with careers, children, and mobile devices. Add the sheer amount of stress that is part of modern life, which can lead to sleep disturbances, and you get a sleep-deprived society. 

An average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep at night to regenerate. When you consistently don’t sleep seven to nine hours a night, you go into a sleep debt, and like the bank, your body will ask you to cash out your debt.

 

What makes a good night’s sleep?

The sleep cycle is regulated by the circadian cycle. In the morning, a spike of cortisol wakes you up, but as the day goes on, cortisol levels slowly decrease in the blood, and melatonin levels increase.

 

 

The two types and four stages of sleep 

The two types of sleep are:

  • REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep 
  • NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) sleep

NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is divided into three stages that are creatively named N 1, 2, and 3.

Thus creating the 4 stages of sleep:

  • REM sleep
  • NREM N1
  • NREM N2
  • NREM N3

We cycle through these four stages at night four to six times, each cycle lasting about 90 minutes.

 

What is REM sleep?

REM sleep is named after how the eyes move behind the eyelids during this phase. It is the stage of sleep when most dreams happen. During REM sleep, the body goes into temporary paralysis to prevent acting out dreams, but the brain activity is similar to when you are awake. It accounts for about 25% of sleep time. Babies spend most of their sleeping time in REM sleep.

REM sleep is vital for;

Cognitive Function: because it’s when you consolidate memories and what you learned during the day. It helps transfer information from short-term to long-term memory. You might want to think of it as the brain’s way of organizing and storing important data, almost like filing documents in a cabinet.

Emotional Regulation: REM sleep helps you process and make sense of the emotions you experience during the day, thus improving mood regulation.

Physical Health: REM sleep promotes neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt, reorganize, and build new neural pathways. Neuroplasticity is essential for learning new skills and recovering from brain injuries. 

Hormonal Balance: During REM sleep, your brain regulates hormones, including those involved in stress (like cortisol) and appetite (like leptin and ghrelin).

 

 

What is NREM sleep?

NREM sleep can be divided into three stages:

  • NREM sleep 1
  • NREM sleep 2
  • NREM sleep 3

 

 Think of the N1 sleep stage as the “dosing off” stage. In this stage, heartbeat, eye movements, brain waves, and breathing activity begin to taper down, and motor movements diminish.

In NREM sleep N2, breathing, heartbeat, and motor movement continue to lessen. Bursts of rapid brain activity help protect sleep and assist in memory consolidation. You spend about half of your sleeping time in the NREM 2 stage.

NREM N3, or deep sleep, is sometimes known as slow-wave or delta-wave sleep. In this stage, the body’s regeneration is at its peak.

 

The benefits of NREM sleep:

 Physical Restoration – including tissue and muscle repair and enhancing immune system function. 

 Cognitive Function—NREM sleep helps consolidate memories, especially facts and information. During NREM sleep, the glymphatic system clears metabolic waste products from the brain, an essential process for focus. I think about my younger student self, who pushed through all-nighters before tests instead of getting a deep sleep to improve my focus and retain the information I was taught. 

 Metabolic Regulation—When in NREM sleep, your brain Regulates hormones that control appetite, stress, and growth. For instance, leptin, the satiation hormone, ghrelin, the appetite hormone, and insulin are balanced during NREM sleep. People who don’t get enough NREM sleep are more prone to weight gain and insulin resistance. 

 

Sleep quality is as important as the number of hours you get shut-eye. If you don’t go through all stages of sleep every night because of sleep disturbances due to stress or sleep apnea, you will not gain all the benefits associated with the four stages of sleep.

 

 

Are you having a hard time getting a good night’s sleep?

 

 

Here are some tips for improving your sleep

  1. To regulate your sleep cycles, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  2. Create an environment that supports sleep. A cool, dark, and quiet bedroom promotes deep sleep.
  3. Avoid artificial light and blue light 1-2 hours before bedtime. 
  4. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime.
  5. Practices like mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing before bedtime. 
  6. Regular exercise and a balanced diet are fundamental for sleep

If sleep is a challenge, I invite you to join the Stress Gut & The Immune System program, where I share my sleep cheatsheet, including hacks for a good night’s sleep and herbal sleep support.
.If you are curious to learn more or need help designing a lifestyle that will optimize your well-being, book a 20-minute free consultation with me. 

 

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Disclaimer: This document is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use. I am not providing medical, psychological, or nutrition therapy advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your own medical practitioner. Always seek the advice of your own medical practitioner and/or mental health provider about your specific health situation. You can view my full disclaimer here.
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