A guide to healthy sleep

Why is sleep more important than the most expensive vitamin supplements? How does sleep affect our metabolism, skin condition, irritability and sugar cravings? What time is it better to go to bed and what time to wake up to get the most out of sleep? The answers to the most important sleep questions and 10 easy steps to help you fall asleep faster are in this post.

Sleep for immunity, healthy skin and weight loss

We spend almost a third of our lives in sleep. Every night during these 7-9 hours, hundreds of biological processes take place in our body, which we do not even suspect.

  1. Sleep is responsible for clarity of mind, the formation of memories and memory.
  2. Our mood stabilizes in sleep. Scientists have noticed that people with chronic sleep deprivation can be unhappy and irritable for no apparent reason.
  3. Sleep strengthens the immune system: studies have shown that even 2 hours of sleep deprivation leads to a significant increase in inflammatory markers in the body the next morning, and people who went to bed no earlier than 3 a.m. have 30% fewer T cells that fight the formation of cancer in the body.
  4. Good quality sleep makes it easier to cope with stress – during sleep, the stress hormone cortisol decreases.
  5. During sleep, cell regeneration occurs: during deep sleep, growth hormone is produced, which regenerates damaged cells.
  6. Sleep is responsible for a healthy metabolism. Lack of sleep can even provoke insulin resistance. Subjects who slept four hours two nights in a row showed a 28% rise in ghrelin, the hormone responsible for feeling hungry. Cravings for sweets increased by 24%. Now it is clear why, after a sleepless night, one is so drawn to sweets and constant snacks.
  7. Sleep quality directly affects the condition of our skin. Even one night of inadequate sleep can add dark circles under the eyes, puffiness, pallor, drooping eyelids and wrinkles. In a dream, there is an active regeneration of the epidermis: the blood flow of the skin increases, the reserves of collagen (a protein that is responsible for skin elasticity) are replenished, and areas of the skin damaged by UV rays are restored.

The internal clock or circadian rhythms are not just a metaphor, but an absolutely real formation in the hypothalamus of the brain. It records the intensity of sunlight perceived by the eye and sends specific signals to the brain. All cells in the body and organs live by a clock that tells them when to work and when to rest. For example, during the day, the digestive organs are actively working, and at night they enter the service of the cell repair system. That is why poor-quality and inadequate sleep can provoke epigenetic changes. In other words, cells can begin to behave differently, and more serious metabolic problems can follow.

How much to sleep and when?

Most scientists agree on a figure of 7-9 hours. The exact number of hours you sleep is very individual. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh believe that the middle of sleep for most people should be at 2-4 am.

Almost all experts talk about the importance of going to bed and waking up at the same time. If for no apparent reason you sleep longer than your usual, say, 8 hours, then you may wake up in a phase of deeper sleep (when the body produces the most melatonin). You are probably familiar with the feeling of weakness and blurred consciousness (sleep inertia) that accompanies waking up during this period. Experts believe that it can take up to four hours to get out of this unpleasant state.

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According to Ayurveda, the amount of sleep needed depends on our constitution and the time of year. Vata people sleep lightly and usually less than others (usually 4-7 hours). Pitta sleep for 5-7 hours and, waking up at night, easily fall asleep again. Kapha love to sleep: they sleep deeply and are difficult to wake up.

Ayurveda recommends going to bed no later than 22:00. It is recommended to wake up before sunrise. In winter, you can sleep longer (until dawn), and in summer Ayurveda recommends waking up very early.

Sleep deprivation has a cumulative effect. In other words: the body does not forget that it was not allowed to sleep for half an hour. An interesting experiment was carried out: a group of subjects was placed in a dark room for 14 hours. Most of those who did not get enough sleep slept 12 hours the first four nights, and then the duration of sleep was reduced to 8 hours.

Five phases of sleep

During the night, we go through five stages of sleep, which form into a cycle and are repeated approximately every 90 minutes.

First stage: we fall asleep and go to a light sleep, muscles relax, eyes move slowly. It’s easy to wake us up. This phase lasts approximately 5-10 minutes.

Second stage: there is a further decrease in muscle activity, body temperature decreases and heart rate slows down.

Stage Three (the onset of deep sleep or delta sleep): It is at this stage that the body begins to produce growth hormone, which triggers the repair of damaged cells.

The fourth stage (deep sleep): during this period, the body is deeply restored and it is most difficult to wake us up.

Stage 5 (REM sleep): lasts 5-10 minutes and begins approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep. This is the enigmatic phase of dreams. At this moment, brain activity corresponds to the state of wakefulness. Scientists believe that it is during REM sleep that we process information – there is a kind of exchange between consciousness and subconsciousness.

Is naps good for adults?

Experts have come to the conclusion that a short nap (power nap), no more than 20 minutes and no later than 4:00 pm, can be beneficial. A NASA experiment showed that 25 minutes of naps increased employee alertness in the workplace by up to 54% and work quality by up to 34%. NBA players also actively practice naps, especially on competition days.

Functional medicine expert Frank Lipman argues that power nap can be useful, even if you are not a NASA employee and are not into basketball. Specialty spas are already emerging in New York that offer their visitors 20 minutes of sleep during the day. Aromatherapy, appropriate lighting and relaxing music are included.

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However, Ayurveda disagrees. In Ayurveda, it is believed that for adults, daytime sleep negatively affects digestion, creates fog in the head and disrupts the natural cycle.

10 simple steps to help you fall asleep easier

  1. At least an hour before bedtime, turn off your computer, TV, and move your phone away. The blue light of the screens blocks the production of melatonin (after all, it is by the light that the body understands whether it is time to go to bed). Plus, checking emails and browsing social media boosts the production of dopamine, the hormone responsible for the brain’s reward center, and cortisol, the stress hormone. This cocktail of high cortisol and low melatonin will keep you from waking up fresh the next morning. If you still need to work, you can install the Flux application on your computer, which blocks blue light, or wear special glasses and remember to set the “night mode” on your smartphone.
  2. Dark, cold and quiet: this is how it should be in a room while sleeping. Even minor light sources (such as light indicators on household appliances) can interfere with melatonin production. Therefore, it is better to cover any luminous devices or take them to another room, close dark curtains tightly or put on a sleep mask over your eyes. If street noise is in the way, you can turn on “white noise”. Experts have concluded that the ideal temperature for sleeping is 15–18 ° C. The cool temperature sends a signal to the brain that the sun has gone down, night has come, and it is time to sleep.
  3. Free your head. If you’re already in bed with a hundred thoughts and to-do lists attacking you, try taking time out on your to-do list in the evening, making breakfast for the morning, laying out your clothes, or writing down your thoughts in a journal.
  4. Use herbs and essential oils for good sleep
    • We drink: chamomile tea, passionfruit flowers, latte with ashwagandha, or just tea preparations for sleeping – Yogi Bedtime or Pukka Night Time.
    • Inhale: lavender (apply, mixed with coconut oil, on the skin before going to bed, put a sachet with dried lavender in bed linen or spray the room with lavender spray before going to bed), lemon balm.
  5. Warm Epsom salt baths will help you fall asleep faster. They saturate the body with magnesium and promote muscle relaxation.
  6. Try to wake up without an alarm. This is possible if you always go to bed and get up at the same time. Alarm clocks upset our circadian rhythms and can wake us up during deep sleep. If you are afraid to oversleep, instead of a sound signal, use light alarms that simulate dawn.
  7. For sports and for a walk! To maintain balanced circadian rhythms, it is recommended that you spend at least 30 minutes a day outdoors. If you feel sleepy, try to catch the first morning light on the street: it will tell your brain to wake up. Playing sports throughout the day (but no later than 8:00 pm) also helps us fall asleep more easily in the evening.
  8. Don’t eat three hours before bedtime – and this advice isn’t just about losing weight. By the evening, our metabolism slows down. As stated above, other processes come into operation at night, so it is ideal to digest dinner before going to bed. If you really want to have a snack before bedtime, functional medicine doctor Mark Hyman recommends opting for nuts (5 pieces), a cup of broth, or a couple of sticks of non-starchy vegetables with tahini.
  9. Be careful with caffeine: each of us has our own caffeine limit per day. Some can have an espresso in the evening and fall asleep after 5 minutes, while some can get enough of a cup of green tea at lunchtime to toss and turn in bed midnight. Overall, experts agree that caffeine after 4:00 pm can disrupt melatonin production. And caffeine isn’t just coffee. Green tea and dark chocolate also contain caffeine.
  10. Follow the schedule: If you go to bed and wake up at about the same time, your internal clock will help you with this.
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Personal experience

“I go to bed early – at 22:00 I’m already in bed. For me, proper sleep is an absolute must. As one of the most prominent business women of our time writes, Arianna Huffington: “Whatever you do during the day, you will do it better if you sleep well.” And I agree with her! Before going to bed, I like to read paper books – there is something cozy about it, from childhood. I am currently reading Sadhguru’s Inner Engineering. I wake up at about 5:30 am. My children get up early too – before 6:00, so it’s important for me to get up before them and get ready for the day. I like to drink a large glass of warm water with lemon, prepare my own matcha elixir with adaptogens, meditate for at least 5 minutes. If there is time, then a short yoga practice is added to this list to stretch the body after sleep and a diary (like Julia Cameron’s “morning pages”). Morning is my favorite time of day. As far back as I can remember, I have always been a lark, “- Dasha Bukhman (@vitaminl_blog).

“I’ve been going to bed late since adolescence – how can you go to bed early when there is still so much fun to do? Only at the age of 31 did I begin to try to fall asleep at least until midnight. The state of the next day is fundamentally different – if I fall asleep at least at 00:00 I feel calmer, stronger and more joyful, the skin looks noticeably more rested and nourished in the morning. I noticed that falling asleep from 23:00 to 00:00 is much easier than after one in the morning. To fall asleep on time, the main thing for me is to leave the phone in another room. And for a good sleep I always leave the window ajar (even in winter!). If an hour before bedtime I feel that I am hungry, I eat half an avocado, an apple or something from the cooked vegetables left over from dinner, ” Olya Malysheva (@salatshop).

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