Get more SLEEP, or Die Trying
It’s a ton easier said than done. I know.
Do you know how much sleep is enough for you to feel rested and healthy? The answer might surprise you, as will the truth about what poor sleep does to your body. Individuals who suffer from poor sleep often suffer from increased pain, headaches, fatigue, fibromyalgia, obesity, disorders of mood, and even a foggy brain.
Our sleep needs aren’t universal. For example, children need more sleep than adults. Infants often sleep for a period of up to 16 hours. As we age, our sleep needs shift. About 9 hours are needed as teenagers, while adults need 7 to 8 hours. Then as we age, we may doze off throughout the day, for a total of 9 or so hours, similar to the sleep amount needed by a teenager.
What Happens During Sleep
There are two main stages of sleep. These are known as rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep.
REM sleep is what you would call “deep sleep”. Both forms of sleep are beneficial to our bodies and minds. As you would guess, REM sleep involves our eyes, and in this process, our eyes move back and forth. Here’s where you dream. Next we have the non-REM sleep, and that’s divided into 4 cycles.
Stage 1 and 2 of the non-REM sleep create a faster brain wave in our minds, and these are the lighter stages of sleep. They don’t give us as much restorative rest as the other stages of non-REM sleep, but are part of the process of sleep altogether.
If you were to look at an EEG (electroencephalogram) during these stages, you would see the brain active, but as we move into stage 3 and 4 of non-REM sleep, brain activity slows, and then picks up with a rush of activity briefly (about 10 minutes) of REM sleep.
We go through these periods of REM and non-REM activity throughout the night.
For people who have sleep disorders, medication may seem like an appealing option, however, many medications don’t promote deep restorative sleep and should be avoided.
The medications that just knock you out and don’t put you in a state of deep sleep include: Zanaflex, Xanax, Valium, Gabitril, Soma, Neurontin, Librium, Tranxene, Serax, Klonopin, and Restoril. While Ambien, Flexeril, and Trazadone do promote deep restorative sleep, they also have serious potential side effects for your health including: muscle aches, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and short term memory loss, just to name a few.
Melatonin: Your Weapon in Sleeping
Melatonin is your weapon of choice for a good night’s sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted by your pineal gland and helps regulate your circadian rhythm (your sleep awake cycle).
Research has shown administering melatonin helps control the circadian rhythm when given in doses of 1 to 3 mgs.
You also see positive effects with melatonin doses for insomnia and jet lag. There’s a connection for the brain with serotonin and melatonin, because the part of the brain that releases melatonin regulates serotonin production, so if you’re too low in serotonin, you’ll have trouble sleeping.
It’s a terrible cycle. If you’re too low in serotonin, you can’t sleep, but if you don’t sleep, you won’t produce serotonin.
We get some melatonin from exposure to light. Our levels will rise with the sunset, and lower with the sunrise. Many things can also decrease melatonin levels, and these include bright lights at night, Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), SSRIs, anti-anxiety medications, electromagnetic fields, caffeine, and more. There are also foods that are high in melatonin such as oats, rice, sweet corn, barley, and tomatoes.
To increase your serotonin levels, start with 5-HTP. Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, becomes 5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP), then it turns into serotonin and eventually melatonin.
Taking 5-HTP first, will not only help you sleep because it converts into melatonin, it will also increase your overall serotonin levels and can help improve other low serotonin related conditions such as anxiety, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.
Have patience that you can find deep sleep with natural supplements, don’t give up!