The Science Behind - A Good Night's Sleep

Sleep! The one thing all of us love to do. The one (in)activity we do daily without fail. This pandemic-induced lockdown has affected our sleep cycle in various ways. For some, their resting period has improved while for others, their sleep cycle is disrupted due to a change in lifestyle.

It is natural for us to compensate for a lack of sleep over 2-3 days with a good night’s sleep and feel fresher the following day. So, what is it that actually counts as a good night’s sleep? How do you ‘fix’ your sleep cycle so you don’t get that groggy feeling when you wake up? Here is all you need to know.

What happens when you sleep?

Pre Sleep

It takes most people approximately 15 minutes to fall asleep. This period of falling asleep is crucial as the mind and body work in sync to help you transition from wakefulness to rest and any disturbances will cause disruption in falling asleep. However, this number can change due to the one singular activity most of us are guilty of indulging in before going to bed - glueing to our screens. 

It is ideal to avoid any screens an hour before bedtime to help us sleep better. This is a simple yet effective bet to be free of all stresses and notifications before hitting the sack. Doing so will not only improve sleep quality but also acts as a resting moment for your eyes because it is not possible today to find many places free of digital screens. 

Additionally, you can exercise to improve the quality of your sleep and the stage of falling asleep. Regular workouts have their own set of benefits and contribute to better sleep thanks to improved blood circulation. This, in turn, will lead to a better lifestyle

During Sleep

When we finally shut our eyes and fall asleep we enter the land of dreams. While we do not remember all of them, a few definitely leave an impact. 

Scientifically known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, your body does a lot of work than just rest during this period. Since no major body functions occur, the heart rate drops down. 

Contrary to what most people think, muscles are strengthened during sleep and not in the gym as the last meal before sleep is broken down and utilized for repairing the muscle tissues. 

Sleep Cycles

The sleep cycle is another word frequently thrown about everywhere. However, not many fully understand what actually goes behind it. A sleep cycle lasts as long as your favourite football game - 90 minutes. 

A sleep cycle is a measure of good sleep. Each cycle lasting for 90 minutes begins with a 20-minute phase that eases the body into rest. Post this time period initiates REM sleep which is why the recommended duration for power naps is 20 minutes or less.

A good night’s sleep consists of 5-6 complete cycles which amount to the universally recommended 7-9 hours of sleep. Waking up at the end of a sleep cycle will leave you feeling refreshed and energetic to start the day. 

It is important to calculate this as people tend to wake up in the middle of a cycle, resulting in unlimited snoozes and the infamous ‘2 more minutes’. A good way to get it all calculated is by using this tool https://sleepyti.me/

The Moment After

Being a morning person is not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you follow the tips mentioned above, you will get a good night’s sleep. One of the many feelings after waking up is feeling well-rested and hungry which is when breakfast comes into the picture to replace all the nutrients consumed during sleep.

Following a good sleep routine will also help in improved productivity and an overall better day. Most people tend to guess sleep quality as soon as they wake up. While we could wake up with a headache or full of energy, a research study showed that rating sleep quality hours after waking up gives a better picture.

Further, sleep plays a much more important factor than just physical rest. According to a research study, a good night’s sleep can improve the lifespan of all individuals. With the right amount of sleep, depression and other mental illnesses have shown signs of reduction.

Sleep also helps diminish physical fatigue and restore all functioning body systems to normal. When treating a wound or injury, sleep is an essential part of healing as the body is at rest. Nutrition and the medicines absorbed by our body aid in better healing when our body is fully at rest.

If you look at it, sleep actually unites us all together. The people who say ‘Sleep is for the weak’ are the ones possibly gifted with better genetics that help them function better with lesser than the recommended amount of sleep. Arnold Schwarzenegger famously once said in a speech that during his bodybuilding days, he only slept 6 hours while managing time for work, acting classes, college and working out which took up the rest of the day. His advice to the recommended 8 hours of sleep a day? “Sleep faster”. 

In the end, genetics plays a huge role. Everyone has unique sleep times so it is better to find out what works best and incorporate it as part of a healthier lifestyle. A good night’s sleep is very much possible for every individual, it is just a matter of finding what works for you.

Source: 

  1. Positive affect, psychological well-being, and good sleep Andrew Steptoe⁎, Katie O'Donnell, Michael Marmot, Jane Wardle Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2007.11.008
  2. Ohayon, M., Wickwire, E. M., Hirshkowitz, M., Albert, S. M., Avidan, A., Daly, F. J., … Vitiello, M. V. (2017). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep quality recommendations: first report. Sleep Health, 3(1), 6–19. doi:10.1016/j.sleh.2016.11.006 
  3. AKERSTEDT, T., HUME, K., MINORS, D., & WATERHOUSE, J. (1997). Good sleep - its timing and physiological sleep characteristics. Journal of Sleep Research, 6(4), 221–229. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2869.1997.00221.x
  4. Perry, G. S., Patil, S. P., & Presley-Cantrell, L. R. (2013). Raising Awareness of Sleep as a Healthy Behavior. Preventing Chronic Disease, 10. doi:10.5888/pcd10.130081 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published


Related Posts