Astro Hounds Health Encyclopaedia: Sleep
You miss 100% of the naps you don’t take! And we think that’s a bad thing.
Astro Hounds is on a mission to make YOU healthier, stronger and feeling more well. Sleep is a huge part of any wellness journey, it helps you recover from a work out, it shuts your brain down and allows you to switch off from your stressors and troubles. It also helps consolidate your mind and is why things can look just a little better in the morning.
We reward you for taking active measures to improve your sleep. With your Astro Champion, you can get rewarded for simply sleeping, which goes up as your sleep improves. The following document will analyse sleep, describe the benefits of sleep and things you can do to improve your sleep routine.
Sleep 101: our circadian rhythm
Alongside respiration, sleep is a core natural function that binds all animals on this planet (yes, even fish and insects rest). And whilst sleep takes many forms across the various living animals on our planet, one thing is clear: sleep is a vital mechanism to sustaining life itself.
The circadian rhythm is a sleep-wake homeostasis that drives the feeling of wakefulness and tiredness over a 24 hour period. It may be linked to adenosine, an organic compound produced in the brain. Adenosine levels increase throughout the day as you become more tired, and then the body breaks down this compound during sleep. As natural light disappears in the evening, the hypothalamus in the brain stops processing light signals, and as a result the body will release melatonin, a hormone that induces drowsiness. When the sun rises in the morning, the body will release the hormone known as cortisol that promotes energy and alertness.
These rhythms naturally occur over a 24 hour period aligning with day and night, and it is also why other mammals such as dogs may display similar patterns.
We all have at least a vague notion of what sleep is, but that doesn’t mean that defining this mysterious part of our lives is simple. After all, detailed analysis of our own sleep isn’t really an option, given that we rarely know that we’re sleeping when we’re asleep. And even if we observe the sleep of others, so much of what they experience — changes in the functions of their brains and bodies — is not easily seen from the outside. But one thing we do know is that defining sleep is not about the hours you spend in bed, but the quality of those hours.
Whilst sleep may feel like a rest period, which at it’s core, it is, the brain during certain parts of sleep is activated and highly alert. Here is why.
The sleep stages: our ultradian rhythms
Sleep occurs in 5 stages, that have a combined time of about 90 minutes.
- Stages 1 and 2 are ‘light sleep’ stages. During these stages brainwave patterns become slower and more rhythmic, starting with alpha waves progress to thetawaves.
- Stages 3 and 4 are ‘deep sleep’ or slow wave sleep stages, where it is difficult to wake someone up. This stage is associated with slower delta waves.
- Finally, Stage 5 is REM (or dream) sleep. Here is the body is paralysed (to stop the person acting out their dream) and brain activity resembles that of an awake person.
Why is sleep so important?
A good night sleeps and a lifestyle in which your sleep pattern is healthy and optimal has huge benefits to your emotional and physical health.
Mental and emotional benefits, and the impact of healthy sleep:
- Facilitate learning and making memories
- Assist memory consolidation
- Nurtures more positive thoughts and feelings
- Improves your attention and concentration.
- Reduce your stress levels.
- Help you maintain good relationships.
Physical benefits and the impact of healthy sleep:
- Keeps your heart healthy.
- Helps you maintain a healthy weight by activating the digestive system.
- Maintainence of your immune system.
- Actively fights infection and disease
- Healing physical injury or damage to body.
Sleep deprivation on the flip side leaves people vulnerable to attention lapses, reduced cognition, delayed reactions, and mood shifts.
However, adults who do not receive a sufficient amount of sleep each night can implement some positive lifestyle and sleep habits to create a more healthy and balanced life.
Tips for creating a healthier bedtime routine that increase your sleeping patterns:
- Establish a realistic bedtime and stick to it every night, even on the weekends.
- Maintain comfortable temperature settings and low light levels in your bedroom.
- Keep a comfortable sleep environment by ensuring you have the best mattress, best pillows, and best sheets for your sleep preferences and body type.
- Consider a “screen ban” on televisions, computers and tablets, cell phones, and other electronic devices in your bedroom and/or having only red light on during later hours.
- Abstain from caffeine, alcohol, and large meals in the hours leading up to bedtime.
- Refrain from using tobacco at any time of day or night.
- Exercise during the day; this can help you wind down in the evening and prepare for sleep.
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