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Thoughts on Sleep

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Over time, sleep has lost its importance compared to waking hours for numerous reasons.

This is partly due to industrialisation and the move away from moving to live and survive, towards less movement and higher cognitive demand in society. Simply, sleeping hours have changed away from what was natural based on sunlight and darkness, towards what is required: to become educated then find a job and work until one retires.

For more than 50 years the human race has been studying sleep and the impact it has on quality of living and dying. Over this time, the studies have come to a consensus around the optimal time asleep. There is an inverse relationship between age in years and the hours required for quality sleep (i.e., 1 year of age can require 15 hours, and 16 years of age can require 11 hours). After 18 years of age the hours of required sleep start to flatline then decline slowly with age.

Beyond the 50 years of age, there is a slow decline in physical ability and a heightened chance of immune disruption and an increase in orthopaedic issues. After this milestone, most humans cannot further express higher intensity functions and are less capable of speed, power, and muscle growth. This lower expression means that less sleep is required because there is less to recover from.

Sleep Deprivation

The "I will sleep when I am dead" ideology that has been around since the advent of the "Fear of Missing Out" and the technological revolution is a recipe for disaster. Studying the circadian rhythm has shown us that the sun, the moon, and the earth's rotation play a large role in the daily rhythms of cells and hormones and interactions inside of us. Sleep studies have also shown that at different portions of the night's sleep, different areas of our brain and body recover.

When individuals miss out on pieces of sleep and are "adapting as best they can" they are most likely stealing from Paul to pay Peter. Imagine, in the case of a shift worker how, over time, the body and mind have to work SO hard to adapt every other day, or every week, or once a month over many, many years in order to come back to homeostasis. Imagine the amount of work that their internal systems of the brain and autonomic function had to perform to keep them "going."

And this is the hardest behavioural change when moving a client’s sleep behaviours from 4 hours a night and "crushing it" at work, to a solid 8 hours regularly. It is quite easy when under 40 years of age to build up massive sleep debt; as being young and resilient and using stimulants like caffeine, and downers like sugar, can allow someone to thrive daily (apparently) but again, the debt adds up.

When it comes another 10 years down the road and that person has a heart attack or dementia guess what is blamed?

That’s right --> heart disease or dementia as being a natural result of the aging process.

Improving sleep behaviours

As the sun dips on the horizon, most physical processes are slowing down and preparing for a night's recovery.

Ever since electricity has become standard and occupied a larger part of our lives, so has the nighttime ritual been pushed to later in the day. We create lists of WIND DOWN options for people earlier and earlier in the night.

Quality Sleep

When we speak of the quality of sleep, this is in regard to the amount of time a person cycles through the layers of sleep. Adults cycle through the stages of sleep 3-5 times during a night's rest - and the reason for spending time in each area is based on individual essence and recovery required.

A quality night's sleep is regarded as taking 15-20 min to fall fully asleep, sleeping continuously throughout the entire night, and taking 15 min or so to move around and wake fully at the end of the sleep period.

Just because society has recommended these patterns:

  • comatose at bedtime, as they are exhausted and NOT beginning recovery

  • waking multiple times at night due to blood sugar or cortisol imbalance

  • the early bird gets the worm - "up and at 'em!"

...does NOT mean they are sustainable for a long period of time.

No matter how long someone has had these behaviours, there must be a plan set in place to work towards a continual increase in sleep hygiene as time moves on.

When working on changing body composition, having more stable energy in the day, and creating space to wind down, if you're not getting adequate sleep - you can bet that any changes will be short term and won't last for a long period of time.

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