Time to Read (using avg wpm): 8 mins
“But Mom, the neighbors don’t have to go to sleep until 10! Why do I have to at 8:30!?”
The frustration still lingers today. I wanted to stay up and play more video games or watch more TV but instead, I have to lay down and close my eyes? What a waste.
But if I knew then- what I know now- I might say,
“Oh boy really! Time to sleep already!? Woooohoooo!”
The Elements of Sleep
- Lack of Sleep
- What is Happening in Your Brain When You Sleep
- What Everybody Knows
- What You Don’t Know
- Stages of Sleep
- Tactics to Optimize Your Sleep
- Final Words/The Sleepy Brain Paradox
Lack of Sleep
Going through a day without proper sleep can be detrimental to nearly every area of your well-being.
Lack of sleep:
- Slowed reaction times
- Bad moods
- Poor memory
- Increased impulsiveness
- Poor judgement
- Decreased creativity
- More prone to substance abuse
Sustained lack of sleep:
- Problems with immune system (from stress)
- Heart trouble (from stress)
- Weight gain (from hormones)
- Can lead to substance addiction
Also, ever heard of micro-sleeps? This is what happens when you are so tired that you just doze off, even if you are driving at the moment.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses
And to top it off!- Without a healthy amount of sleep, you are less productive.
What is Happening in Your Brain When You Sleep
What Everybody Knows
Everybody knows that you spend about 1/3 of your life asleep. So if you lived to be 100, you will have spent 33 years asleep (and 2 years in the bathroom, but that’s a different story).
That was just a little fact there that I had to throw in… but the real stuff is down here:
Everybody knows that when you sleep, your brain is consolidating your memories and strengthening and building new neural pathways.
Which can strengthen:
- Reaction time
- Overall processing ability
Studies have shown that students who study and get a good night’s rest before an exam, do better than those who pull all-nighters studying.
Without the sleep to consolidate the memories, there much less use in going over all the material.
“Memory recall and ability to maintain concentration are much improved when an individual is rested,” he says (Dr. Philip Alapat). “By preparing early and being able to better recall what you have studied, your ability to perform well on exams is increased.”
-Dr. Philip Alapat, medical director, Harris Health Sleep Disorders Center, and assistant professor, Baylor College of Medicine
This doesn’t just apply to you if you are in college. This has parallels everywhere. Get a good night’s rest before anything important you have going on; job interviews, big meeting, keynote speech, you name it.
If you are worried that you can’t get to sleep because of the anxiety caused by the coming event itself, there are some tactics to put you to sleep further along in this post. You can also check out the Relaxation post for some tips to prime yourself for sleep.
In the throes of sleep deprivation
Get me out of this cannot-think station
Meep meep, Sleep Beep
boop beep, meep meep
boop beep bop meep leep beep boombation
Sleep Beep, a limerick By Doug
End of Intermission.
What You Don’t Know
But you probably don’t know this, because it’s a recent discovery.
It was hypothesized that when you sleep, your brain cleans itself out and as of 2013, they have evidence that this is the case.
Your body has a set of plumbing, the lymphatic system, that collects proteins and cell waste from your body and moves it along into the bloodstream for a waste removal process. What is interesting is that the lymphatic system stops existing past the neck, so there is no way for the brain to detoxify using this plumbing.
Enter the glymphatic system (how they came up with this name I do not know), this is your brain’s way of detoxifying itself and removing harmful waste and leftovers after a long day of processing and dealing with your mother-in-law.
Your brain has a fluid surrounding it called CSF, cerebral spinal fluid, and this fluid normally just sits there and keeps everything nice and floaty.
While you are sleeping, the CSF permeates through your brain, collecting all the waste, and then dumping it into the blood stream.
This is the brain’s way of cleaning up and getting ready for the next day, next meeting, next experience and next psychological battle with your mother-in-law.
Trying to get through the day with most of that junk still laying around is a huge hindrance and a main reason there are so many drawbacks to not getting enough sleep.
Check out the TED talk on the glymphatic system below if you would like to learn more:
The Stages of Sleep
It’s getting late, your circadian rhythm is in tune, it’s getting dark and the melatonin in your bloodstream is rising.
You go lay down in your dark room with no stimulants or anti-depressants in your system and you haven’t looked at a computer/phone screen in 30 minutes.
You are primed and ready for sleep.
You close your eyes and drift into stage one.
Stage one is an NREM stage, as are the first 4 stages of sleep. An NREM (non-REM) stage has characteristics that do not exist during the REM stage of sleep. While in an NREM stage everything slows down; your breathing, heart rate, and brain waves. Your body consumes less energy and you will automatically move and change position.
NREM1. You’ll be in stage one for 5-10 minutes. This is when your body is transitioning from wakefulness to sleep and your brain waves are slowing from alpha waves to theta waves.
Also, if you have ever experienced a hypnic jerk, that feeling of falling that jolts you awake, this is when it happens.
(There is a theory that a hypnic jerk is caused by your muscles relaxing and your brain misinterpreting that as a sign you are falling so it jolts you to catch yourself. I think that is cool.)
NREM2. You spend 45-55 minutes in this stage. Your conscious awareness of your environment disappears and you are much harder to awaken.
In this part of the cycle, you will spend only 20-30 minutes in NREM2 because you will re-enter it in stage four.
NREM3. Formerly NREM3 and NREM4, stage three is where you spend 15-25 minutes of a sleep cycle. This is the deepest sleep and is the most restful part of a cycle.
This stage is when bedwetting, sleepwalking, sleep talking and night terrors occur.
Pop back into NREM2 for that remaining 20-30 minutes before…
REM sleep. Everyone’s favorite. REM stands for rapid eye movement and is the stage where you are internally most active but externally immobile.
REM is the dreaming state and comprises the final 20-25 minutes of a sleep cycle, increasing in duration the longer you are asleep.
Dreams are theorized to have many psychological implications but the jury is still out. What is known about the REM state is that it is the most important part of a sleep cycle and if you don’t get enough REM sleep at night your body will try to compensate and get more the next night, known as REM rebound, which is a key principle in the polyphasic sleep hack, which we will get into in part 2.
Also, I can’t mention REM sleep without mentioning the phenomenon of sleep paralysis…
When you enter REM sleep, your brain says that while it is experiencing these dreams, your body is not allowed to move or it may act out these dreams and hurt itself. So you body is inhibited and paralyzed and your brain is highly active and dreaming- so what’s the worst thing that could happen here?
That’s right. When you experience sleep paralysis, your brain attempts to transition either into REM or out of it and something goes terribly wrong. You wake up and are unable to move and your brain is so active that you experience hallucinations. So imagine…
Dark room, wake up and can’t move and scary moving hallucinations around you. Terrifying.
This phenomenon will usually happen to you once in your life and can last between a few seconds up to a few minutes.
I’ve never experienced it but I hope when/if I do that I can remember that it is actually super cool and not a threat at all.
Back to reality.
NREM1 (5-10m) > NREM2 (20-30m) > NREM3 (15-25m) > NREM2 (20-30m) > REM (20-25m)
This cycle completes every 90-110 minutes so throughout a night of 6 hours of sleep it will happen 4 times and a night of 8 hours of sleep it will happen 5 times.
For a more in-depth look check out this Wikipedia segment on the stages of sleep:
For a good visual of the sleep cycle check out this article and scroll down a smidge.
End of Part 1
Hope you enjoyed part one!
Now that you know all about sleep, you are ready for the actionable content, which is in part 2.
What’s left to cover:
- Tactics to Optimize Your Sleep
- Final Words/The Sleepy Brain Paradox
See you in part 2! References for further reading in part 3.
Did you learn something about sleep? Share this with your friends if you think they could benefit too!