1. During the night, we cycle through 90-minute sleep cycles. 75% of our time sleeping is spent in the Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) stage and 25% is spent in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage.
2. Both NREM and REM are important. NREM sleep is when we recover our energy levels, when our nervous system recovers and regenerates, and when our tissues are repaired. REM sleep is when we establish new connections between neurons in the brain.
3. Sleeping better has endless benefits. It decreases our risk of a heart attack, improves our immune system, helps manage chronic pain, makes us smarter, helps us lose fat, helps us recover faster from training, and can even help us survive cancer.
“The trend for late nights and early mornings is actually a ticking time bomb for our health, so you need to act now to reduce your risk of developing these life-threatening conditions.” - Dr. Francesco Cappuccio of the Warwick Medical School
The foundation of human health and performance is sleeping soundly. This is where we will start to construct a healthy, high-performance life.
What is Sleep?
People often think of sleep as a time of rest where the body and mind shut down. It is a dormant state when the activity of our brain’s cortex reduces by 40 percent. But sleep is not a passive process. While you’re asleep and not moving there is a lot going on inside you that is helping you to recover, restore, and rebuild your body and brain. Sleep is a highly active metabolic process that helps to optimize our brain structure, repair damaged cells, and restore energy levels.
Humans are naturally attuned to the 24-hour cycle of light and dark. We have developed what are known as circadian rhythms such as sleep-wake cycles, changes in your body temperature, and times where different hormones are released into the blood. Our circadian rhythms are regulated by a structure in our brains called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), although the SCN can be over-ridden by the light or darkness in our environment. That’s what happens when we fly across time zones and we get jet lagged.
Each night while we sleep we cycle through different stages of sleep in approximately 90 minute cycles. 75% of our night’s sleep is in the Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) stage where our body and muscles relax, temperature and blood pressure drops, heart rate and breathing rate comes down, and cells and tissues grow and repair. The other 25% is called the rapid eye movement (REM) stage wherein our brain is active, energy is supplied to brain and body, and eyes dart back and forth. Both stages are critical for the optimal recovery and regeneration of our bodies and our brains.
NREM sleep is when we recover our energy levels and when our nervous system (our brain, spinal cord and nerves that connect our spinal cord to muscles and organs) recovers and regenerates. During NREM sleep anabolic hormones are released that repair tissues and stabilize our energy levels. REM sleep is equally important and is thought to be when we establish new connections between neurons in the brain.
Optimal health and performance starts with sleep. You can set yourself up for success in all aspects of your life by sleeping deeply and sleeping enough. Sleeping better decreases your risk of a heart attack. It will improve your mood and energy. It improves the immune system, keeping you from getting sick and can even help you survive cancer. It helps manage chronic pain. We consolidate memories while we sleep so sleep is when we actually learn. Imagine if someone developed a drug that could do all that! The drug would be hailed the miracle of our lifetime. Whoever developed it would win the Nobel Prize. Over the next few weeks we'll look at some of the specific links between sleep and health.
Today’s Habit: Log your sleep
Let’s continue with the habit from last week. Hopefully you have been logging your sleep for the past week. If not, you can start now. For the next week, write down what time you go to bed and what time you wake up. Next week, we’ll give you a new habit to implement. Keep up the good work!
Previous Sleep Soundly Posts