Because we only have so many hours in the day to get things done, sleep is something we often overlook in our workaholic world of unending hustle, with implications that are far more serious than most of us realise. So, how can we get the most out of our waking hours and live longer, healthier lives by making the most of our sleep?
Learn how to get better sleep, whether you're a globetrotting entrepreneur struggling with jet lag or a nine-to-fivers always fighting your snooze alarms, with this article. Read, learn, and have fun!
The Cycles of Sleep
Going to bed each night may be the most relaxing part of the day. But when you are sleeping, your body and brain continue to work hard—the brain is never "shut down". When you are asleep, your body goes through different sleep stages to complete a complete sleep cycle.
There are four total stages of sleep, divided into two phases:
Non-REM sleep occurs first and is divided into three stages. When you sleep deeply, you are in the last two stages of non-REM sleep. It is difficult to awaken from this stage of sleep.
REM sleep happens about an hour to an hour and a half after falling asleep. REM sleep is when you tend to have vivid dreams.
As you sleep, your body cycles through non-REM and REM sleep. You usually start the sleep cycle with stage 1 of non-REM sleep (Light sleep). You pass through the other stages of non-REM sleep (Deep sleep), followed by a short period of REM sleep. Then the cycle begins again at stage 1. A full sleep cycle takes about 90 to 110 minutes. Your first REM period is short. As the night goes on, you’ll have longer REM sleep and less deep sleep. When a cycle ends, the process repeats again and continues until your alarm goes off or you wake up naturally.
Understanding Sleep and productivity
During the day, your hippocampus (a finger‐shaped region in the middle of your brain) temporarily stores information, like names or the steps of a new work procedure. During deep sleep, your mind transports data from the hippocampus to permanent storage locations in the brain, like a mail delivery service transporting packages from a mailroom to homes around a city. If you decide to stay up late and skip out on the first two hours of your regular sleep schedule, you’ll miss most of your deep sleep and fail to store important information in your long‐term memory.
Light sleep acts like the mailroom cleaning staff – it clears your hippocampus to make room for new information the following day. After being awake for 16 hours, it’s difficult for your hippocampus to hold on to new information. If you’ve stayed up late to read a textbook, and read the same paragraph over and over, failing to comprehend the information, then you’ve experienced a full hippocampus. Light Sleep is the delayed refresh that renews your ability to learn new facts.
Most of your light sleep is at the end of a full night’s sleep. That means waking up early to study can be counterproductive. When you wake up early and only get five to six hours of sleep, you severely impair your ability to learn. And, if you wake up much earlier than usual (up at 5 a.m. when you typically wake at 7 a.m.), you're also missing most of your REM sleep that night.
REM Sleep (Dream Sleep)
When you enter REM sleep, your mind begins to make sense of what happened during the day by connecting newly stored information with previously stored information. The connections are often bizarre and lead to creative breakthroughs. REM sleep is what stands between rationality and insanity.
REM sleep not only provides creative insights, it offers emotional insights too. Dreams (which only occur during REM sleep) simulate anxious situations so that you learn how to deal with your anxiety and become coolheaded under pressure. Dreams also help you transition from despair to hope ‐ if you're going through hardships and difficulties, dreaming will help you move on. Dreams are the cheapest and most effective form of therapy.
In a nutshell
Deep sleep improves your ability to recall information, light sleep improves your ability to learn new information, and REM sleep improves your ability to make sense of information, and any related emotion.
In short, sleep produces complicated neurochemical baths that benefit our brains. And it replenishes our immune system's arsenal, aiding in the battle against cancer, infection, and illness. Sleep, in other words, significantly improves our evolutionary fitness in ways we cannot see.
"When sleep is abundant, minds flourish. When it is deficient, they don’t."
Sleep Hacks for Your Most Restful Night Ever
Simple changes can improve sleep quality on multiple levels. If there’s anything we should hack, it’s our sleep. Since numerous health problems are connected to a lack of sleep, making these changes will improve your overall well-being.
A New Vision for Sleep in the Twenty-First Century
Sleep is the best thing you can do for your body and mind since it resets everything. Probably the most effective efficiency tip we've ever seen. When you learn to go to bed and wake up at the appropriate times, you create a healthy environment for your body and mind. As a result, your physical and mental health will be preserved, and you'll be ready to take on whatever difficulties lie ahead.
“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.” - Matthew Walker
If you’re at all curious:
This article is an excerpt from 📖 Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker. Why We Sleep is a science book about the multitude of benefits obtained from healthy, natural sleep. This book elaborates on why sleep is so beneficial, why lack of sleep can be detrimental, and how to make life changes to improve our overall health.
If you are intrested, the book is now available here: https://geni.us/Nw5B