Friday, May 26, 2023

Sleep Challenge: Stages of Sleep


June is Sleep Challenge Month!

A number of stages of sleep occur every time we get some rest. These stages represent what’s happening beneath the surface, and all play an important part in the benefits of rest. There are two main types of sleep: 

Non-REM (NREM) Sleep 

This is essentially a 3-stage sleep cycle, with each being a deeper level than the previous one. 

Stage N1 (Transition to sleep) - The stage between sleep and wakefulness. The muscles are active, the eyes roll slowly under the eyelids, muscle activity slows down and we are easily awakened. 

Stage N2 (Light sleep) - Considered the first stage of true sleep, characterised by an increase in ‘theta’ activity within the brain. We become harder to awaken, eye movement stops, heart rate slows and body temperature decreases. 

Stage N3 (Deep sleep) - Known as ‘slow-wave sleep’, characterized by an increase in ‘delta’ activity within the brain. Blood flow to the brain is decreased and passed to the body to enhance its restorative benefits. We are difficult to awaken at this stage. 

REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep REM sleep has been given this name as our eyes can be seen moving back and forth in this stage. It can also be known as ‘dream sleep’ and usually occurs about 60-90 minutes after falling asleep. 

Eye movement, heart rate and blood pressure increase, yet arm and leg muscles are paralyzed. Every time we sleep we are likely to go through all stages of this cycle. Our bodies move back and forth between REM and N3 sleep to form a complete sleep cycle. Each cycle typically lasts about 90 minutes and repeats four to six times over the course of the night. 

Typically, the majority of deep sleep occurs in the first half of the night, with REM stages becoming longer with more light N2 sleep later into the night. This is why many people report waking up after a number of hours’ sleep, as their sleep is getting lighter. Each sleep within this sleep cycle has potential benefits to you. 

A normal adult spends around 50% of total sleep time in stage 2 sleep, 20% in REM sleep and 30% in stage 1 and 3 sleep. Stage N3, deep sleep, is considered one of the most important for making us feel energized and refreshed from rest. 

It is heavily involved in maintaining your health, providing growth and development, repairing muscles and tissues, and boosting the immune system. It essentially renews the body. REM sleep renews the mind, and is important for a healthy memory and learning ability. 

During REM sleep, the brain consolidates and processes the information we have learnt that day, while forming neural connections to strengthen the memory. It also replenishes its supply of neurotransmitters including feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. It’s evident that we need a mixture of all sleep stages for optimal health and restoration.

Tips for Better Sleep!

Here’s a number of sleep promoting techniques and considerations that can be easily integrated into your evening routine. 

Get a routine 

Syncing with the body’s natural clock, the circadian rhythm is one of the most effective methods we have for getting a good night’s sleep. Getting into a strict and consistent routine of going to bed and getting up in the morning can have huge benefits. It’s also important to experiment with different sleep and wake times, as various set ups will benefit people differently. Aim to not only find the ideal length of sleep, but also the times your sleep should start and finish. 

Control the surroundings 

On top of finding the best sleeping routine, we can naturally encourage the body to feel more alert or relaxed. A hormone known as melatonin is released when we are in dark surroundings, as it helps the body regulate the sleep-wake cycle. If we are exposed to little to no sunlight during the day, we release melatonin, making us sleepy during the day. In a bright environment, melatonin production is stopped. The same occurs at night. If we are exposed to bright light or electrical equipment just before bed, it can slow down the release - just when we do want a release of melatonin in order to induce sleep. 09 The Improve Your Sleep Program The goal should be to spend more time in daylight during the day, with less exposure to light (including artificial light) at night. 

Keep the bedroom for sleep

It’s essential to ensure the bedroom is optimized for relaxing, unwinding and sleep. The bedroom should therefore become a place associated for sleep which will send a powerful signal to help us nod off. Other important factors here are: 
  • Eliminating any noises that may disturb your sleep 
  • Keeping the bedroom at the right temperature 
  • Removing any electronic equipment 
  • Ensuring the room is dark enough 
  • Ensuring the bed is comfortable enough 

Improve nutrition and exercise habits 

Good nutrition habits - particularly in the last hours before bed - can drastically improve sleep quality. Some important considerations are: 
  • Avoid eating large meals before bed 
  • Avoid drinking too much liquid 
  • Avoid caffeine in the latter part of the day (2-4pm is good cut off) 
  • Avoid alcohol before bed 

A small bedtime snack containing a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates can be ideal to help you fall asleep, as that feeling of being satisfied can help the body rest. 

Daily exercise can also lead to improved sleep, while exercising too late may disturb the body’s natural wake-sleep cycle as it can act as a heavy stimulus on the body. 

Reduce stress and relax Stress related to family, money, work or other day-to-day difficulties can be a common sleep disruptor. 

Managing these stressors and using pre-bed relaxation techniques can be effective in aiding a better night’s sleep. Some common techniques are: 
  • Write down any problems or issues 
  • Conduct some deep breathing techniques 
  • Use progressive muscle relaxation techniques 
  • Avoid any stressing tasks or thoughts before bed 
  • Keep the bedroom clean and tidy 
  • Have a hot shower or bath 
  • Do something you enjoy before bed 

Start applying some of these techniques and you’ll be sleeping like a baby very soon. 

Sweet Dreams!

Hybrid with Rach - Create a better plate!

Create a better plate! 
 10 Easy Steps to create a healthy and nutritious plate!

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed with all of the information out there telling you how to eat well?

Here are 10 tips to help you create a more satisfying and well-rounded plate:

  1. Include a variety of colorful vegetables: Aim to fill half of your plate with a colorful assortment of vegetables. Different vegetables provide various nutrients and add vibrancy to your plate. Choose a mix of leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, root vegetables, and other colorful options.

    Vegetable | Description, Types, Farming, & Examples | Britannica
  2. Add lean protein: Incorporate a source of lean protein, such as grilled chicken, fish, tofu, beans, or legumes. Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. Try to include protein from different sources to diversify your nutrient intake.

  3. Go for whole grains: Instead of refined grains, choose whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, or whole grain bread. These provide more fiber, vitamins, and minerals compared to their refined counterparts.

Why Whole Grains Should Be In Your Diet – Cleveland Clinic
  1. Consider portion sizes: Be mindful of portion sizes to ensure a balanced plate. Use smaller plates or bowls to help control portion sizes visually. Aim for a balance of protein, vegetables, and grains, with slightly larger portions of vegetables.

    A Simple Guide To Portion Control - Radiant Health Magazine
  2. Incorporate healthy fats: Include sources of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, or olive oil. Healthy fats are important for nutrient absorption and satiety. However, be mindful of the portion sizes as fats are calorie-dense.

  3. Pay attention to the cooking methods: Choose cooking methods that preserve the nutritional value of the food. Steaming, grilling, baking, or lightly sautéing are healthier options compared to deep-frying or heavy sauces.

  4. Enhance flavors naturally: Instead of relying on excessive salt or processed sauces, experiment with herbs, spices, and natural flavor enhancers like lemon juice, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, or low-sodium soy sauce. These can add depth and complexity to your dish.

  5. Consider cultural! Have fun with different cuisines and incorporate flavors from around the world. This can make your plate more interesting and provide a wider range of nutrients. One of my favorites right now is Mediterranean!

    Our Most Popular Mediterranean Recipes of 2019 | Kitchn
  6. Mindful plating: Consider the visual appeal of your plate. Arrange the food in an aesthetically pleasing way, balancing colors, textures, and shapes. A visually appealing plate can enhance your experience, create something you WANT to eat!

  7. Listen to your body: Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues. Eat until you feel satisfied but not overly full. Practice mindful eating, savoring each bite, and enjoying the flavors and textures of the food.

Remember, creating a better plate is a personal journey! Explore! Try new foods! Keep it simple!

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