No matter how vital that presentation is this morning, it does not matter how crucial the annual review this afternoon is or how exciting that appointment is tonight (and what will happen next); The most important thing you will do today (and all the days of your life) will be sleep.
Yes, that's how important it is. The quality and duration of your night sleep determines the quality and duration of your life.
It seems crazy: a third of our lives is spent sleeping. But those hours are anything but unproductive. During sleep, our bodies repair muscles, consolidate memories and release hormones and chemicals that regulate everything from energy to appetite.
"We are no more than slaves to chemical processes," says Dr. W. Christopher Winter, medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center. These determine everything from very good health to very bad health; if you reduce its duration, it is very likely that you are predisposing yourself for the second option.
The following explains what these chemical processes do in your body, from when you lie down until you wake up, and how they respond when you reduce their duration.
When you get up
By the time you wake up in the morning, your body starts producing a chemical called adenosine, says Winter. It accumulates during the day and, when bedtime comes, it starts to take effect. Meanwhile, your levels of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine (which are neurotransmitters) fluctuate to keep you energized during the day and help you relax at night. As the sun sets, the pineal gland in your brain increases the levels of the hormone melatonin in your body, indicating that sleep is near, according to Winter. Also, at this time, the cortisol stress hormone levels should be at their lowest point, unless you are worrying about a meeting the next day.
Finally, once you've closed your eyes at night, a group of brain nuclei regulate the change from awake to asleep, according to Winter. Your hippocampus, which is responsible for making new memories, goes out and you start to sleep.
If you wake up right now: people with insomnia are 10 times more likely to develop depression and have 17 times higher levels of anxiety than those who do not have insomnia, which is defined as difficulty falling asleep or to conciliate the dream. For example, if you wake up during this phase because of a loud noise or the feeling that you are falling, you probably will not feel as if you have slept, since the first stage of sleep is very light. Just so you know, that feeling of falling, or "the kick" as they call it in the movie Inception, is quite common and is caused by a sudden muscle contraction, called myoclonic spasm.
Rest better: to fall asleep easier, practice healthy sleep habits. That means you should not use computers, TV or tablets in your bedroom. Your lights can trick your brain into thinking it is daytime and affect your very important melatonin levels, says Winter. Keep your room cool, between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, to help your body temperature reduce, which helps induce sleep; Anyway, your body temperature drops slightly as you doze.
If you crave a midnight snack, eat almonds, a banana or the very classic glass of milk (no, you do not have to heat it). All these foods have chemicals that promote relaxation and help you fall asleep more easily, Winter says. Similarly, remember that while alcohol can help you fall asleep (losing knowledge, rather), it will not help you to maintain sleep: in a 2011 study by the University of Michigan Health System, researchers found that alcohol causes wakefulness throughout the night.
Quick information about naps: they can help you regain your energy at noon, but let them last for 20-30 minutes. No more. Otherwise, you run the risk of falling into deeper stages of the dream, which will make you wake up even more cranky, says Winter. Do not worry if you feel like you need to sleep a little at 3 p. m. Naps exist for a good reason: our natural circadian rhythms make us sleepy at night and mid-afternoon. Sleeping a bit can increase your body levels of cortisol, which makes you feel more alert and can even help you restore your immune system, which can be significantly affected by fatigue.
First three hours
You spend a quarter of the night in a deep sleep, especially during your first hours in bed. During this phase, your level of unconsciousness is greatest and you experience the deepest and most restful sleep, says Dr. Scott Field, sleep expert, pulmonary care expert and critic of the HealthSystem at NorthShore University. During deep sleep, breathing slows down, muscles relax, blood pressure decreases, blood supply to muscles increases, tissue growth and repair occurs (that's why sleep quality is especially important if you are recovering from exercise) and the body recovers the much needed energy.
If you wake up now: your body will get "overdriven", pumping the stress hormone cortisol to help you stay awake and alert, despite your depleted levels of adenosine, says Winter. Thank that hormone for your ability to stay alert at work, even after working all night. Some people even work better with a couple of hours of quality sleep than with eight hours of unrefreshing sleep, according to Winter."It keeps us artificially active," he says. In addition, caffeine directly blocks the assembly effects of adenosine on your body throughout the day. Between cortisol and caffeine, expect some nerves. While one night will do you a lot of damage, over time, elevated cortisol levels can cause weight gain, hypertension and heart disease, Winter says.
Rest Better: No matter how tired you are, never ingest caffeine in the afternoon. It can remain in the system for up to 12 hours. While you may have enough adenosine in your system to fall asleep despite caffeine, even the smallest drop in adenosine levels you experience in the first few hours of sleep may be enough to let the caffeine take effect and wake you up. half the night, according to Winter.
Your body enters the rapid eye movement phase first after approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep, although you do not spend most of REM until the last few hours, says Field. That's because your first entry in the phase lasts only 30 seconds. Then it fades and after 90 minutes it starts again, each time with a longer duration. For six hours of sleep, you will get 20 minutes of REM every 90 minutes, says Field.
Dreams occur during REM sleep and keep the brain busy. "What our brain does while we dream about what it does when we are awake is very similar," says Winter. Analyzes can rarely determine if a brain is awake or in REM phase, he says. Contrary to popular belief, your body does not move during sleep, says Field. An amino acid in the brain, called gamma-aminobutyric acid (AGAB), also helps to deactivate most of the brain stem, which controls muscle movement. That's why, when you dream that you play tennis, for example, you do not move your arm. Your body actually immobilizes your muscles during REM sleep. When inactive, they may suffer loss of muscle tone. Do not worry: unless you sleep for five weeks in a row, you will not notice the difference. The only thing that moves is your eyes, hence the name (REM - Rapid Eye Movement).
Sleepwalking, sleeping talk, or "refrigerator attack," however, occurs most often during the "deep sleep" stage, so it can be very difficult to awaken people from trance and, when successful, They have no idea what is happening. Although the exact cause is unknown, the condition occurs when the actions of your body are not suppressed as planned by other neurological mechanisms, due to genetic or environmental factors, or even lack of physical maturity (sleepwalking occurs more frequently during childhood).
However, if sleepwalking occurs during REM sleep (around 0, 5% of the population suffers), it is a symptom of REM behavior disorder (RBD, for its acronym in English).Medications such as clonazepam, melatonin, and pramipexole are often used to relax the muscles and prevent sleepwalking or night terrors. Sleep deprivation, alcohol and other sleep disorders may increase RBD. Avoid them as much as possible if you are prone to wander the halls at night, says Winter.
If you wake up now: you can expect a 15, 5% lower level of the hormone leptin, which promotes the feeling of fullness, and 14, 9% more of the hormone ghrelin, which increases your hunger factor, according to a study published in PLoS Medicine. Together they give rise to an insatiable belly. It's no wonder that a 2012 Mayo Clinic study in Rochester, Minnesota found that people who sleep six hours and 40 minutes eat an average of 549 calories more per day than those who punctuate the recommended eight hours. Moreover, lack of sleep can also decrease the levels of the anti-inflammatory hormone adiponectin, especially in Caucasian women, which is linked to imbalances in metabolism, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. Adults who sleep six hours or less per night are 50% more likely to be obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And less than seven and a half hours of sleep causes a risk of 1, 7 to 4, 4 times higher cardiovascular disease, according to a 2008 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Rest better: you are probably awake because the alarm is activated sooner than you would like, since anyone can attest to the fact that it is very difficult to wake up REM sleep early in the morning. The solution is simple: go to sleep earlier. It is important to keep your bedtime constant and only adjust your bedtime so that there is always enough adenosine in your body to be sleepy at night, says Winter.
Almost everything that gave you sleep happens in reverse to help you wake up. The levels of adenosine, serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin decrease, says Winter. Increases dopamine Since your body produces cortisol continuously at night, after eight hours, you can wake up immediately at the first sound of your alarm clock.
If you wake up now: you should feel rested and your leptin and ghrelin levels should be adequate, according to Winter.
Rest better: Even if your body is well rested, staying in bed is always tempting. The light can help. Open the curtains and take at least 15 minutes of sunlight to help you reset your internal biological clock and eliminate any leftover melatonin. However, do not postpone the alarm, warns Winter. It will not give you enough uninterrupted sleep to get any benefit and you will probably feel more tired when you finally manage to get out of bed.
More than eight hours
Numeric data on sleep
A guide, number by number, of sleep habits in the United States:
6, 9 is the number of hours that the average adult sleep at night
70 million people suffer from chronic insomnia or sleep disorders.
23 minutes it takes adults to fall asleep most nights.
59 is the percentage of adults who know they snore (even if they deny it).
90 is the percentage of people who use electronic devices within one hour of sleep.
2, 2 is the number of pillows that most people sleep with.
30 is the percentage of people who have bought sheets in the last six months.
35 is the percentage of people who do not have curtains in their rooms.
265 million dollars people spend on over-the-counter sleeping medicine per year.
74 is the percentage of adults who drink at least one caffeinated beverage per day.