Natural sleep is a complex and dynamic part of our lives. It allows our nervous system to reset, our immune system to adjust and re-balance, and our brains to process and synthesize information.
All our body – from the brain, heart and lungs to mood, metabolism, and beauty is affected by sleep.
Why do some others have a hard time staying asleep while, yet others remain asleep for only a few hours?
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4% of U.S. adults reported taking sleep aids in the last month. This was highest among women, the highly educated and of course among those diagnosed with sleep disorders.
Sleep is a natural process akin to life. And because of its affinity with life itself, it is vulnerable to our modern lifestyle.
Here are some startling numbers from the American Sleep Association:
Sleep is affected by light exposure and our behavioral rhythm – this means that sleep is affected by the environment in which you live (natural and built) and your habits (in terms of what you do or not do before and after sleep).
Your body is constantly trying to balance when you are awake and asleep. Your body’s biological clock is based on a 24-hour day, roughly speaking.
According to Harvard University, your circadian rhythm controls the times when your body begins to feel sleepy as you get ready to fall asleep around the darkness of the night and promotes an impulse to awaken by the early hours of the sun rising.
Circadian rhythms are therefore deep and primal connections with environmental signals, like the amount of light outside and atmospheric temperature, with the actual time of day.
This delicate balance is also ingrained in your homeostasis patterns, where your body balances your need to sleep with the activities of your life.
This balance, or homeostasis, is a pendulum between periods of action with periods of rest. In a sense, this is a device used by your body to persuade you to sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, night shift workers may have a hard time getting natural sleep because their sleep-wake cycle is interrupted constantly as their natural circadian rhythm is disrupted by a mismatch between their waking hours and the day-night cycle.
Your biological clock is also signaling all sorts of hormones and neurotransmitters that relax you to allow getting ready for bed or help you arouse and wake up to get on with your day.
Ideally you should cycle through all, several times every night.
Even if you sleep like a baby or you have to take extra steps to sleep a little, falling asleep is a serious business and should not be taken lightly.
If you suffer from lack of sleep, your bedroom might become a sort of ‘war zone’, a place where you go to fight to get to sleep.
The minute your head hits the pillow, your minds starts to race, and you start worrying that, yet again, there won’t be any sleep tonight.
Fret not, in the next story, we’ll deconstruct how to make your bedroom a place of rest and solace and most importantly, how your bed should support your natural sleep patterns.
Natural sleep is partly attributed to the quality of your sleep gear and habits.
Part 4 - What lies beneath you is important, mattress 101
National Institute of Health, Brain basics: understanding sleep, www.ninds.nih.gov
Harvard University, Division of Sleep Medicine, https://healthysleep.harvard.edu
National Sleep Foundation, How shift work affects the circadian system, www.sleepfoundation.org
American Sleep Association, Sleep and sleep disorder statistics, www.sleepassociation.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prescription sleep aid use among adults: US (2005-2010), www.cdc.gov