Sleep; Setting the Mood and Reaping the Benefits

sleep Oct 26, 2022

Katie Breazeale, MS, RD, LD

 

I love sleep and being the parent of two young children makes me love it more. But as much as I love it, I keep blocking myself from getting enough sleep! I had this epiphany the other night. I was really tired and yet I felt this need to play on my phone even though I could barely keep my eyes open. It is ridiculous, I know. 

 

There are so many reasons why you may not be getting adequate sleep. Can you relate to any of these reasons you may be disrupting your sleep? 

         You can’t turn off your brain. Too many thoughts going on up there.

         You get sucked into watching a movie or tv shows.

         Your room is too bright. Could be from an outside streetlight.

         You work in bed. 

         You are working out in the evening.

         You work shiftwork.  

 

Stages of Sleep

You will go through more than 1 sleep cycle during the night. The first sleep cycle is usually the shortest, ranging from 70-100 minutes, while later cycles tend to fall between 90 and 120 minutes. There are 4 stages of sleep per the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

  1. Stage 1/N1- This is when you start to doze off. This stage can be 1 to 5 minutes.

  2. Stage 2/N2- Now we see a shift in our body’s functions. Your body’s temperature will decrease, your muscles will start to relax, breathing slows down, and your heart rate slows. This stage can last 10 to 25 minutes within your first sleep cycle but increase as you go through your sleep cycle during the night.

  3. Stage 3/N3- Here we enter deep sleep. The brain activity shows delta waves, and you will sometimes hear this phase of sleep called delta waves. This stage is believed to be the essential stage for restorative sleep affecting your body’s recovery, growth, and immune health. Your deep sleep will be in the first half of the night.

  4. REM- This is the most common sleep stage we hear about. This stage is essential for cognitive functions like memory, creativity, and learning. REM sleep typically doesn’t occur until 90 minutes into sleep and then during the second half of the night. 

 

Why am I giving you the science on sleep? Because it is important to understand. If you get too little sleep or wake up frequently during the night it can affect your body’s recuperation, development, and brain health.

 

Setting the Mood

I mentioned earlier a few scenarios that could be affecting your sleep. Now, let’s look at setting the mood for your bedroom so you get better sleep at night.

  • The bed is for two things, sleep and sex. This helps your body know what the bed is for. It is not your portable workstation.

  • Limit blue light at night. Think device free. I know it sounds daunting, but it is doable. Turn off the tv, phones, computers, tablets, and any other device you can think of. These devices stimulate your mind keeping you awake longer. Plus, it can decrease your melatonin production.

  • Try to create a sleep schedule. A time for when you go lay down in bed, a regular wake up time, and limit naps throughout the day.

  • Create a bedtime routine. Do you shower at night, wash your face, brush your teeth, or read for a little at night? This is all part of your bedtime routine.

  • Create the optimal bedroom. 

      1. Keep your bedroom cool at night.

      2. Keep it dark. Consider blackout curtains.

      3. Block out the noise. If you live on a busy street, consider ear plugs or a calming noise machine.

      4. Make sure your bedding is comfortable. Get the right firmness for your pillow and mattress. Select bedding that you believe is comfortable and not itchy or too hot.

  • Don’t Toss and Turn. It helps to have a healthy mental connection between being in bed and being asleep. With that in mind, if after 20 minutes you haven’t gotten to sleep, get up and stretch, read, or do something else calming in low light before trying to fall asleep again.

  • Busy brain. Consider cognitive unloading. This is a method for writing down anything on your mind and a place to get it off your mind. 

  • Limit caffeine too early in the day. Caffeine is a stimulant and has a half life of 6 hours. 

  • Limit alcohol consumption. While it can help you go to sleep faster it also has the ability to disrupt your sleep patterns creating a low quality of sleep.

 

Your sleep affects other systems in your body. It is not just about looking bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning.

 

Sleep and Weight

Lack of sleep affects your metabolism and interferes with your hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin. Also, how you select foods throughout the day will be affected. You are also more likely to eat more calories. Think about it. You wake up tired, hello caffeine, and drink an energy drink, coffee, or soda to try to wake up. You’re tired and want minimal effort in your meals, nearest drive through here I come (and does that come with a soda)! Midafternoon drags and need to stay awake. Vending machine where are you or nearest convenience store? Shall I choose candy, chips, soda, energy drink, or pastry goods? Now I am home for the evening and have had ample amounts of caffeine and sugar to stay awake. I am alert courtesy of the caffeine and overfed due to all the drinks and snacks I ate to stay awake.

 

Sleep and Performance

Your workout/training performance will suffer. It is hard to lift 250 lbs when you are exhausted. It is also hard to learn a new play, exert more energy, and concentrate when you don’t get enough sleep. Sleep is also imperative for recovery. Your glycogen stores, your muscle recovery, and muscle building occur during sleep. 

 

Sleep and the Mind

Needless to say, sleep deprivation can make you cranky, emotional, or quick-tempered. If your lack of sleep becomes a continual (chronic) problem your mood can be affected with a possibility of anxiety or depression. 

 

Concentration is affected from lack of sleep. Concentration can affect our day-to-day decisions, passing a test, and driving. Have you heard of drowsy driving? It is what it sounds like, driving when tired. The data from 2017 from NHTSA showed 91,000 crashes resulting in 50,000 injuries and 800 deaths. 

 

While you’re sleeping your brain is working to create memories for new processes and new information. Lack of sleep can cause short-term and long-term memory problems.

 

What else does sleep affect? 

    • Heart: Higher blood pressure and risk for cardiovascular diseases.

    • Sex drive/Testosterone: Testosterone is produced during the night while you sleep. Disrupted and less sleep impacts your testosterone production.

    • Immune: Increase in likelihood to get sick due to weakened immune system.

    • Diabetes: Increased blood sugar levels due to the disruption of the release of insulin.

    • Balance: Lack of sleep can affect your balance and coordination. 

 

Sleep is essential to our health and creating a bedroom optimal for sleep is one of the ways to get quality sleep. I want you to look at your bedroom one night. Is it dark enough, quiet, cool, do you like your bedding? Anything that could be keeping you up at night I want you to make a list. If your biggest problem is working in bed, then it is time to get out the bedroom. Too hot turn down the AC or breakout the fan. Look for solutions to setting the mood and getting the best sleep!

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