How can I sleep better? Am I getting enough sleep? How can I wake up feeling more refreshed? These are age-old questions, really. At one time or another, we’ve all wondered what we can do to improve our sleep. Sleep is an integral part of our total health that is often overlooked. So, let’s take a look at why we sleep and the steps you can take to optimize your sleep habits.
1Why Is Sleep So Important?
Did you know that we actually spend about one-third of our lives asleep? With all that time catching Z’s, you can bet that it plays a critical role in your health.
For one, stress and sleep are inextricably linked. When you don’t sleep well, you become stressed, and when you’re stressed, you don’t sleep well. This vicious cycle can make it difficult for people to get the right amount of sleep and leads to a host of other problems.
A recent study found that aspects of our sleep like poor quality, duration, and variability are associated with risk of cardiovascular disease and other risk factors including, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.
And if this wasn’t enough, a study in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry suggests that people who sleep less than 8 hours a night are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. Why is this? Your natural sleep rhythm is determined by the cycle of hormones that are released by the brain. Compromise your sleep, and you throw off your balance of hormones like cortisol and testosterone, as well as hormones that control appetite.
2How Much Sleep Do I Need?
Every person is unique and has different needs when it comes to their sleep. We’ve all likely been recommended to catch 8 hours of sleep, and several clinical studies recommend 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep in order for your body to repair itself. That being said, you may need slightly more or less sleep depending on your genetic and biological makeup. For instance, there is a very small percentage of people who can get away with a few hours of sleep. A lot of this depends less on the number of hours and more on the quality of our sleep.
3How Can I Get Quality Sleep?
To answer that question, let’s break down the sleep cycle. There are two general sleep stages: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM. Non-REM sleep is further broken down into 3 stages. Here’s how it goes:
Stage 1 non-REM: Light sleep where your brain begins to transition from wakefulness
Stage 2 non-REM: Light sleep before you enter deep sleep; your body will relax even more and your brain will continue to slow with bursts of activity
Stage 3 non-REM sleep: Deep sleep that is essential to feeling rested
REM sleep: Your eyes move rapidly and you tend to dream at this stage; you’ll spend the least amount of time in this stage
Each stage is essential, which is why scheduling enough time to sleep is crucial. Because we go through multiple sleep cycles each night, it’s important to sleep long enough to fit in your optimal number of sleep cycles. If you only have three or four hours of rest, you may not provide enough time for your body to fully repair.
In addition, you’ll want to do everything you can to minimize the number of times you wake up in the night. While everyone is unique in their sleep requirements, here are a few easy things you can do:
- Avoid alcohol before bed
- Make sure you don’t eat too much or too little for your genetic and biological makeup
- Get enough exercise during the day
- Spend less time on your phone or tablet
4What’s The Connection Between Sleep and Precision Medicine?
The notion that all our systems are interconnected is fundamental to precision medicine.
It’s impossible to single out one problem in a vacuum. Sleep is just one of the many factors that help us understand your optimal self.
When you integrate personalized interventions – from hours of sleep to medications and supplements to diet and exercise – you are a step closer to unlocking your best health. This is critical to our approach at GROQ Health.
Learn more about how we understand your full health story!