"You're feeling sleepy..."
We spend an awful lot of our lives asleep. An average of seven and a half hours a night for 75 years adds up to over 200,000 hours recharging our minds and bodies. The stress of modern life is however, taking its toll. Let's look at how, why and what we can do about it.
Your brain and body both remain active during sleep performing 'housekeeping' roles. Sleep affects the brain, the heart and lungs, our metabolism, immune functions, mood, and disease resistance. It affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body. Consequently, a chronic lack of sleep or repeated poor quality sleep can lead on to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and even obesity. In the brain, sleep removes toxins that build up while you are awake and it is also affects nerve cells (neurons) communicate with each other.
Neuroscientists have long recognised that sleep plays a key role in 'indexing' the day behind us. Sorting experiences and memories, sometimes playing out conflicts in dreams. However, many athletes fail to realise that as much as 75 percent of human growth hormone (HGH) is released during sleep. Perhaps why cyclists still say that 'races are won in bed'. Training without recovery and repair is just damaging for the body. Only with sleep and nutrition does proper recovery and adaptation occur.
The major period of HGH release occurs about an hour after you first fall asleep in Stage 3 (ie deep sleep or slow wave sleep). This is the most restorative sleep where HGH is released to restore and rebuild your body from the stresses of the day.
The issue however is that stress during the day often affects the quality of sleep and the ability to even get to sleep or get back to sleep when you wake in the night. The rise of 'wellness apps' to help you get to sleep is a great thing although most rely simply on guided breathing exercises which help to promote parasympathetic saturation. Effectively calming you by reducing the 'fight and flight' instincts that can flood the brain when remembering those arguments at work or home!
Breathing is a bodily function that we can bring under direct consciously control - unlike our heart and other internal organs. Consequently, as the 'out breath' engages our parasympathetic nervous system by having an in/out ratio that brings about parasympathetic predominance calms us.
At Adeki, the best sleep assistance we've come across in our trawl of wellness technologies is the French sleep device called Dodow Parisiennes have a quaint phrase - 'Metro, Boulot, Dodo' - which means Tube, Work, Sleep (or 'bye-byes') for the daily grind. Dodow have adapted this for their clever device now being used by over a quarter of a million people in France.
It is beguilingly simple (aren't all the best things!?) A small white device the size of a beer mat and the height of a crumpet. It has three holes on the top and you tap it when you get into bed. It projects a relaxing blue light onto the ceiling which expands and contracts slowly. You time your breathing to its movements and the combination of the rise and fall of the light and your breathing can knock you out in three minutes. We were sceptical at first but were proved wrong. It works so happy to recommend.
Deep down, however, the best way overall to get better sleep is to get better control of the stresses in your life - physical and psychological - that's where our mission starts... and yours should too.