The first thing you did today was wake up. How did you feel? Was it feelings of energy, power, and rejuvenation; or, was it feelings of fatigue, stress, and restlessness? If you are in the latter category, you are not alone. A Harvard medical study found that more and more people are getting less than 6 hours of sleep and 75% of us have sleep difficulties on multiple nights of the week. Sleep tends to do be something we all want but seldom seem to be able to get enough of. Recent studies have shown that, generally, individuals ages 18-64 should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep regularly.
We do not understand sleep completely yet, however, we do have some research that may explain it. There are 5 stages of sleep which vary from a light sleep stage to rapid eye movement stage (REM). The differences in the stages vary by the amount of brain activity, muscle activity, and other physiological differences. Humans cycle through these stages during the night naturally and time spent in each stage varies by age. For example, infants spend about 50% of the night in REM, while adults only spend about 20%.
Furthermore, research done by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute shows that the body has its own “body clock” called the circadian rhythm. First, adenosine, a chemical associated with a desire to sleep, builds up in your blood as you’re awake and gets broken down in your sleep. Second, your body reacts to when it is light outside versus when it is dark. When the darkness arrives in the evening, your body starts to release melatonin which signals to your body that it is time for sleep. Then, as the sun rises, your body starts to be flooded with a natural hormone called cortisol which signals your body to wake up. These are all natural occurrences due to nature, however, they may be disturbed by human-made factors. For example, watching television may alter the release of melatonin and therefore not allow for the same quality of sleep.
When a person is deprived of sleep, many physiological damages occur. According to Harvard Health, your learning/ memory, metabolism, cognition, mood, heart, and immunity are all affected by missing just one hour of sleep. Furthermore, a lack of sleep can alter exercise. For example, a lack of sleep will lead to heightened blood pressure, higher risk of injury, and decreased athletic performance. Furthermore, on average, a U.S. worker loses 11.3 days, or $2,280 in lost productivity a year. This amounts to a total $63.2 billion loss nationally from a lack of sleep.
Although you cannot “make up” sleep, you can create habits to prevent chronic insomnia. For example, try to routinely go to bed and wake up every day at a similar time. Avoid large meals and UV light exposure an hour before bed. Lastly, try to spend time outside every day and add physical activity to your daily routine. If you are still having issues with your sleep, speak with our exercise professional to develop habits for sleep or to a physician to discuss other issues.
Your body knows how much sleep you need. Therefore, do your best to accommodate it and allow your body to make you feel your best.
Chennaoui, Mounir, et al. “Sleep and Exercise: A Reciprocal Issue?” Sleep Medicine Reviews, vol. 20, June 2014, pp. 59–72.
“Importance of Sleep : Six Reasons Not to Scrimp on Sleep.” Harvard Health, Harvard Health Publishing, Jan. 2006, www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/importance_of_sleep_and_health.
Kessler, Ronald C., et al. “Insomnia and the Performance of US Workers: Results from the America Insomnia Survey.” Sleep, vol. 34, no. 9, May 2011, pp. 1161–1171.
“Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency.” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency.
“Why Sleep Is Important: Health Navigator NZ.” Health Navigator New Zealand, 14 July 2019, www.healthnavigator.org.nz/healthy-living/sleep/why-sleep-is-important/?tab=15345.