In order to heal ourselves we need to give our bodies the opportunity for the rest they deserve. However, the influence of many factors in our lives mean that we're not allowing or getting the optimal amount and, importantly, the quality of sleep we require.
In the western world we are living in a culture that is placing increasing demands on us. Within this society there are personality types that are driven to accomplish their goals and responsibilities, no matter what. I’m sure you know many people like that or you may be one of those people yourselves. We are often judged by our achievements and scrutinised for our failures. There is ever increasing pressure on us to keep up appearances, hiding any weaknesses and to demonstrate to the world that we are able and capable of success.
This tendency to venerate high achievements and create an impressive career has many positives but it can also put significant psychological and physiological stress on us. The perpetual pushing through our tiredness with stimulants, masking our fatigue and hiding our struggles can often lead us to burnout.
Unfortunately, there is limited help for doctors to offer people with one of the most common complaints they have, exhaustion. We have experienced that burnout often leads on to many other more serious health repercussions, especially those involving the immune system.
The energy levels we experience each day are determined by many interrelated factors like hormonal, immune and mitochondrial function. This is where sleep comes in. The most restorative action we can take to improve the functioning of our whole body is to improve the quality of our sleep.
It is during deep sleep and rest that the stores of hormones and neurotransmitters are replenished ready for use in times of activity during the day.
The quality of our sleep depends upon many factors. Sleep can be affected by stress, man made EMF exposure, toxicity, hormone balance, light pollution, neurotransmitter imbalance, emotional blockages and nutrient deficiencies etc.
Types of brain waves and phases of sleep
For optimal brain restoration, our brain wave frequencies ideally go through a series of phases and cycles. The main stages of sleep can be sectioned into stages 1 to 5. Our body will cycle between stages 1 - 4 before finally reaching the most active form of sleep known as REM or rapid eye movement which normally occurs in the second half of the night although there are individual nuances to each.
While we are awake and actively thinking our brain is emitting Beta waves which are small and fast. As the brain begins to relax and slow down, slower waves known as Alpha waves are produced. Alpha waves are known to increase creativity and are often associated with light meditation. As we deepen our relaxation further we then transition into Theta brain waves.
As we enter the initial stage of true sleep, our brain will have really slowed down to emit consistent Theta waves. These high amplitude theta waves are very slow brain waves. This period of sleep lasts only lasts around 5-10 minutes.
The second stage of sleep lasts for approximately 20 minutes. The brain begins to produce bursts of rapid, rhythmic brain wave activity known as sleep spindles.
Deep, slow brain waves known as Delta waves begin to emerge during stage three sleep. Stage 3 is a transitional period between light sleep and a very deep sleep.
Stage 4 sleep is the deepest, known as Delta sleep. This is where the real rejuvenation takes place as most human growth hormone HGH is released to facilitate growth, healing and repair of all bodily tissues.
Most dreaming occurs during the fifth stage of sleep, known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is characterized by eye movement, increased respiration rate and increased brain activity. Dreaming occurs due because of increased brain activity. The first cycle of REM sleep might last only a short amount of time, but each stage becomes longer after each sleep cycle. REM sleep can last up to an hour as sleep progresses.
As you can tell this process of slowing and activating brain wave phases is what ideally happens during restful sleep.
Unfortunately many of us are unable to get the sufficient amounts of the deeper Delta sleep that is optimal.
As mentioned, many different things can interfere with these cycles and effective night time rejuvenation. We discussed more in our Health Wisdom Essentials special report (sign up to receive this FREE at the top of this page).
The Benefits of True Deep Sleep
Increased learning and memory capacity
Enhanced fat metabolism
Increased antioxidant melatonin
Emotional healing/trauma release
Enhanced detoxification, especially within the brain as it facilitates the correct flow of lymphatic fluid
Increased balance in our microbiome - the flora in our gut and body.
Steps to Improve the Quality of Your Sleep
Get some sunlight into your eyes and on your skin first thing in the morning to set circadian rhythms.
Aim to go to sleep around 10pm.
Dedicate some time before bed to wind down from your daily activities. This could mean dimming the lights, using candles, massage, meditation, yoga, grounding
Aim to eat earlier in the evening so you are not sleeping on a full stomach but avoid blood sugar crashes in the night that will spike cortisol.
Stop or reduce caffeine and other stimulant intake, especially later in the day.
Aim to resolve any emotional stress before attempting to sleep. This could involve discussing any worries or problems with a partner or even writing down your thoughts as a form of journaling.
Minimise any artificial lights, mobile and TV in the evening that emit blue light frequencies
Minimise man made EMF's around your sleeping area like WiFi.
Correct posture. Postural alignment is very important optimal nervous system activity and lymphatic flow
Aim to make your bedroom as dark as possible during the night especially during the new moon as this is when our bodies benefit from the increased melatonin production darkness brings.
Stay hydrated during the day time but reduce fluid intake before bed to limit nocturnal urination.
If your are worried or stressed about something there are many herbs that may help you to wind down like camomile, holy basil, valerian, reishi, albizzia, poria and lavender essential oil.
Aim to maintain a comfortable temperature for you to sleep in and ideally allow some fresh air in to circulate in the room
By supporting your body with good nutrition, your organs will work more efficiently and allow them to rejuvenate and metabolise during the night. Thorough detoxification can be a great aid to enhancing the quality of your sleep so that you awake feeling refreshed ready to take on the new day.
Exercise is another great way to improve sleep, however, avoid exercising directly prior to bed as it may be too stimulating.
Enhance GABA production with theanine, B vitamins, magnesium glycinate, taurine and lithium orotate.
Try some melatonin if needed for short term use.
I hope you found this article insightful. The importance of quality sleep cannot be underestimated.