What If It’s Something . . . Physical? (Part 1)
So, what if I make good sleep choices, but I still struggle? I do the things that make my sleeping environment ‘ideal’ for sleep. My sleep hygiene is better, but is there more that I can try? What if I need a little outside ‘help’?
It can take time to change old habits and make our sleep environment a ‘Better’ place to induce sleep. Time, to allow our body to respond to its natural ‘cues’ for sleepiness, may need to be coupled with other aids to help us get over the ‘hump’, so to speak.
Then, there are certain ‘physical’ problems that may contribute to our struggle. Let’s look at some of these physical contributors. First, let’s see how we methodically explain our world during ‘sleep’.
Darkness, a cooling of the body temperature, minimizing the visual and audible traits of the day, and nestling our heads on our favorite pillow in a reclined position are all ‘cues’ to our body–’hey’, it is time to sleep. Coupled with the fatigue of our muscles and the need for the brain to ‘shut off’ its monumental task of making sense of it all, sleep is that time when rest and repair occurs.
To be able to do work, gather food, and defend ourselves—our muscles need time to recover and repair the wear of the day. The brain, or ‘boss of it all’, has to make the decisions of what, when and how we eat, work, play and keep out of harm’s way. To be able to do that in a sensible manner, the brain needs its time to reshuffle or file away all of that stuff to stay healthy. The ‘boss’ needs to be able to make to make good decisions, remember what is good and bad, and respond quickly to the threats the body faces each day.
Sleep helps both the muscles and the brain to do their jobs more efficiently. Sleep has been studied and has been found to follow a certain ‘pattern’ or go through ‘stages’. To study these ‘stages’, monitoring brain waves and muscle tension in the body has shown what a ‘normal’ pattern looks like. Basically our sleep is described as follows:
1) Stage Wake – we are aware of our surroundings (our eyes can be open, or closed)
2) Stage 1 – very light sleep (we are easily awakened)
3) Stage 2 – a deeper sleep (a stage we spend most of our time)
4) Stage 3 – our deepest sleep (important time where muscles get their rest)
5) Stage REM – stands for ‘Rapid Eye Movement’ (time the brain ‘needs’)
A ‘normal’ pattern of our going through these different sleep stages generally looks like this:
A. We go through a ‘set’, including every stage, (Wake, 1, 2, 3, and REM) every 90 minutes
B. We have four or five ‘sets’ each night (I will describe four)
C. During the first ‘set’, we go from Wake, to 1, to 2, to 3(most of the
cumulative time for Stage 3 comes during this first set), to REM(a
very short period of time)
D. The second ‘set’ – Wake, to 1, to 2, to 3(shorter amount of time), to
REM(longer period of time)
E. The third ‘set’ – Wake, to 1, to 2, to 3(if any), to REM(even longer)
F. The fourth ‘set’ – Wake, to 1, to 2, to 3(probably none), to REM(the
longest period of time for Stage REM)
Basically, our pattern of sleep is Smartly designed to enable our muscles to get their required rest during the first three hours of sleep. For our survival, we must have rested muscles to work, gather food and protect ourselves. So, if our sleep is interrupted, and we do not get a full night’s sleep—at least the muscles get most of what they need—early in the night. The brain is delayed in getting what it needs, but at least (our body) is more capable of functioning adequately, in the case our sleep time is inadequate. For healthy decision-making, memory, and overall mind sharpness, though, the later ‘sets’ of sleep are important for the brain.
If you struggle with initiating or maintaining sleep, and you are not able to get an adequate amount of sleep, then how you feel may be explained by this normal pattern of sleep. Fatigue, muscle aches or pain, lack of energy—all can because of an inadequate amount of important Stage 3 sleep, early in the night.
Brain fogginess, memory problems or, difficulty with decisions can be due to getting less than adequate ‘brain’ or REM time.
(Stay tuned for Part 2!)