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Why We Need Sleep

Sleep is one of life's necessity's needed to maintain good health. In fact, without it, our health is sure to fail! Sleep allows our body to rest, to repair itself, and to cleanse itself. Our body performs different functions when we are awake than it does when we are resting. If we want to be ready to face new day and be our best, we need to rest! It just isn't an option and when we cheat ourselves on sleep, we deprive our body's account and sooner or later, that account is going to need to be replenished. The body's job is to maintain health, it will steal from Peter to pay Paul and when Peter has no more to give, things start to collapse.

How Much Sleep Do We Need

Well how much we need actually depends upon our age. Babies and toddlers require the most. Most babies require at least 16 hours per day and most toddlers seem to need around 11- 12 hours per day. School aged children as well as teenagers need at least 10 hours per day. Adults and seniors need at least 7 - 8 hours of sleep per day. Those of us who have been blessed with children or nieces and nephews are not surprised at how much kids actually sleep during their growth spurts. When you are a baby, toddler or teenager, the body is continually evolving and that is why the body requires so much of it. Think of all the things that the body needs to accomplish from those first steps through puberty. If we want to maintain optimal health which also includes a healthy mind we need it!

Sleep Cycles


Our sleep is broken down into cycles, with each cycle taking approximately 90 minutes to complete. These cycles are a combination of two various stages - Non REM Sleep and REM (rapid eye movement).

During our 90 minute cycle, we drift through the various stages of Non REM and REM. Non Rem consists of a very light sleep to a very deep sleep. This very deep stage of Non Rem Sleep is when those delta waves kick in and it is difficult for anyone to wake up. By the time we have reached this deep stage, our breathing, brain waves, heart rate and blood pressure as well as body temperature decreases or slow down. It is during this deep stage that our muscles and tissues are repaired and hormones are secreted to balance the body.

REM sleep begins after the Non Rem Stage of deep sleep and it begins the portion of our cycle where rapid eye movement occurs and our dreams become vivid. Our muscles become more rigid and our breathing and heart rate can vary based on our dreams. They say REM cycle is also where our mind processes and files the days activites, and offers the most benefit for the replenishing of the mind.

Don't under estimate the 90 minute sleep cycle. Experts say that a restful night isn't just about how many hours your rest. It is also about completing the 90 minute sleep cycles. It is said that a good night's rest should consist of transitioning and completing several 90 minute cycles. They say adults and seniors need between 7 - 8 hours per night. In fact, if you schedule your sleep pattern on 90 minute sleep cycles, you will feel better if you sleep 6 hours or 7 1/2 hours as opposed to 5 hours or 8 hours. Six or 7 1/2 hours completes the 90 minute cycle where 5 or 8 hours wakes you up in the middle of a cycle. If you are having trouble waking up or are fatigued in the afternoon, review how many hours you have slept and see if you possibly woke up in the middle of one of your cycles.

These cycles are so important they have books about them, calenders, and apps to make sure you make the most of them and obtain a good night's rest. Check out the following book: The 90-Minute Baby Sleep Program: Follow Your Child's Natural Sleep Rhythms for Better Nights and Naps amazon or Google's App The 90 Minute Sleepy Time Calculator or the ITunes App The Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock.

Sleep Disorders

Many people struggle with sleep disorders that can and often do prevent them from achieving REM sleep and completing their 90 minute cycle. These disorders include:

  • Insomnia
  • Narcolepsy
  • Restless Legs Syndrome
  • Sleep Apnea

The above disorders can pose great threat to your overall health. If you feel you have could have one of these disorders, you should seek assistance.

Health Problems associated with a Lack of Sleep

Scientists believe the more deep stages and REM stages our bodies do not achieve, the less our body is able to repair itself. This weakens our overall immune system and can create chemical imbalances throughout the body. Lack of sleep increases our risk for the following problems.

  • Many Chronic Diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular problems including Heart Disease and Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Cancer
  • Increased Risk of Accidents

What can you do to get a Good Night's Rest

There are many things that can interrupt or disturb your patterns. Many people who deal with physical symptoms such as pain, or medical conditions such as asthma may find it difficult to rest when they are not feeling well. Anxiety or depression can also impact how well you sleep. Too much light in your bedroom, pets on the bed, alcohol can all have an effect on how well you rest.

You may have problems sleeping if you have a hard time waking up, need a daily nap, or fall asleep while watching tv in the evening. To make sure you are getting a good night's rest try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, making sure you are completing your 90 minute cycles. Ensure your bedroom is quiet and dark and that you find its enviroment relaxing. Also, I have noticed that if I eat a late dinner, I tend to not rest as well, so try to avoid eating large meals before bedtime.

One can see why these disorders should be addressed sooner than later and why you take steps to improve your sleep. If you take the time to exercise, drink healthy water, and eat food the way nature intended, then don't cheat your health by not getting enough rest! Your life depends on it! If you have trouble falling asleep, consider trying one of the following to help. When I can't close my eyes and rest, I get up and use the chi machine to help me unwind and turn off my mental chatter. I will also often use my Sleep Aromatherapy Inhaler. You may also want to try some essential oil blends like Refuge Calming Blend so you can create a pillow spray or add a few drops to a kleenex and put it under your pillow. You may also want to try an herbal supplement like Herbal Sleep. Here's To a Good Night's Rest!

Written by Mara Gerke CA, CNHP, All Rights Reserved.