Natural Health

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Why We Need Sleep

Sleep is one of life's necessity's needed to maintain good health. In fact, without sleep, 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 sleeping. If we want to be ready to face a new day and be our best, we need sleep! Sleep isn't an option and when we cheat ourselves on sleep, we deprive our body's sleep 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

How much sleep we need actually depends upon our age. Babies and toddlers require the most sleep. Most babies sleep at least 16 hours per day and most toddlers seem to need around 11- 12 hours of sleep per day. School aged children as well as teenagers need at least 10 hours of sleep 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 sleep during their growth spurts. When you are a baby, toddler or teenager, the body is continually evolving and sleep is required to accomplish it all from those first steps through puberty. If we want to maintain optimal health which also includes a healthy mind we need our sleep.

Sleep Cycles


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

During our 90 minute sleep cycle, we drift through the various stages of Non REM and REM sleep. Non Rem sleep consists of a very light sleep to a very deep sleep. This very deep sleep 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 of sleep, our breathing, brain waves, heart rate and blood pressure as well as body temperature decrease or slow down. It is during this deep sleep 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 sleep 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 sleep 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's sleep isn't just about how many hours we sleep. It is also about completing the 90 minute sleep cycle. It is said that a good night's sleep should consist of transitioning and completing several 90 minute sleep cycles. They say adults and seniors should sleep 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 sleep cycle where 5 or 8 hours wakes you up in the middle of a sleep 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 sleep cycles.

Sleep cycles are so important they have books about them, calenders, and apps to make sure you make the most them and obtain a good night's sleep. 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 sleep cycle. These disorders include:

  • Insomnia
  • Narcolepsy
  • Restless Legs Syndrome
  • Sleep Apnea

The above Sleep 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 Lack of Sleep

Scientists believe the more deep sleep stages and REM sleep 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 Sleep

There are many things that can interrupt or disturb your sleeping patterns. Many people who deal with physical symptoms such as pain, or medical conditions such as asthma may find it difficult to sleep 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 sleep.

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 sleep 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 sleep as well, so try to avoid eating large meals before bedtime.

One can see why sleep 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, don't cheat your health by not getting enough sleep! Your life depends on it! If you have trouble falling asleep, consider trying one of the following to help. When I can't sleep, 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 an essential oil blend like Refuge Calming Blend 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 Good Sleep!

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