I am sure all of us understand the importance of sleep but do you really know why you need to sleep in the first place?
In fact, sleep is a natural behavioral state for our mind and body to rest.
It is required on a daily basis. It is not an activity just for the sake of killing time. (1)
In fact, our society has programmed us into thinking that to be successful, you have to work hard. I totally agree.
But… at the expense of your sleep is definitely not a wise choice.
I mean depriving yourself of the valuable sleep in order to put in those extra hours thinking that you can catch up on your sleep when you are successful is a BIG mistake.
The reason why I am sharing with you this insight is because I have been guilty of it in the past.
There were days whereby I decided to compromise my sleep in order to finish up an article that I was writing.
And guess what happened?
Instead of being more productive at work the next day, it killed my inspiration to even want to wake up in the morning to work on my business.
As a result, I had to spend a few days sleeping at an earlier time to compensate for my sleep and that led to a lot of loss productive hours on my business.
So working smart is more important than working hard.
If you know that you have something important to accomplish, you should plan for it in advance and give it your full attention during that time allocated for it.
This will ensure that you go to bed at a time that you have decided for yourself and not leave it to chance.
With that being said, let’s explore why sleep is important to optimal health, shall we?
Understanding the true value that sleep provides you is perhaps the most important thing for you to make the necessary changes to your lifestyle to ensure that you are getting enough rest every night.
Without getting too scientific here, there are a couple of reasons why sleep is important: –
1. It is an anabolic state that increases the growth and rejuvenation of our immune, skeletal and muscular system. (2)
In simple terms, it rebuilds your body and keeps you youthful. 🙂
2. Fortifies your immune system (3)
3. Balances your hormones (4)
4. Boosts your metabolism (5)
5. Increases your physical energy (6)
6. Improves the functioning of your brain (6)
Our body undergoes 5 stages of sleep: 4 non-REM and REM.
Stage 1 – Interim period between wakefulness and sleep
Light sleep happens during this stage.
Stage 2 – Onset of Sleep
Heart rate and breathing starts to slow down and become regular.
Body temperature starts to drop.
Stage 3 – Delta Stage / Restorative Sleep
Hormones are released and body makes repair to bones and skin.
Stage 4 – Deep Restorative Sleep
Blood flow is directed towards muscles, restoring your physical energy.
Stage 5 – REM (also known as Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep occurs after 90 minutes of sleep.
Increased heart rate and temperature to provides energy to brain and body for improved daytime performance.
Mind is active and dreams are vivid.
Eyes dart back and forth.
Research has revealed that you get the most rejuvenating effects from your sleep between 10 pm to 2 am.
This is a time where you get the most beneficial hormonal secretions and recovery from sleep.
It can get a little ridiculous for folks who are residing in different time zones to follow the exact 10 pm bed-time.
Hence, a more sensible approach to get the best quality sleep is to go to bed a few hours after the sky is getting dark.
For most folks, this timing would be between 9 pm to 11 pm, taking into consideration the different seasons of the year.
The amount of sleep needed varies for different age group.
Our body cycles between restorative sleep (also known as deep sleep), more alert stages (non-REM) sleep and dreaming stage (known as REM sleep).
Every cycle happens in a 90-minute period. Therefore, if your plan is to go to bed by 10 pm, you should set your alarm to go off at 5.30 am for a total of 7.5 hours of sleep or 5 complete sleep cycles.
This will ensure that you wake up feeling refreshed and energized rather than feeling groggy if you were to wake up at 6 am for a total of 8 hours of sleep.
Instead of shooting for 8 hours of sleep, you should plan your sleep according to the number of sleep cycles.
For example, if you want to sleep at 11 pm and get a total of 9 hours of sleep, you should set your alarm to go off at 8 am for a total of 6 sleep cycles (1.5 x 6 = 9 hours). (8)
You will find a list of common sleep disorders that affect people’s ability to sleep well below:
I believed most of us are well aware of what’s needed to improve our sleep.
It’s really a matter of whether we are practicing them on a daily basis. 🙂
Instead of going through all the theory that’s available on so many websites on how to sleep better, I think it will be better for me to share with you what I have done to improve my sleep.
I started to track my sleeping habits every day with SleepMeter, a free app for Android.
By doing this, I was able to identify what I did that contributed to better sleep and avoid things that affected my sleep.
In this section, I will discuss some of the things that I have done to improve my sleep quality that you may consider.
1. Stop work an hour before my bed-time.
I will use this time to meditate and read a book before doing the necessary things like brushing teeth and washing my face before bedtime.
2. Drink my cup of coffee at least 7 to 8 hours before my bed-time so that it doesn’t interfere with my sleep. (11)
3. Have my dinner at least 3 to 4 hours before bed-time.
There have been occasions when my mum will buy pizzas home and I may take a slice or 2 and end up not being able to sleep.
Therefore, I have learnt to stop eating any heavy stuff before bed-time.
If I am a little hungry, I may munch on some nuts and that’s it.
4. Reduce my fluid intake after 8 pm.
If I am thirsty, I may take a sip of water and that’s it.
This will ensure that I sleep throughout the night and not wake up in the middle of the night to empty my bladder.
Otherwise, I may wake up feeling groggy instead of refreshed even though I went to bed on time.
5. Go to bed and wake up at a consistent timing.
I normally aim to go to bed by 11 – 11.15 pm and wake up between 6.30 – 7 am am in the morning for a total of 7.5 hours.
Sometimes, I may wake up at 7 am or slightly lighter. It all depends on when I am asleep.
Therefore, you have to experiment on your own and track how you feel in the morning when you wake up.
By tracking, I was able to find the sweet spot for my sleeping schedule over a period of time.
6. Sometimes, I may take a Milk Thistle supplement to help my liver regenerate since it is the main detoxing organ for guys on days when I have to sleep late.
I find that I wake up feeling better even though I slept late the previous night due to unforeseen circumstances.
7. Making sure that my room is completely dark before going to bed.
This can be quite challenging especially when you are living with late-night sleepers.
I realized that when there’s light coming into my bed room from the kitchen, I took a long time to go to bed.
Therefore, I closed my bed room door before stepping into bed.
You can consider installing blinders or even curtains to block out lights from your street.
8. On hot days, I will turn on the fan at least 15 minutes before going to bed.
It can get really hot in Singapore so a fan is really a must. If you have air-con, it will be even better. 🙂
You may want to set your air-con between 65 deg. F to 72 deg. F.
I will put on a pair of socks to keep my lower extremities warm to facilitate the process of sleeping on cold days. (12)
What I have shared with you is purely my experiences.
The ideas may or may not work for you.
However, I would encourage you to experiment with them to see which one works best for you since every one’s needs are different.
If there’s ONE Thing that I recommend you to do is to…
Have a question? Feel free to use this contact form to reach me personally.
Enjoy a Better Night’s Sleep Today!
1. NIH Curriculum Supplement Series. 2007. Information about Sleep. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK20359/. [Accessed 28 August 2016].
2. Markus Dworak, Robert W. McCarley, Tae Kim, Anna V. Kalinchuk, Radhika Basheer. 2010. Sleep and Brain Energy Levels: ATP changes during sleep. The Journal of Neuroscience, [Online]. 30(26): 9007-9016., Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917728/ [Accessed 28 August 2016].
3. Luciana Besedovsky, Tanja Lange, Jan Born, 2012. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Archiv, [Online]. 463(1), 121–137. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256323/ [Accessed 28 August 2016].
4. Dr. David Jockers. 2011. Natural sleep cycles balance hormones and burn fat. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.naturalnews.com/031101_sleep_hormones.html. [Accessed 28 August 2016].
5. Sunil. Sharma, Mani. Kavuru, 2010. Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview. International Journal of Endocrinology, [Online]. 2010 (2010), 12. Available at: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ije/2010/270832 [Accessed 28 August 2016].
6. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 2012. Why Is Sleep Important?. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why. [Accessed 28 August 2016].
7. National Sleep Foundation. 2012. What Happens When You Sleep?. [ONLINE] Available at:https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/what-happens-when-you-sleep. [Accessed 28 August 2016].
8. Stevenson, Shawn, 2016. Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies To Sleep Your Way To A Better Body, Better Health, And Bigger Success (pp: 41 – 50). United States of America: Rodale Inc..
9. Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary. 2011. Sleep and Longevity. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/kulreet-chaudhary-md/sleep-and-longevity. [Accessed 29 August 2016].
10. National Sleep Foundation. Sleep Disorders & Problems. [ONLINE] Available at:https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems. [Accessed 29 August 2016].
11. Michael J Breus Ph.D.. 2013. New Details on Caffeine’s Sleep-Disrupting Effects. [ONLINE] Available at:website link. [Accessed 29 August 2016].
12. Kathleen Doheny. 2010. Can’t Sleep? Adjust the Temperature. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/cant-sleep-adjust-the-temperature. [Accessed 29 August 2016].
Published on 29 Aug 2016