Waking up ready to start your day is only one benefit of a good night of sleep. Sleep quality has a direct impact on mental and physical health. In recognition of March as National Sleep Awareness Month, we’ll take a deeper look at the importance of sleep.
The amount of sleep someone needs is determined by several factors. Not everyone needs the standard 8 hours of sleep. Some need more and some need less.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, how much sleep you need daily depends on your age:
- Newborn: 14-17 hours
- Infant: 12-16 hours
- Toddler: 11-14 hours
- Preschool: 10-13 hours
- School Age: 9-12 hours
- Teen: 8-10 hours
- 18 to 64 Years: 7-9 hours
- 65 Years and Older: 7-8 hours
If you wake up and still feel tired despite getting the right amount of sleep, your sleep quality is probably poor. The American Sleep Association estimates that 50-70 million U.S. adults have a sleep disorder.
Exercise for Better Sleep
Eating nutritiously, establishing a consistent sleep schedule, and incorporating relaxing nighttime routines can help improve sleep quality. Another healthy habit to improve sleep is exercise. Studies show moderate-intensity exercise promotes better sleep. Low-impact exercise, like walking, can help reduce stress and ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise also can help with joint pain, which can keep you tossing and turning at night.
The Four Stages of Sleep
Our sleep consists of four to six sleep cycles. Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes and ideally contains four sleep stages. The first cycle of the night is generally the shortest. We know about these cycles by analyzing brain activity. The sleep stages were last updated in 2007 by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
The four stages of the sleep cycle serve important purposes:
- Stage 1: The first stage generally lasts 1 to 5 minutes when you are beginning to doze off but the body isn’t fully relaxed.
- The body experiences twitches.
- Subtle changes occur in brain activity.
- You are easily awakened during this stage.
- Stage 2: This is usually your longest stage in the sleep cycle, 10 minutes to one hour. You might spend half of your total sleep time in this stage.
- Your body temperature drops.
- Muscles relax more and breathing and heart rates slow.
- Brain activity slows but still has short bursts of energy.
- Stage 3 (Slow-Wave Sleep or Deep Sleep): This deep-sleep stage lasts 20-40 minutes and is critical to restorative sleep. You spend more time in this stage during the first half of the night.
- It’s harder to wake someone in this stage and muscle tone, pulse, and breathing rate all decrease.
- The brain activity in this stage is known as delta waves.
- Key bodily processes, including immunity, are boosted during this stage.
- Stage 4 (Rapid-Eye Movement): Brain activity resembles its pattern when it was awake. While the muscles that control breathing and eye movement continue to work, the rest of the body’s muscles experience temporary paralysis. This stage lasts 10 minutes to one hour. The first REM stage may only last a few minutes, but this stage gets longer as the night progresses.
- REM supports memory, learning, and creativity
- When we have our most vivid dreams
- REM makes up about one-quarter of your sleep
The stages of sleep work together to allow the body to restore and develop. Not getting enough sleep alters our physical health as well as how we handle our emotions and process information.
Lack of Sleep on Brain Health
Not getting enough deep sleep has the most impact on brain health. Deep sleep allows the brain to better retain and recall information. Without enough time in this important third stage, your pituitary gland is hampered in its role to help the body regenerate new cells.
A sleep-deprived brain also increases anxiety levels. Stress can make falling asleep more difficult. Once asleep, you are more likely to have nightmares and wake up more often throughout the night. Too little sleep results in brain fog. We have difficulty finding the rights words and can feel mentally dull and confused. Memory and visual perception are affected, leaving us unable to recall facts or have less reaction time when driving a car.
Insomnia Weakens the Immune System
A weakened immune system leaves you vulnerable to colds, viruses, and other illnesses. During rest, our immune system creates and releases cytokines. The body needs to increase its production of certain cytokines when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. If you aren’t sleeping well, your body cannot make enough cytokines to properly fight the illness.
Increased Risk of Heart Disease & Diabetes
Your blood pressure and heart rate lower while you sleep. When you aren’t sleeping, your heart isn’t getting the rest it needs either. Maintaining this higher heart rate and pressure puts added strain on the heart. Some studies also show that lack of sleep inhibits the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, increasing the risk for diabetes.
Move More, Sleep Better
At ProFysio Physical Therapy, our mission is to reduce pain and increase mobility so our patients can return to a more active lifestyle. Our professionals will customize a treatment plan for your specific needs and goals. Properly executed exercises will help stave off muscle and bone loss, curtain stress and anxiety, and improve your sleep.
Learn more about the services available at ProFysio Physical Therapy by calling (732) 812-5200. We have four locations in New Jersey to serve you: Aberdeen, Edison, East Brunswick, and Old Bridge.