Circadian Rhyme: Understanding Your Sleep

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These days, doesn’t life just feel exhausting –I mean, do we ever really get enough sleep?  Sometimes I remember those old days when I was a wee chap, and I just think with a sigh: “That was the life.”

Do you remember in kindergarten, when the teacher would have us pull out our little-kid-sized mats –and the expectation was that we’d actually sleep during naptime?

Unfortunately, I had no idea just how much I’d envy my four-year-old self.  These days, wouldn’t be so nice if the boss would stand up in the office and say…

“Ok, people, it’s nap time.  I want you to shut off you smartphones and computers, and take 30 minutes to snooze.  Let me see a raise of hands, who would prefer to listen to ‘Sounds of the Ocean’ today?”

Well, there may soon come a time when something like this might actually become a norm in the workplace.  In face, CNN Money’s Cotton Delo discussed a 2011 National Sleep Foundation poll of 1,508 adults, which showed some interesting findings:

  • 34% said that their employers allowed naps during work hours.
  • 16% said that their employers provide designated nap rooms.

How crazy is that?  Why would employers actually allow napping on the job?

There’s a pretty good reason for this.  In fact, I would argue that a mid-9 to 5 slumber increases productivity among employees.

 

A Case For the Paid Nap

In an article, written by Tony Schwartz of the NY Times, you might think that his premise is promoting laziness …I’d have to disagree.  In fact, I think it’s just downright ingenious!

While he approached the entire topic of rest, relaxation, renewal, and vacation as a whole –he did mention two studies.  You could say, sleep is probably one of the most significant drivers of productivity:

  • “In a study of nearly 400 employees, published last year, researchers found that sleeping too little — defined as less than six hours each night — was one of the best predictors of on-the-job burn-out.”
  • “A recent Harvard study estimated that sleep deprivation costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.”

Yes, my friend… that was ‘billion’… with a ‘b’.

The Industrial Age had CEOs and the labor force alike, thinking that taking a breather and catching a few winks on the job was paramount to a lazy work ethic.

These days, the issue is exacerbated even further.  How often do you find yourself checking your email on that smartphone after work –even disrupting your sleep to respond to a message?

I’m guilty of such a travesty… and I know exactly what that does to me.  I am JUST miserable for the entire night, because now, I’m thinking about the fires I’m going to have to put out in the morning.

Turns out, I was doing my boss more of a disservice by disrupting my sleep and relaxation.  Go figure.  But how and why does the body require a rest and a regulated sleep cycle?  Let’s ask Harvard… those folks seem like they know what they’d be talking about.

 

We Need Sleep: The Science Behind the Necessity

The circadian rhythm sounds like something far more complex than it actually is.  Basically, the word ‘circadian’ is just a fancy word for ‘roughly a day’.  To make sense of this, your circadian rhythm is your body’s natural psychological and physiological pattern of how long the day lasts …based on sleep cycles.

Your body times its sleep cycles on 3 main factors:

  • Time
  • Light
  • Melatonin

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If you’ve gotten into a certain sleep pattern, your body will instinctively know when it’s time for another long snooze.  According to a HelpGuide.org piece, written by Harvard Medical School, these ‘cues’ allow the body to get into a rhythm.

However, when you actually go to sleep –this is when the interesting things start to happen.  When your body achieves ‘deep sleep’, it kicks in to renewal mode:

  • Your pulse drops by 20-30%, your blood pressure and body temp fall, and your breathing slows.
  • The pituitary gland releases hormones into your body, which repair cells and tissues from the day’s damages.
  • Even the body’s immune system goes into overdrive, and begins fighting off infections through releasing chemicals that activate it. (Ever wonder why the doc always says that you should “get more sleep” when you have a cold?  Well, now you know.)

REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is what’s happening when you’re dreaming.  Studies have shown that being able to achieve REM allows the brain to process, store, and analyze information you absorbed during the day.

This happens every 90 minutes after ‘deep sleep’ is achieved and is believed to be necessary for mental health and stability.  The article states:

“Studies have found that REM sleep facilitates learning and memory. People tested to measure how well they had learned a new task improved their scores after a night’s sleep. If they were prevented from having REM sleep, the improvements were lost.”

It’s also very interesting that the body achieves ‘deep sleep’ (allowing for the body to recover and repair itself) before REM sleep (allowing for the brain to reprocess and organize data).  In the beginning of a night’s rest, REM will only last a few minutes –but as the morning draws near, REM could go on for a half-hour, according to the article.

Doesn’t it always seem like you have the most vivid dreams right before you want to fling that darn alarm clock across the room?  Well, that’s one reason why.

Once you get past that 7-hour sweet spot, you’ve reached your longest REM cycle, the body is feeling fresh, and your mind is finished organizing and processing.  No wonder why we feel happier on days when we were able to get the full 8 …or are we able to get that full 8, because we were already happier?

 

Being Happy From Great Sleep …Or Great Sleep From Being Happy?

When studies are done, and the results come in, sometimes it’s not always easy to see what is ‘causation’ or what is ‘correlation’.  For example: ‘which came first –the chicken or the egg?’

Cornell University’s Karene Booker published a study that showed how negative emotions could harm sleep quality, and yet also found that those with a positive outlook on life have better sleep quality.  Essentially, unhappy people will not sleep well.

At the same time, the American Psychological Foundation attributes poor sleep ‘hygiene’ to having some fairly severe symptoms –such as:

  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Disinhibition

Then, if the problem continues into sleep depravation, you might experience:

  • Apathy
  • Slowed speech
  • Flattened emotional responses
  • Impaired memory
  • Inability to multitask

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After that, then the body is just about ready to take what it needs –regardless of whether you want it to or not.  Essentially, you could end up experiencing 5-10 second ‘lapses’ in attention, nodding off, and hallucinations, as the brain gets ready to move to REM.

Over time, not having ‘deep sleep’ will harm the body’s ability to keep up, heal itself, and fight infection.  However, a decrease in REM sleep or depravation of sleep altogether will have a serious impact on your mental health.

 

So I’m Going To Go A… zzzzzzzz.

Your mind and body need a chance to slow down, relax, recharge, and renew.  Dreaming is like defragmenting a hard drive, helping you organize and store data.  It’s no wonder why companies are getting the bright idea to give their employees some rest –because they’re just more productive that way.

Also, when you get great sleep, you’ll give yourself a chance to be more successful, more productive, which will certainly make you a happier person.  At the same time, being happier means that you will get better sleep.

But, what about you?  What little tips and tricks do you use in order to get a better night’s rest?

Please leave a comment below and divulge your wisdom.  We’ll all be happier, healthier, and more positive people for it!

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I’m going to watch a YouTube video of puppies playing, and then I’m taking a nap.

Kerry Gaynor

Kerry’s purpose and overarching objective in developing his Method since he began thirty years ago has always been the same: to help save lives. Addictions or ailments, whether it is smoking cigarettes or over eating, can feel a lot like being a prisoner or a slave to your addiction. Kerry has experienced so much fulfillment from helping people unchain themselves from their addictions that it is the only thing he has ever cared to do since his very first client.

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