How many times have you slept through the night, possibly for 6 to 8 hours, only to wake up still feeling tired and dragging?
Do you consider yourself a ‘Light Sleeper’ (you’re awakened by the slightest noise)?
Well, you’re not alone. This happens frequently to many people. The reason...All sleep is not the same.
Although getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep is important, equally as important is the quality of sleep. If you wake up in the middle of the night, regularly, or you’re a light sleeper, then you are experiencing poor quality sleep.
When you sleep your body will go through 5 different cycles of sleep, lasting approximately 90 to 120 minutes. In 8 hours of sleep you should cycle through these stages 4 to 5 times a night.
What are the stages of sleep?
This is non-REM (NREM) sleep lasting several minutes as you drift from being awake to being asleep. During this stage you wake up easily and feel like you haven’t slept at all. Here’s how your body functions during this stage:
- All body functions begin to slow (heartbeat, respiration, eye movements)
- Muscles relax with just occasional twitches
- Brain waves begin to slow down
This stage accounts for 50 percent of your total sleep cycle. You are in a light sleep. Here’s how your body functions during this stage:
- Body systems continue to slow and relax
- Core body temperature drops
- Eye movements stop
- Brain waves are very slow, but you may encounter short bursts of activity
Stage 3 and 4
These are the deep stages of NREM sleep. It’s much harder to wake you up during this stage (even with loud noises), and when you are awoken you feel disoriented for a few minutes. These stages are critical for the following functions in the body:
- Tissue repair and regeneration
- Building of bone and muscles
- Increased blood supply to muscles
- Strengthening of the immune system
Deep sleep is responsible for helping process the information you encounter each day. Without enough of it, the brain can’t convert this information to your memory.
The benefits of deep sleep are:
- Glucose metabolism in the brain increases supporting short and long term memory and overall learning capacity
- Human Growth Hormone is secreted (necessary for growth and development of the body and decreased tissue breakdown)
- Energy is restored
- Cellular regeneration occurs
Not getting enough deep sleep is linked to conditions like:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Heart disease
This is the REM sleep cycle which occurs approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep. This cycle will only occur after you have moved through the first 4 cycles. So, if your sleep has been interrupted in an earlier cycle, when you fall back asleep you will start with Stage 1 sleep all over again. During REM sleep:
- Your eyes move rapidly from side to side
- You experience dreaming as your brain activity increases to a more wakeful state
- Heart rate increases to near its wakeful state
- Breathing becomes faster
- Your limbs may become paralyzed
During the beginning of the night, your body prioritizes deep sleep in order for you to repair and regrow tissue, build bone and muscle and strengthen the immune system.
Most people generally experience their first cycle of REM sleep 90 minutes after falling asleep. Initially in the beginning of your sleep cycles, you will experience shorter bursts of REM allowing for longer deep sleep. However, as the night progresses and the body has satisfied its need for deep sleep, you take in longer periods of REM sleep. This occurs during the final hours of sleep in the early morning. Because of this, your REM sleep can get cut off when you don’t spend a full seven or eight hours in bed, says psychologist Rubin Naiman, a sleep and dream specialist at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
Lack of REM sleep will result in the following problems:
- Poor memory
- Mood swings or low mood
- Decreased cognitive performance
- Decreased cell regeneration
- Decreased motivation
- Increased pain perception (low tolerance to pain)
The Best Sleep Remedy Ingredients:
Ever wonder which are the best herbs, minerals or hormones to eradicate your insomnia and improve your quality of sleep. Here’s a list that will help you choose the right sleep formula for you, so you can wake up refreshed and energized each morning.
Melatonin, nicknamed “the sleep hormone”, is produced by your pineal gland, and its role is to control your sleep/wake cycles. Melatonin production in the body is triggered by darkness and suppressed by light. Indoor lighting, TV’s, computers and cell phones can disrupt your melatonin production resulting in sleep problems.
The best melatonin to take is an ALL-Natural, fermented melatonin and not a synthetic melatonin. Synthetic melatonin’s tend to give you ‘freaky’ dreams and even nightmares. With a fermented melatonin you will have more dreams because it increases your REM cycle but you will not have nightmares.
Benefits of Melatonin:
- Improves sleep quality
- Increases REM sleep
- Improves mood
- Decreases daytime sleepiness
- Improves energy levels and daytime performance
- Improves immune function
- Assists with regulation of metabolism, digestion and appetite
The Melatonin we use for our patients is Sleep EZ.
Sleep EZ is cultured from beneficial probiotic organisms making it 100% all-natural and highly absorbable (bioavailable).
Magnesium is one of the most vital minerals when it comes to relaxation, sleep, and mental health. A magnesium deficiency can cause anxiety, sleep disorders, irritability, and abnormal heart rhythms.
One study shows that magnesium improved subjective measures of sleeplessness, sleep efficiency, sleep time and sleep onset.
Benefits of Magnesium:
- Stabilize mood
- Promote better sleep quality
- Increases deep sleep cycles of sleep
- Decrease stress hormones
- Supports bone development and guards against bone loss (osteopenia)
- Decreases insomnia associated with Restless Leg Syndrome
Results from a new clinical study demonstrate surprising capabilities of commercially extracted saffron on sleep quality.
Benefits of Saffron:
- Reduces overall insomnia
- Decreases interrupted sleep
- Increases continuous sleep throughout the night
- Increases feelings of being more alert and refreshed upon awakening in the morning
L-Theanine, or ‘suntheanine’- a more concentrated form of L-theanine, is an amino acid that promotes a sense of calm and has anti-anxiety properties. L-Theanine helps ‘quiet’ the mind before sleep and can improve your overall sleep quality.
Benefits of L-Theanine:
- Promotes relaxation before sleep and daytime relaxations (without sedation/grogginess)
- Boosts sleep neurotransmitters- GABA, Serotonin and Dopamine
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Increases REM sleep
- Increases sleep onset (falling asleep)
This herb is the best-studied herb for sleep problems. More than a dozen scientific studies revealed that valerian root brings about relaxation and calm.
Benefits of Valerian Root:
- Decreases insomnia
- Increases sleep onset (falling asleep)
- Improves continual sleep throughout the night
- Increases neurotransmitter Gaba to promote relaxation and decrease stress and anxiety
- Reduces sleep difficulties associated with Restless Leg Syndrome
Lemon balm encourages a deeper and more restful sleep when used with other sleep promoting herbs such as valerian root. Other benefits include acting as a strong antioxidant for the liver and a brain booster to improve memory and mood.
Benefits of Lemon Balm:
- Alleviates nighttime restlessness
- Promotes relaxation
- Reduces anxiety
- Decreases stress
- Improves mood
Passion flower is known as a tranquilizing herb due to its calming and sleep inducing effects. Research has shown that it is effective for anxiety. When combined with valerian root it promotes a deep, restful sleep.
Benefits of Passion flower:
- Calms the mind and nervous system
- Increases Deep Sleep cycles
- Increases the duration of restful, continuous sleep
- Improved symptoms of insomnia
Our modern lifestyle conspires to keep us awake far longer than is healthy by glamorizing constant internet connectivity. This precipitates round-the-clock activity and less sleep. This is problematic because humans have evolved with a 24-hour day/night cycle called a circadian rhythm. Most hormones-like cortisol, thyroid hormones, growth hormone, insulin and melatonin- respond to this rhythm. These hormones regulate bodily processes like digestion, metabolism and sleep.
Light, at the appropriate times and intensities, is the most potent regulator of our circadian rhythm. When we undergo chronic light exposure at inappropriate times (like at bedtime-10pm or later), it can be the largest disruptor to our circadian rhythms. Light pollution within our homes from house lighting, TV’s, computers and other electronic devices have become the single largest problem interfering with our sleep.
The standard recommendation of continual, unbroken sleep for adults is 7 to 8 hours per night. Teens need 9 hours of sleep per night and children need at least 12 hours.
The proper amount of good quality sleep is critical to prevent:
- Attention or behavior problems
- Poor cognitive development
- Cognitive decline or memory loss
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Heart disease
- Chronic Inflammation
Here are some things you can do to get your sleep back on track.
Tips for Good Sleep
Set bedtime and wake times at the same time every day, including weekends to reprogram your circadian rhythm.
Remove electronic devices from the bedroom. If you use the alarm on your phone, make sure to have a cell phone protector on it and place it in airplane mode while you sleep.
Keep the bedroom cool (65-69 degrees) and quiet.
Avoid large meals and caffeine at least 2 hours before bedtime.
Take a warm bath before bed with Epsom salts for relaxation and lavender essential oil for calming.
Turn off all lights at bedtime. Only use a red light for a night light.
Resetting Sleep Cycles
To reset your sleep cycles and get back to sleeping throughout the night, we recommend Sleep EZ and Sleepy Time to our patients.
Sleep EZ is a natural probiotic, fermented melatonin proven to be better than synthetic (tablet) melatonin. Although melatonin increases REM sleep leading to more time dreaming, unlike synthetic melatonin, Sleep EZ will not cause you to have nightmares. This formula is great for those who suffer from delayed sleep onset (difficulty falling asleep).
Sleepy Time consists of many herbs and minerals that increase deep sleep cycles. As a result, Sleepy Time helps you sleep soundly through the night. No more waking up in the middle of the night and staring at the ceiling.
Dr. Coppola and I personally use both these formulas on a regular basis. They prevent jet-lag and work wonders for a restful night’s sleep, especially when stress levels are very high.
This blog has been provided by Dr. John Coppola, D.C. and Dr. Valerie Monteiro, D.C. Dr. Coppola and Dr. Monteiro are the founders of the San Antonio Neuropathy Center, and Precision Sport & Spine. They are the leading experts in the field of neuropathy and specifically drug free nerve repair. They are the authors of the critically acclaimed book "Defeat Neuropathy Now .... In Spite of Your Doctor. The doctors have over 25 years of clinical experience.
If you would like to reach the doctors regarding a specific health problem, you may email them at [email protected].
- National Institutes of Health.
- National Sleep Foundation.
- American Sleep Association. (n.d.). What is deep sleep? How to get more of it.
- American Sleep Association. (n.d.). Stages of sleep.
- Yasmin Anwar, (2017) “Deep sleep may act as fountain of youth in old age”. news.berkeley.edu/2017/04/05/deep-sleep-aging/
- Cleveland Clinic Staff. (2012).” Sleep basics.”. my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12148-sleep-basics
- Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. (2007). “Changes in sleep with age”. healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/variations/changes-in-sleep-with-age
- Institute of Medicine Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research. (2006). “Sleep disorders and sleep deprivation: An unmet public health problem”. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19956/
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