Sleep is the first of the three Primordial Comforter Life Markers along with Diet and Sexual Contentment. These Life Markers are aspects of our life that have a natural function and purpose, yet we also can use them to energise ourselves, relieve stress, or use them as a source of happiness (pleasurable sensations). Sleep can be that sort of a comforter. Generally we need more when we are young and less when we are older.
It would seem that M-+other nature doesn’t want us to become too reliant on these comforters for happiness and stress relief because over indulging in food and sleep undermines our health and well being.
The latest research indicates that too much sleep is statistically as bad for your health as having too little, just as with having too much or too little food. However, in saying this, it is important to note that every individual has to be aware of what amount and quality of sleep they need for their well being and health. Using the SLEEP Life Marker Tracker will enable you to get a picture of your life/sleep patterns. You will see how the other Life Markers, Life Issues and Solutions are connected to your sleep patterns.
We all know how it feels to have a good night’s sleep - we awake refreshed and regenerated, both physically and mentally. Sleep is a time for regulating and repairing the physical body, processing memories and feelings, all while saving energy.
Experts tell us there are 4 stages of sleep. The first 3 are called Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) stages 1,2, and 3. In each of these cycles we go gradually deeper into sleep and at NREM 3 we have slow, deep brainwaves known as “delta waves” and brain activity is at its lowest. The 4th stage is Rapid Eye Movement (REM) in which many people have dreams. This stage has rapid brain activity similar to being awake. According to the experts each of these cycles are about 1 ½ hours long and our sleep at night can have 5 or 6 cycles.
We have evolved for millions of years with the sun going down and melatonin being secreted in our brains which makes us sleepy. In modern life we have changed the rules and lights are on until we feel tired or decide to go to sleep. Interestingly, studies show that computer screens and other appliances that have bluish lights affect our ability to go to sleep more than yellowish lights (like low energy saver bulbs).
Serotonin, one of the chemicals in our body that gives pleasurable feelings, is linked to exposure to sunlight and production of melatonin which helps regulate the sleep/wake cycle.
If we don’t get enough sleep or have disrupted sleep, there can be physical and mental affects. We can overload our nervous system, lose concentration, become hyper-vigilant, anxious and even get hungrier which affects our weight gain and the possibility of getting diabetes and other health problems. Emotional states like worry and anxiety can affect the length and quality of our sleep.
(For more information on sleep see New Scientist magazine 4th February 2012 #2850 also Principle and Practice of Sleep Medicine, Saunders 2010)