With the breakneck pace of modern life, some people sometimes have to cut down on sleep to keep up. These days, eight hours of sleep is a luxury not everyone can afford. But the truth is, to maintain your health, you can’t afford not to.
During sleep, the human body undergoes a series of stages and cycles necessary to restore as well as refresh the entire body. Sleep deprivation can take its toll on the body, affecting your energy level, mood, ability to focus and handle stress as well as overall efficiency. If you expect your body to perform to its maximum potential, you need to give it adequate rest.
Your Sleeping Habits and Back Pain
For people with chronic back pains, sufficient sleep is imperative. Lack of sleep is one underlying cause of back pain. A primary reason is the lack of time for the body to recuperate. In fact various studies have confirmed that lack of sleep can motivate an increase in chronic inflammation. It also causes the stress levels to shoot up, which can aggravate back pain.
Contrary to what most people think, sleep is not simply a time where your brain and body shuts down. During rest, the human brain stays busy to oversee the biological maintenance of the body. By depriving the body of adequate hours of restorative sleep, you are working your body to a physical and mental breakdown.
So how much hours does your body need? According to the National Institutes of Health, an adult should have no less than seven hours of sleep. Most people make do with five to six hours, which can actually be considered a chronic case of sleep deprivation.
The specific number of sleep requirement slightly varies depending of age groups. The common myth that as people age, sleeping hours can gradually decrease should not be the case. Adults should have at least seven to eight hours of sleep. Some seniors have difficulty sleeping for straight hours, daytime naps can compensate.
However, it is also important to note that the number of hours is not the only factor to consider, but more importantly the quality of sleep as well. Some people have ample sleep but wake up tired or experience difficulty concentrating during the day. In such c case, your body may not be spending adequate time in the several stages of sleep.
There are a number of stages of sleep, and each stage play a vital role. There are two main types of sleep, the REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep and Non-REM sleep. The former is when your eyes rapidly move about and you do the most active dreaming. The most damaging effect of lack of sleep is lack of REM, since this is the time the body naturally repairs itself and stimulates development and growth. The latter, Non-REM consists of four stages of sleep, each one is a little deeper than the last.
Stages of Sleep:
1. Transition to Sleep
2. Light Sleep
3. Deep Sleep
4. More Intense Deep Sleep
Sleep and Teenagers
There is a growing number of teenagers today who reportedly suffer from chronic insomnia, or the difficulty of falling or staying asleep. Ideally, teens should have eight to nine hours of sleep, which can be difficult to achieve with the number of activities and tight schedule they have to observe.
Sleep deprivation affects the quality of life and aggravates a host of problems associated with puberty such as acne, mood swings and irritability and weight. In fact, some studies show the correlation between chronic insomnia and obesity. This is why sleeping disorders should be given prompt attention.
Sleep and Pregnancy
Pregnancy requires great care and attention, not only with the expectant mother’s diet, but also with the amount of sleep. During the first trimester, a pregnant woman usually goes through a range of emotions, and hormones go haywire. Getting enough sleep can be highly challenging because of hormonal changes. The best way to deal with possible lack of sleep is to make sure that the body is given enough time to rest and take daytime naps whenever possible. It is also important to stay hydrated
On the second trimester, there are a number of body changes that makes it difficult to sleep. Heartburn, due to the restricted diaphragm caused by the enlargement of the uterus and disturbing dreams become all too common. To avoid heartburn, avoid fried and fatty foods and eat small frequent meals during the day. It is also best to slightly elevate your neck and head during sleep to effectively keep the stomach acid down.
Sleep is most challenged during the third trimester of pregnancy. Frequent urination, the difficulty to get comfortable, dealing with extra pounds is just some of the few factors that make sleeping a real struggle among pregnant women. Add fetal movements, joint pains and nasal congestion to the list, sleep can be elusive.
To better deal with these changes, it is best to sleep on your left side in order to allow the blood flow freely to the fetus, as well as to your kidneys and uterus. This position also aids blood circulation back to the heart. If you have difficulty sleeping, don’t force yourself. Get up and do something like reading or watching TV, this will tire you and help you fall asleep easier.
Sleep and Aging
Aging can affect sleeping patterns. This is a prevalent issue that seniors have to contend with. However, these are actually not a normal part of aging. Sleep should still be regarded to be just as important as during the teenage years. There are a number of factors that contribute to sleeping problems such as unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, poor sleeping habits and medical problems.
No matter what your age is, sleep should remain an essential part of your physical health as well as your emotional well-being. For people in their prime, sleep is required to improve memory formation and concentration. It allows the body to repair damaged cells at the same time refresh the immune system.
Seniors who do not get enough sleep are more prone to depression, memory and attention problems as well as greater sensitivity to pain. Since most adults have difficulty sleeping, naps during the day is highly recommended. To improve sleep, follow normal sleep schedule, limit caffeine intake, and exercise regularly.
The Power Nap
Did you know that a number of rich, powerful people enjoy power naps? Leonardo the Vinci, John Kennedy and Winston Churchill in particular were known to take afternoon naps. And why not? Studies have shown power naps can effectively reduce stress as well as improve productivity. It’s a great way to recharge your batteries.
Much like computers, our brains needs to rest and reboot for a few minutes. This will enable us to be more receptive and attentive the rest of the day.
Power Napping Tips
• Ideal time to take naps is between 2Pm to 4PM
• To get most of a power nap, sleep should not be disrupted
• Keep an alarm to wake you after 30 minutes
• If you are not sleepy, don’t force sleep
• Avoid large amounts of caffeine
• Do not feel guilty; it is not a sign of laziness but a great technique to improve your physical and mental health.