We know that losing your sight is very traumatic and many of our clients tell us that sleeping can be very difficult particularly when you are first diagnosed with sight loss.
Sleep is an essential function that is interconnected with several other mental and physical health conditions. We know that getting a good night’s sleep can make a remarkable difference to your mood and overall well-being.
Sleep is often one of the first things to go when people feel pressed for time. Many view sleep as a luxury and think the benefits of limiting the hours they spend asleep outweigh the costs. We often overlook the potential long term health consequences of insufficient sleep, and the impact that health problems can ultimately have on one’s time and productivity.
Circadian Rhythms linked to our sleep
Circadian rhythm/cycle is a natural internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle taking place throughout the day. In humans, circadian rhythms are the approximate 24-hour patterns the body and brain go through, allowing for changes in the body’s physical and mental states, along with mood and behavioural changes. Humans tend to become tired at night and feel more awake during the day. This 24-hour pattern is what most people refer to when they talk about a circadian rhythm.
Sleep is as important to our health and wellbeing as nutrition and exercise.
Stages of Sleep
The human body goes through stages of sleep when we lay down to rest, and interference with the sleep cycle can cause tiredness and irritability the following day.
Science has discovered two distinct types of sleep, known as:
Non-REM (non-rapid eye movement)
REM (rapid eye movement)
Stage 1: Non-REM sleep accounts for 80% of our sleep. This sleep occurs in the first moments after you have laid down on your pillow and closed your eyes. The eyes move slowly and muscle movement ceases. In this stage, the sleeper can be easily awakened by noise or other disturbances as we drift in and out of sleep.
Stage 2: In this stage of sleep, the person is actually asleep and the sleeper is not aware of their surroundings. Body temperature drops, breathing and heat rate are regular, and eye movements decrease significantly or are non-existent. Brain waves slow down, though there may be bursts of activity.
Stage 3: This is deep sleep, characterised by even slower brain waves and less sporadic bursts of brain activity. Breathing slows and muscles relax. Sleepers are hard to awaken during this stage.
Stage 4: This is the deepest sleep and is characterised by very slow brain waves and no sporadic bursts of brain activity. As with Stage 3 of non-REM sleep, sleepers are hard to wake up. Scientists believe tissues repair takes place during this stage of sleep. Also hormones will be released to assist with growth and development.
Once the sleeper reaches stage 4 (about an hour after sleep begins), they then travel back up through stages 3, 2 and 1. When stage 1 is reached for the second time, REM sleep begins and the sleeper engages in about 10 minutes of dreaming.
Stage 5: The REM stage is the sleep during which we dream. It is characterised by rapid eye movement even though the eyes are closed. Breathing is rapid, irregular and shallow.
What Happens in the Body
The heart rate and blood pressure increase.
Arms and legs experience a type of paralysis that keeps us from acting out their dreams. Some may walk or talk during REM sleep. The process of dreaming is not fully understood but we know the process does stimulate the parts of the brain used for learning and memory.
Some studies suggest that dreams are a way for the b rain to sort and store information gathered through out the day like a filing cabinet. This last cycle of the stages of sleep occurs about an hour to 90 minutes into the sleep session. Sleep cycles through all the stages until the sleeper awakes. The length of time of each cycle changes thorough out the night.
Lack of REM sleep appears to affect our ability to concentrate and remember. This indicates that REM sleep is vital for our survival.
Our two main sleep brain hormones are:
Serotonin, which is produced during the day (also produced in our gut).
Melatonin, which is produced at night.
If you are living a balanced life in the day and sleep well at night, then your brain hormones are well balanced.
What does Serotonin do?
Serotonin is a chemical nerve produced by cells. It’s main goal is to send the signals between our nerve cells. Considered a natural mood stabiliser, serotonin plays a critical role in regulating our sleep, digestion and maintaining bon e health.
Serotonin is secreted in the central nervous system. The lack of serotonin causes many negative symptoms to appear such as anxiety, irritability and insomnia.
Serotonin is the main “happy hormone” in our brain, that is necessary for brain health.
If we sleep well, serotonin levels stay normal.
What does Melatonin do?
Melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland in the anterior pituitary. It has multiple purposes, being associated primarily with:
- Synchronisation of the biological clock.
- As an antioxidant.
- It increases lifespan.
- It increases killer T cells of the immune system.
How Much Sleep do we need?
For good health we need at least 6 hours of Non-REM (80% of sleep) sleep and 1 full hour of REM sleep.
REM sleep occurs 2-6 times a night and lasts 3-10 minutes.
REM sleep is necessary for brain processing activity.
We are all unique, women need a little more sleep than men.
Insomnia is not good Wellbeing
17 hours of continuous sleeplessness leads to a decrease in performance that is equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 2 glasses of wine.
Sleep loss may increase the risk of obesity because chemicals and hormones that play a key role in controlling appetite and weight gain are released during sleep.
Sleep deprivation can lead to;
- Chronic tiredness.
- Mood changes.
- Difficulty controlling emotions.
- Inability to think abstractly.
All of these release stress hormones in our body.
How much sleep do we need?
In order to be at our peak performance we need 8 hours sleep at least. Not everyone needs the same amount as some of us are natural short or long sleepers but, sleeping less than 6.5 or more than 9 hours is associated with greater risk of disease.
Risks can include:
- Increased risk of stroke
- Obesity due to increase in ghrelin which is our hunger hormone.
- Diabetes in increased because sleep deprivation increase insulin resistance.
- Immune conditions including cancers.
- Memory loss.
- Cardiac disease.
Benefits of Good Sleep
- Sleep keeps our heart healthy if we sleep for 7-9 hours each night.
- Shift workers have to be very mindful of selfcare.
- Light exposure reduces the level of melatonin the hormone that makes us sleepy and acts as an antioxidant.
- Melatonin protects our immune system.
- Good sleep reduces inflammation in our bodies.
- A good night’s sleep makes us energised.
- When we sleep well, we have better energy for the whole day.
- Sleep also boosters our memory.
- In studies people who have slept well performed better in a range of tests.
- Sleep also helps us to recover more effectively after an emotional or traumatic even.
Sleeps helps with:
- Reducing risks of weight gain.
- Reducing risks of depression due reduced serotonin production.
- Sleep helps the body to repair its self-improving life span, memory, happiness and energy.
Sleep Hygiene (efficiency)
- Set a sleep schedule that works for you and stick to it.
- Paying attention to sleep hygiene is one of the most straightforward ways that you can set yourself up for better sleep.
- Strong sleep hygiene means having both a calm bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep.
- Keeping a stable sleep schedule, making your bedroom comfortable and free of disruptions, following a relaxing pre-bed routine, and building healthy habits during the day can all contribute to ideal sleep hygiene.
- Good sleep is important for mental and physical health. Note: if you have any pain issues talk to your doctor managing pain is important for good quality sleep.
- If you can’t sleep, instead of tossing and turning after 30 minutes, get up, leave the bedroom, do something relaxing and return to bed.
- Avoid caffeine from about 4pm consider trying decaffeinated drinks instead.
- Don’t drink alcohol within 4 hours of going to bed, it causes disruption of deep REM sleep.
- Don’t take long day time naps a short 10-minute nap can help to rest the body if needed.
- Don’t exercise close to bedtime.
- Sleep inducing foods containing tryptophan help sleep converting them into serotonin and melatonin i.e., milk, bananas, turkey and leafy green vegetables.
Foods that keep you awake?
- Heavy spicy foods – chilli and curries.
- Drinks including tea, coffee, chocolate and cola.
- Food’s high in sugar and fat.
- Foods that contain high level of MSG monosodium glutamate.
- Smoked meats.
- Soy products.