Hello and happy almost weekend!
I decided I am going to try to write a weekly health post series for the blog, discussing some science along with WHY its important for your health, so each week (or so I hope!) I will be discussing different issues!
This week I wanted to talk about sleep and how important it is for you to get the right amount of rest, especially to keep up with a busy schedule!
I am guilty of not sleeping enough. Sometimes I fee like I am an energizer bunny that just keeps going and going. The older I have gotten also I realized I can’t function on less sleep like I used to. When I was in undergrad, I used to be able to sleep for 3-4 hours a night, go to lab or class, do my homework and studying, and then go out to hang out with friends, and do it all over again. If I even think about doing that now, I just get tired.
So what’s the deal, and why do we need so much sleep?
When you sleep, it’s your body’s way of resetting your body, processing thoughts and your days actions, and overall just resting. Neurotransmitters control sleep by their actions on various types of neurons in the brain; for example, certain parts of the brain are kept “awake” by serotonin and other neurotransmitters, while other neurons in the brain give the signal to turn off the signals so we can sleep.
There are a few main stages of sleep:
1. Light sleep: Eye movement slows, muscle activity slows. When you are still slightly awake, you can easily be awoken, and this is the period where a lot of times people experience those “falling” feelings, caused by sudden muscle contractions.
2. Stage 2 sleep: eye movements stop, slowing down of brain waves. This is where we spend most of our time sleeping.
3 + 4. Stage 3 and 4 – Deep sleep: during stage 3, there are extremely slow brain waves, mixed with faster waves, and at Stage 4: the brain generates only extremely slow brain waves. This is the Deep sleep phase, and it is really hard to wake someone up, with no muscle movement or activity. This is where you are “paralyzed” in sleep. If you are woken up during deep sleep, usually you feel out of it and groggy. I know this has happened to me before so many times.
5. REM Sleep: eyes start moving fast, breathing increases, limbs are completely paralyzed, heart rate and blood pressure increases, and this is where you have dreams. If you awaken during REM sleep, you remember your dreams almost instantaneously.
A whole cycle of sleep takes about 100 minutes, so you can cycle thru several rounds of sleep. The later in the night and longer you are sleeping, the less time you spend in deep sleep and the more time you spend in REM sleep.
Ever since I started noticing my sleeping patterns and how much “good” sleep I have been getting by using various apps that monitor sleep, I realized when I had a bad stressful day, it equaled to having less quality sleep. The days where I was happy and productive and in a general good mood, I tended to sleep longer and more comfortable. I also realized that when I set my alarm for the same time every day, depending on what time I fell asleep or the quality of my sleep, I might wake up super refreshed and awake, or super groggy and tired, unable to open my eyes. This is because of what cycle of sleep I was in.
My tips for sleep as a grad student, something that is SUPER important and not enough people think about:
1. Make sure you get enough sleep! 7-10 hrs is important. If you are very active, to the level of an athlete, where you are working out a lot like I am, you need more sleep. According to the infographic below, many pro-athletes get 10-12 hrs of sleep. For a grad student, 10-12 hrs may be impossible, but it is important to get at least 7-9 hrs daily. I know I function the best when I get about 8 hrs. The average adult only gets about 5-7 hrs (thats me!).
2. Set a defined bedtime. I know a lot of students that set a bed time for themselves, and it keeps your body on schedule. I haven’t been so great at this, because my schedule changes, and sometimes I get home at 6 pm, sometimes I get home at 9 pm, and on the later nights I want more time to relax and do my thing – which ends up leading me to sleep at 1 am, and waking up at my same usual time, but with less sleep. Setting boundaries for yourself for when you have to sleep can help you stay on track, and have energy to do those experiments and studying!
3. Turn off the electronic gadgets about 30 min before you go to sleep. Read a book! this is something I am trying to implement this year, is to not be on my computer or phone or iPad late at night right before bed. The blue light keeps you awake for longer, and can mess with your brain signals!
4. If you are working out more like I am, you physically need more rest to rebuild your muscles! Ask any health conscious person or trainer, and they will tell you muscles are rebuilt during sleep, where your body can repair and rest. If you are sticking to an exercise plan, treat your body well and sleep more!
5. Take naps! Depending on your body and sleeping schedule, taking short frequent naps can help! for me, naps end up making me more tired, but it has been shown that taking a short nap can increase athletic performance (when you’re running around the lab all day, heck, that’s athleticism right there!)
6. Separate work and sleeping areas. I had to do this. My room became a place of anxious energy when I started affiliating my desk that I recently started using more often with work work work. Keep your rest area a serene, quiet, dark place where your body will know the signals and know, ok, this is where I sleep. If you sit in your bed on your computer doing work, your body will immediately correlate your bed with work and anxiety or stress… so I suggest avoiding doing work on your bed!
And here’s an infographic to look at, sometimes a visual is easier than written words!
What are some tips you have for sleeping better? How many hours of sleep do you get? Does your amount of sleep impact your performance at work, at the gym, etc.?
Let me know in the comments below, I’m interested to hear!
PS. This is not a sponsored post, I have been wanting to write about the importance of sleep, especially since I have been working out a lot and not getting enough of it myself, I can feel myself being more tired than I should be. So I decided to share this infographic with you and share some tips to hopefully help you understand some basic science behind sleep and its importance! I have had issues with sleeping recently when I was traveling and had jet lag for almost 2 weeks! So the struggle is real! Sleep is a great way to reset and clear your mind!