This is the secret to better sleep
If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, it might be time to get your heart pumping more during the day.
The amount of time it takes to fall asleep at night is called "sleep onset latency." According to The National Sleep Foundation, it should take an average of 10 to 20 minutes to transition from being fully awake to the lightest stage of sleep.
Everyone intermittently struggles with sleep, but if you regularly experience difficulty falling asleep, you may have insomnia, which can lead to low energy levels, fatigue, irritable and unpredictable moods, difficulty concentrating, and poor performance in school or at work.
If you are able to fall asleep easily but struggle with waking up multiple times through the night, or feel like you never achieve a restful sleep, you could be suffering from another sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a common and potentially serious sleeping disorder that causes breathing to repeatedly stop for more than ten seconds at a time before starting again.
The science of sleep
Sleep is a critical component to health. It allows our bodies to rest, restore cells, and help ward off illness. The amount of recommended sleep varies by age and also by person. The National Sleep Foundation suggests adults ages 18-64 should sleep for an average of 7-9 hours per night, while adults 65 and over should try for an average of 7-8 hours of sleep.
Sleep is dependent upon chemicals in our bodies called neurotransmitters, which send signals to our brains and control whether we're awake or asleep. Our bodies' chemicals, hormones, neurons, and neurotransmitters all factor into our natural sleep/wake cycle, known as circadian rhythm.
There are five stages of sleep. Stages 1-4 compose non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep, and the fifth stage is rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Stage 1 is the lightest stage of sleep, stage 2 is slightly deeper, and stages 3-4 are classified as "slow wave sleep," which is critical for your body to recover from the day and get the rest it needs. Stage 5 (REM sleep) is associated with dreaming.
Common tips to promote better sleep include limiting screen time and lights prior to going to bed and avoiding caffeine and heavy meals late in the day. One of the recommendations less frequently discussed for improving sleep is increasing exercise.
The World Health Organization reports 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week can help people sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day. An acceptable substitute would be 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity between 75-150 minutes per week.
A total of 150 minutes can seem daunting, but if you break it down, it is achievable. Taking a couple ten-minute breaks from your day for moderate physical activity, like walking, is one way you can achieve your week-long goal of 150 minutes, and it could dramatically improve your nighttime sleep, especially if done on a regular basis.
Incorporating regular exercise into your routine increases the amount of slow wave sleep (stages 3-4), which allows your body to better recuperate and reenergize. Frequent exercise also has been shown to cut down on the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep, allowing you to clock longer hours resting and less time tossing and turning.
If you have been struggling with sleep, Reid Health can help. Take an online quiz to find out if you're at risk for sleep apnea, or you can schedule an appointment at Reid Health's Sleep Disorders Center. If a sleeping disorder is suspected, we offer a state-of-the-art sleep laboratory where patients spend the night in a designated sleep room. Breathing patterns, brain activity, heart rhythms, oxygen levels, and muscle activity are monitored, and the results provide comprehensive insight into each person's sleep health.
Request an appointment with the Sleep Disorders Center online or call (765) 983-7966 to schedule an appointment today.