I think we should have a little pillow talk. The curtains have been drawn and the lights have been cut down low.
(Patting the fluffy pillow next to me with my hand while speaking)
Do you have a hard time falling asleep?
Maybe you can fall asleep, but you wake up all night long and then you feel exhausted in the morning. Is that you?
No, I can’t lay down on the pillow next to you because…I’ll tell you why in a minute.
First, let me help you understand something about sleeping.
What Is The Circadian Rhythm?
The word “circadian” always makes me think of Cicadas. Yeah, that ugly bug! However, circadian rhythm does not refer to a bug. A circadian rhythm is our 24 hour body clock cycle and it controls our biological processes. Things like when we are sleeping, feel awake, our hormones and even our digestion. The circadian rhythm is triggered by the changing from day to night (light to darkness) and vice versa. Circadian rhythms are broken down into three stages: wakefulness, REM and Non-REM sleep.
What Is REM Sleep?
REM sleep, which is an abbreviation for Rapid Eye Movement Sleep, is the cycle of sleep when the eyes move from side to side very quickly. So many things happen during REM and NREM (Non-REM Sleep).
While we sleep, we drift through REM and NREM sleep every 90-110 minutes which means we experience 4-6 cycles per night. REM sleep takes place about 25 percent of the night while 75 percent is NREM sleep.
One thing that happens during REM sleep is intense dreaming. Another activity that occurs during REM sleep is that our brain acts like a computer going through all the experiences of the day, saving some, discarding others and processing the rest. That’s why if you go to sleep thinking about a problem, you will often wake up with the solution. While you were in REM sleep, your brain worked on the problem for you.
As a side note about REM sleep – Heart rate increases during REM sleep, so people who have cardiopulmonary disease are more likely to die during this time than other time of the day. Isn’t that surprising?!
The rest of the sleep is dedicated to NREM sleep. During this time, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, bones, muscles and the immune system.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is being awake when you desperately want to be asleep. Your mind races with a billion thoughts and it becomes impossible to sleep. As people age, not only are their sleep cycles shorter, but they also suffer with insomnia. Excessive worry, physical health, age and gender play a part in insomnia. Most people with insomnia have a history of depression or are women who worry. Isn’t that interesting? Also, insomnia if not due to depression or worry is often associated with a undiagnosed disease or underlying health condition. So just don’t assume your inability to sleep is due to worry and stress. Schedule an appointment with the doctor to make sure there isn’t something you are missing.
11 Ways To Improve & Get More Sleep
So we are all aging and maybe waking up several times a night is really starting to aggravate you. Let me give you some suggestions of how you can increase the number of hours you sleep and get more quality sleep.
- Turn off all those electronic devices that have lights or flash lights. Melatonin makes you sleepy and light suppresses the production of melatonin! For instance, my old cell phone used to flash all night and it drove me crazy! I started turning it upside down and covering it with a t-shirt. Problem solved!
- Blue light exposure for thirty minutes during the day has been shown to help cognitive performance for elderly people. However, blue light at night like the numbers on my alarm clock, are the worst color for encouraging sleep because it suppresses melatonin the most! That’s why my alarm clock is hidden from sight while I sleep.
- Take the television out of the bedroom. Not only does it emit blue light, but it is terrible for your sex life.
- That brings me to the next tip which is only use the bed for sleeping and sex. If you work, pay bills, write lists or a million other tasks while in bed, the brain is apt to start relating “the bed” with stress and stress causes insomnia. By the way, when I said to only use the bed for sleeping and sex, I didn’t mean that you should only have sex in the bed. You know what I mean? Okay, I won’t go there. Just use your imagination.
- Eliminate everything that isn’t necessary in the bedroom. Clutter all over the place is distracting and hampers sleep.
- Have a regular bedtime and get up the same time each day. Up to this point, I was doing fantastic, but I fail at this one miserably. A regular schedule helps your body to run more smoothly because it gets in a great cycle of wakefulness and rest.
- The temperature is important. Most people sleep best when the temperature is between 62-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If you are anxious, upset or feeling out of control, sleep under heavy blankets. The weight of the blanket provides pressure like a hug which helps us to feel relaxed, safe and secure.
- Ensure that your mattress is comfortable – not too hard, not too soft, but just right.
- Exercise is fantastic for helping to have a great night of restful sleep. If you have insomnia, however, make sure you exercise at least five hours before bedtime.
- Talking about exercise…although it hasn’t been proven, sex is believed to aid in obtaining a night of sound sleep. Some people fall asleep immediately after a wild romp. 😉 Since the last hour before waking is usually REM sleep, having “half awake sex” is a great way to wake up. Okay, I’ll hush about sex now because half of you are probably blushing.
Remember that I suggested you lay down on the pillow next to me, but I wouldn’t lay down? There is a very good reason. When I go to bed at night or on Sunday afternoon for a nap, I know that I will sleep like a log. Half the time, I fall asleep before I feel the pillow touch my cheek and the rest of the time I am completely asleep in ten seconds. I sleep through any and everything – hurricanes, tornadoes, the phone ringing and the alarms going off. Crazy, huh? So if I had put my head on the pillow next to you, I wouldn’t have been able to write this post! Does anyone else sleep as soundly as me?