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Sleep and Why You Need Your ZZZ's

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 3 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Sleep Insomnia Sleep Cycles Rem Stress

The healthy sleep cycle consists of five stages. Stages I-IV consist of non rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) or orthodox sleep. Their function is to restore the bodymind after wakefulness. During these stages your metabolism slows down and muscles relax.

  • Stage I usually lasts between five minutes or less. This stage marks the transition between wakefulness and sleep and often involves flashes of images remembered from during the daytime. The brains electrical activity slows down to beta waves.

  • Stage II is a deeper level of sleep; breathing and heart rate are slower. During this stage, EEG rates show beta waves punctuated with periods of fast alpha waves. 50% of each night's sleep is in stage II.

  • Stages III and IV are the deepest levels of sleep and here we find the slowest brain waves. During stage III theta and delta waves are present, during stage IV only delta. Stage II begins after about thirty minutes.

  • In Stage V the body and the brain become active, heart and metabolism increase and the eyes shift (REM). The EEG state that this stage is much the same as during waking moments, manifesting many fast beta rhythms. REM sleep lasts between 10-25 minutes becoming progressively longer.About 25% of adult sleep is in REM, often a higher percentage in children. During REM sleep memory is consolidated problems are solved, data processing manifests as dreaming.

Most people know what their usual sleep requirement is (the range is five to 10 hours per night; the average being seven to eight), but a surprisingly large percentage of the population is chronically sleep deprived. While sleeping is important, too much sleep can throw off your bodymind rhythms the following day. Napping during the day can be helpful if you've been unable to sleep at night. Power naps (ranging from five to twenty minutes) can be very valuable if they are timed properly. If you have been suffering from insomnia for some time then daytime napping will only make it more difficult for you to get to sleep at night.

Why You Need Sleep

Believe it or not, sleep is a big deal. If you don't get enough it can affect your physical health, your emotional well-being and you mental abilities. When you've been at work all day, done your chores, run around with your kids or your friends, your body and your brain needs a rest. No one is exactly sure what work the brain does when you're asleep, but some scientists think that sleep is the time when the brain sorts through and stores information, replaces chemicals, and solves problems. When your body doesn't have enough hours to rest, you may feel tired or cranky, or be unable to think clearly. Tasks that you usually find simple may be a real chore. So you see, sleep is important, not only to help your body recover from your daily activities.

Not everyone finds it easy to get a good night's sleep. There are 83 different types of sleep disorders including insomnia and in our fast paced world, more and more people suffer from them today than ever before. But what kinds of things can cause insomnia? The number one cause of insomnia for both adults and teens is stress. Worrying about work, family, money, or your health can all lead to a build up of stress which can, in turn cause insomnia. Other causes include stomach ache, snoring and sleepwalking.

So what can you do when you are having trouble sleeping? If you are having trouble nodding off you may be suffering from insomnia. If something is troubling you, talk to someone about it. If your mind is at rest then you'll have no problem falling asleep at night. If you keep waking during the night and counting sheep really isn't working for you then you could try deep breathing or meditation. A warm milky drink before bed often helps you feel drowsy and learning some muscle relaxation techniques could also be helpful.

If you're sleepy and sluggish it's tough to look and feel your best so it's important to maintain a healthy sleep routine and remember to get enough ZZZs.

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