We have all heard we need 6-8 hours of sleep every day to stay healthy, but why? Why do we need this when we seem to function just fine with less? Or if it is so imperative to our wellbeing then why does it forsake us so often?
I wonder this as I'm lying awake at 3:00 a.m. several mornings a month. It seems like I have never been a 'good' sleeper. My mom says I was always coming into her room looking for comfort because I was awake and afraid. I've witnessed this in my own children and in my grandchildren.
So what gives? Why do we need it if doesn't come easily to many of us?
In many published works on sleep, they state it is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our lives for wellness and longevity. If this is the case then why doesn't sleep come as easily as our need to eat and eliminate? Over the past 20 years or so neuroscience has been gaining more insight from the research they do helping to clarify how sleep plays a central role in our ability to learn, make decisions, keep our emotions in check and our immune system working.
One book that I found very informative is Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker Ph.D. His chapter on Sleep Before Birth explains the maturation of the brain in utero and how the fetus needs REM sleep to develop and connect all the wiring in the brain to the rest of the body. The brain is one of the last organs to be developed before birth. This need for REM sleep continues throughout out our lifespan, however, it begins to decrease at around 6 months of age and stabilizes at 80/20 (NREM, REM) in the late teens into mid-adulthood.
In other words, we need REM sleep because our brain is still developing and making new connections into our mid-adult age!
Once our brain is developed it's equally important to get 8 hours of good sleep to allow us to stay healthy, be creative, be able to problem solve, stay motivated and even keep our morals in tact!
Unfortunately, there isn't a one size fits all for why we don't get good sleep each night, some think we are socialized to devalue sleep, we know if our emotions are elevated that throws us off. Electronics and the light they emit are big culprits.
So what can be done to improve sleep habits?
The first thing is to value it!
People value their cars more than they do their body. You put gas in it when it's running low and take it for regular oil changes but you don't sleep when and for how long you need to or give your body a regular maintenance to keep it running efficiently.
I believe to stay happy and healthy our body and mind need more than a regular full cycle of sleep. When the body and mind are looked at as a whole then all systems work better. Eating regular balanced meals nourishes the body, exercise or some kind of daily movement releases muscle tension build up. Having consistent trusting relationships gives the mind and soul a place to feel safe and reset.
And realize today is the best day to start your future for a good night of sleep!
"Thank You For Allowing Me To Be Apart Of Your Wellness Journey" L~
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