The Architecture of Good Sleep

You might not sit around and think much about your sleep patterns or even the reasons you might need a good night’s sleep. In fact, many people never give sleep much of a thought unless for some reason they are having trouble sleeping. After all, when we cannot get the sleep we need, we can turn into tired, cranky adults for sure. Yes, lack of sleep certainly affects us. In fact, I often hear when a child is having a meltdown that he or she is overly tired. We leave it up to the experts to study the function of sleep and researchers have been at it for years.

There is a lot of information available today concerning the reasons we sleep and what happens while we sleep:

Sleep has various cycles and stages
At the very basics, there is REM and Non-REM(NREM), but there are five stages throughout the whole cycle that occur from the moment we close our eyes and fall asleep until we wake up in the morning. Sleep architecture refers to the cyclical pattern of sleep during the various stages of sleep, including the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Those who are curious about the structure of sleep will appreciate the concept and come to understand just what occurs throughout sleep cycles.

Sleep architecture allows us to look at the various depths of sleep and is represented by a hypnogram, which is a graph. Each evening as you sleep, you usually go through four to five cycles, each lasting from 90 to 120 minutes. During the evening, you will make transition from lighter stages of sleep to deeper stages of sleep, called N1, N2, and N3 sleep. You will also enter REM sleep during the last part of the night.

Changes as you age
Do you know some older adults who seem to get by on as little as five to six hours of sleep per night? Maybe your grandma or grandpa? As we get older, our sleep patterns change and oftentimes we require less sleep. We wish this were the case for our younger days, but studies show that as we age, we simply need less sleep in order to feel refreshed and rejuvenate the body.

Sleep disorders
If you struggle with a sleep disorder, you’re more likely to suffer from lack of sleep and this can affect your mood throughout the day. Disruptions in sleep architecture may occur if you suffer from various disorders, such as narcolepsy, depression, or if you are stopping the use of MAO inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants. Sleep apnea may also lead to an abnormal cycle of sleep. Sleep difficulties are a primary reason men and women see their primary Physician, as no one wants to lie awake at night unable to fall asleep or wake up many times during the night.

Sleep architecture varies among species and is influenced by genetics, age, health, and hygiene. Sleep experts study sleep architecture to help those who may suffer from sleep disorders and to contribute to the general ongoing sleep research.

“For healthy people, there’s a big temptation to voluntarily restrict sleep, to stay up an hour or two or get up an hour or two earlier, but you’re really reducing your productivity and exposing yourself to risk.”

– Dr. Greg Belenky, director of the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University Spokane.

 

ACTION:

Do you require less sleep now than you did ten years ago?

How many hours of sleep would you like to get each night? How can you make that happen?

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