Hello friends, and welcome to this month’s Joyinmovement newsletter,
Perhaps it’s because I’m writing to you from Japan where I’ve been spending the holidays, and am finally through my jet lag, that the topic of sleep is on my mind. I like to start the year off with a newsletter whose topic not only affects us all, but is an extremely important element of self-care. I’ve written about the importance of sleep before, but there’s always new research and evidence of the damage too little sleep does to the human body.
Let’s dig in to the basics of why we need all the sleep stages multiple times a night, the damage done if we don’t get them, and foods that help us sleep.
Research shows adults need between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep each night for good health. You might not be surprised to know that when surveyed, one third of Americans don’t get those hours of sleep.
Healthy sleep has 5 stages, and you cycle through them four to five times during a healthy sleep cycle. They are all important and you need to cycle through them enough times each night.
What Are The Five Stages
In stages one and two your brain remains active as it sorts out which memories to store and which to let go of. Our brain has a memory editor! Who knew? During stages three and four you enter into a deeper sleep. It’s during these stages that the physiological cleansing and detoxification of the brain occurs. Your brain actually shrinks by about 60% during this deeper sleep stage. This shrinkage creates more space in between the cells, giving the brain fluids more room to flush out debris. Stage five is when the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep occurs. Now you’re in the dream phase.
While all the stages are important, the deeper sleep phases are especially crucial. If you miss stages three and four your brain ends up full of debris associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep deprivation is a risk factor for dementia.
Health Problems Linked to Insufficient Sleep
When you sleep poorly, here are just some of the health problems you might face:
* Reduced productivity, reduced creativity, impaired memory, and a reduced ability to learn new things
* Decreased immune system
* Increased obesity risk
* Increased osteoporosis
* Premature aging
Over and over again we’re told to unplug for a while before our actual bedtime. This means getting off the computer, dimming lights, avoiding stressful news and TV, and avoiding a big meal before bed.
However, there are some foods called “sleep index foods” that help you sleep well. They calm your nervous system and trigger sleep-inducing hormones.
Tryptophan is an amino acid, which when found in foods makes us sleepy. This amino acid takes about an hour to reach your brain. No, I’m not recommending a big turkey (tryptophan) filled Thanksgiving meal before bedtime. Hummus, lentils, kelp, and bananas have tryptophan, and cherries are a good source of melatonin, another sleep aid.
Carbohydrate foods can also promote better sleep when eaten about fours hours before bed. Jasmine rice, potatoes, carrots, corn, and honey show up high on this list of good sleep foods.
Everyone is different when it comes to what creates a healthy night’s sleep environment. Yet, we all have strikingly similar needs when it comes to making sure our brains, and therefore our whole body, gets a great night’s rest. As we kick off the new year, make your sleep a priority! Do what you need to in order to both feel and function at your best.
Happy new year! May you sleep well, dream big, and find JOY in movement throughout the year.