Sleep is one of the most powerful, effective and cheapest anti aging tools you have at your disposal.
How much and how well you sleep has a tremendous impact on how you approach life.
How much fun you have. How you react to all the little irritations that happen in a day, to all the demands life throws at you.
Without sleep, you literally start to die and increase your risk of viral infections, weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, mental illness, and mortality.
So don’t treat sleep as an afterthought. You will miss out on this essential recovery process and fast forward aging. In short, sleep aids in:
There are five phases of sleep you cycle through during the night. Each complete cycle takes between 90 and 110 minutes.
Deep sleep phases dominate during the earlier part of the night and REM sleep lengthens with each cycle until it dominates in the early hours of the morning. A late night could interfere with the amount of deep sleep you get and change the ratio between deep sleep and REM sleep cycles. Deep sleep benefits the body by helping you to recover physically and REM sleep helps you recover mentally. Going to bed too late could result in you feeling reasonably refreshed mentally, but still tired physically.
The amount of time you spend in each of these sleep phases is not only life style related, but tends to decrease with age and affects your body’s ability to recover.
This is what happens during each phase of sleep.
In this early phase your body and brain go through some dramatic changes in preparation for sleep. The brain first puts you in a light sleep, and you start drifting off slowly. In this stage you can still be woken quite easily.
Your body releases melatonin, a hormone to help induce sleepiness. Your body temperature drops, your muscles relax, your breathing and heart rate start to slow down. Now the brain also slows down and brain waves change from active alpha waves to calmer theta waves. This makes you drowsy and during this stage many people experience twitches.
Tip: Try to slow down and relax about an hour before bedtime. This helps the brain move into the theta wave phase more easily and effectively taking you into a sleep mode.
The body enters deeper into sleep and brain activity slows down even further. This stage lasts about 15–20 minutes. Now organs such as the heart and lungs slow down noticeably and your body moves into a subconscious state. Phase Two takes up a lot of sleep time.
Now the body moves into a phase called Slow Wave Sleep or the delta wave stage, as the brain relaxes and slows down even further. During this stage it becomes difficult to wake a sleeping person as they have already fallen into a really deep sleep.
This is a continuation of Phase Three in which the brain moves even deeper into Slow Wave Sleep and activity is at its most reduced.
Phases Three and Four (Slow Wave Sleep) are critical to repair and renewal as it is in these stages that masses of anti-ageing Human Growth Hormone (HGH) are released in the body.
Slow Wave Sleep floods the body with this anti aging hormone so that it has the building blocks to repair and rebuild itself while you rest – this is when your body switches on it’s own natural anti aging mechanism. HGH is a major growth and repair hormone and can turn back the clock by helping you build and retain muscle, slash fat, and increase libido, plus increasing energy levels significantly. Not to mention giving you thicker and plumper skin with less wrinkling and sagging by replenishing collagen levels and encouraging skin cell regeneration. Some have called it the fountain of youth so let’s make the most of it.
It is also the stage where the body’s immune system repairs itself. If you are an athlete or physically very active, slow wave sleep helps you recover.
REM sleep starts right after Phase Four and this phase is where you dream. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement sleep. Your breathing becomes irregular. Your muscles can become temporarily paralysed – commonly known as ‘sleep paralysis’.
This phase starts about an hour to 90 minutes after falling asleep and initially lasts for about 10–25 minutes. During REM sleep, brain activity suddenly fires up again and heart rate and blood pressure change and go up. During this stage, your brain processes and reorganises information, clears out the rubbish, consolidates your memory and facilitates learning and neural growth.
When all five stages of sleep are completed, the whole cycle starts all over again from Phase One for a total of four to five of these cycles progressively during the night.
Human Growth Hormone is released during deep sleep only. During this phase, your body heals itself, and makes you look younger.
In the next blog post, I will discuss how to optimize these sleep cycles and get the restful, restorative sleep essential for staying younger.