Sleep: The Secret To a Good and Healthy Life!
My pardoned grandfather, also named Mitsaris Costas, every time I would ask him about his noon and night sleep in general, he would tell me that sleep equals longevity. He was always very punctual with his sleep hours, 6-7 hours at night and 1 hour at noon. He died when he was over 90 years old, but most importantly he was very energetic and healthy until his last day on this planet!
For many years I was not paying much attention to sleep, but little by little, it ceased to be just a biological need for me and I began to realize its importance in our lives, because my philosophy is that we should always know what we are doing, why we are doing it and what it offers us.
So let’s start learning a few things about sleep!
Sleep is a normal condition for people with a central nervous system and it is characterized by a decreased perception and limited interaction with the environment, during which the body appears to be under-functioning in terms of its externally observed action.
The state of sleep is not observed exclusively in humans. Many animals (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and some insects) sleep, some less and some more. Thus, sleep is a biological function that concerns almost the entire animal kingdom. There are two different stages of sleep, each having unique characteristics. The first stage of sleep is known as non-REM sleep, during which the brain waves shown on an electroencephalogram (showing the brain activity) are sparse and calm, and it is referred to as deep sleep. During this sleep cycle, the whole body is relaxed, the activity of the cerebral cortex, as well as the heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate decrease. During this period of sleep, the body’s energy usage is reduced by about 20%.
The second phase of sleep is known as REM (Rapid Eye Movements). During this stage of sleep the eyelids tend to tremble, breathing can become rapid and irregular, heart rate and blood pressure can increase sometimes during this stage of sleep. Studies show that the brain is very active during this period and this is the stage of sleep where we dream. More stimulation (noise, etc.) is needed to wake someone up from their REM sleep.
The REM stage of sleep is where your body relies heavily on in order to do most of its internal repair work. This is why it is very important to get the full 6-8 hours of your sleep consistently. As you sleep, your body goes through a definite period of growth and repair during which catabolism and anabolism occur. This means that, biologically, poor sleep management can cancel and derail much of your hard physical work, which is something you don’t want to happen.
Another very important thing is that the first stage of recovery sleep occurs at specific hours of the day, ie from about 10.00 pm and lasts until the first hours of the night, ie 1.00-2.00 am, and the second phase of sleep, which is the reconstruction during which the metabolic rhythm is active and high, occurs in the early morning hours, ie from 3.00 am until 7.00 to 8.00 am. This means that, if your sleep period is not within these hours, then you cannot get all the benefits that a healthy sleep can give you.
For the sake of history, I would like to tell you that people used to sleep shortly after sunset, ie early at night and wake up at dawn, ie at the first light, but of course in modern societies this has changed resulting in a different adaptation.
So what is the amount of sleep that is beneficial for our health – we are always referring to an adult- Scientists say it should range between 6 to 9 hours. This of course depends on the age, since as we are getting older the amount of necessary sleep decreases and this also depends on the physical activity. Research has shown that people who sleep during the above- mentioned time frames have a reduced risk of heart disease or low blood pressure and they have very good health. If, for some reason, our nighttime sleep is not happening within these limits, then it can be replaced by a nap in the middle of the day lasting from 20 minutes to 1 hour. Here, too, scientific research has shown that within these time frames, a midday nap can compensate for a bad night’s sleep but also has general benefits for the human health!
Summarizing, a good sleep means rest which in turn means recovery, and subsequently good health, energy, clarity of mind, creativity and all that lead us to a healthy, quality life and longevity!
Certified Personal Fitness Trainer
Sport&fitness Nutritionist Life Coach
Author “The well-being bible”