The Importance of Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is an effortless technique to create longevity and health. Deep rest during the night helps you fight stress, maintain a healthy weight, and keeps your energy levels high. Timing your sleep is like timing an investment in the stock market – it doesn’t matter how much you invest, it matters when you invest.
The deepest and most regenerative sleep occurs between 10 p.m. – 2 a.m. After 2am, your sleep becomes more superficial. If you are not getting the deep, regenerative sleep that occurs between 10 p.m. – 2 a.m., then you may wake up between 2 a.m. – 3 a.m., when the sleep cycle naturally becomes more superficial, and have trouble falling back to sleep. If your body is chronically deprived of the regenerative sleep between 10 p.m. – 2 a.m., then you may still feel fatigued when you wake up in the morning.
You have an internal clock lodged deep within the brain that regulates your sleep – the pineal gland. The pineal gland receives information about the sun through your eyes via the optic nerve. As the sun sets, the pineal gland is able to sense the change in light transmitted through your eyes and it begins to secrete a hormone, melatonin, to prepare your body for sleep.
Exposure to bright light prevents the secretion of melatonin and darkness promotes it. Typically, within one to two hours after the sunset, you will begin to feel drowsy as the melatonin levels rise. This is the body’s signal to go to sleep. By midnight your melatonin levels have peaked and there is a gradual decline in melatonin levels after midnight.
At 10 p.m., your body goes through a transformation following the rise in melatonin production. This transformational phase of sleep is associated with an increase in the “internal” metabolic activity that is responsible for the repair and restoration of your body. A reduction of your mental and physical activity is necessary for this 10 p.m. shift to occur. If you are still awake, the “second wind” phenomenon occurs at 10 p.m. because there is a rise in mental activity and energy at this time. However, the true value of the “second wind” can only be experienced if you are asleep by 10 p.m.
Scientists are just beginning to discover the antioxidant role of melatonin. Your body produces numerous natural antioxidants that prevent cellular and DNA damage, which ultimately causes disease. One of the powerful nocturnal antioxidants produced is melatonin. As you sleep, your body is removing the effects of free radicals that have been produced by stress throughout the day. This natural, nocturnal clean-up crew maintains physical balance without any effort. All you need to do to benefit from this process is to sleep when your pineal gland sends the melatonin signal.
Typically, if you miss the 10 p.m. bedtime, it will take much longer to fall asleep. The quality of sleep will also be less refreshing and there will still be a sense of fatigue in the morning. Even adjusting your bedtime from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. will make an enormous difference in the quality of your sleep and enhance your feeling of wakefulness the following day. The reason for this is that you are taking advantage of the natural wave of neurochemistry that is already well on its way before 10pm and you get the added support of the metabolic changes that occur at the 10 p.m. mark.
If you are currently falling asleep well past 10 p.m., make it a goal to sleep earlier by 15-30 minutes each week until you hit the 10 p.m. goal. If you are also waking up after 6 a.m., it is important to wake up 15-30 minutes earlier so you feel ready for bed by 10 p.m.
Resources: Kulreet Chaudhary, M.D.
Stay tuned for part 2- coming soon!