Relaxation & Sleep

The Benefits of Sleep

Benefits of Sleep

Sleep is the natural state of bodily rest. When you sleep, your body rests and restores its energy levels. Consistently good sleep helps you cope with stress, solve problems and recover from illness, and helps ensure long-term physical and mental well-being.

Although scientists are still trying to learn exactly why people need sleep, animal studies show that sleep is necessary for survival. For example, while rats normally live for two to three years, those deprived of REM sleep survive only about 5 weeks on average, and rats deprived of all sleep stages live only about 3 weeks. Sleep-deprived rats also develop abnormally low body temperatures and sores on their tail and paws. The sores may develop because the rats' immune systems become impaired. Other studies suggest that sleep deprivation affects the immune system in detrimental ways.

Sleep appears necessary for your nervous system to work properly. Too little sleep leaves you drowsy and unable to concentrate the next day. It also leads to impaired memory and physical performance and reduced ability to carry out math calculations. If sleep deprivation continues, hallucinations and mood swings may develop. Some researchers believe sleep gives neurons used while you are awake a chance to shut down and repair themselves. Without sleep, neurons may become so depleted in energy or so polluted with byproducts of normal cellular activities that they begin to malfunction. Sleep also may give the brain a chance to exercise important neuronal connections that might otherwise deteriorate from lack of activity. One study found that REM sleep affects learning of certain mental skills. People taught a skill and then deprived of non-REM sleep could recall what they had learned after sleeping, while people deprived of REM sleep could not.

Deep sleep also coincides with the release of growth hormone in children and young adults. Many of the body's cells also show increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins during deep sleep. Since proteins are the building blocks needed for cell growth and for repair of damage from factors like stress and ultraviolet rays, deep sleep may truly be "beauty sleep." Activity in parts of the brain that control emotions, decision-making processes, and social interactions is drastically reduced during deep sleep, suggesting that this type of sleep may help people maintain optimal emotional and social functioning while they are awake. A study in rats also showed that certain nerve-signaling patterns which the rats generated during the day were repeated during deep sleep. This pattern repetition may help encode memories and improve learning.

Your Sleep Physiology
Sleep is the natural state of bodily rest. When you sleep, your body rests and restores its energy levels. Consistently good sleep helps you cope with stress, solve problems and recover from illness, and helps ensure long-term physical and mental well-being
.

Circadian rhythms are regular changes in mental and physical characteristics that occur in the course of a day (circadian is Latin for "around a day"). Most circadian rhythms are controlled by the body's biological "clock." This clock, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus or SCN (see above figure), is actually a pair of pinhead-sized brain structures that together contain about 20,000 neurons. The SCN rests in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, just above the point where the optic nerves cross. Light that reaches photoreceptors in the retina (a tissue at the back of the eye) creates signals that travel along the optic nerve to the SCN.

Signals from the SCN travel to several brain regions, including the pineal gland, which responds to light-induced signals by switching off production of the hormone melatonin. The body's level of melatonin normally increases after darkness falls, making people feel drowsy. The SCN also governs functions that are synchronized with the sleep / wake cycle, including body temperature, hormone secretion, urine production, and changes in blood pressure.

Nerve-signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters control whether you are asleep or awake by acting on different groups of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain. Neurons in the brainstem, which connects the brain with the spinal cord, produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine that keep parts of the brain active while you are awake. Other neurons at the base of the brain begin signaling when you fall asleep. These neurons appear to "switch off" the signals that keep you awake. Research also suggests that a chemical called adenosine builds up in your blood while you are awake and causes drowsiness. This chemical gradually breaks down while you sleep.

Sleep Cycle


During sleep, you usually pass through five phases of sleep: stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. These stages progress in a cycle from stage 1 to REM sleep, then the cycle starts over again with stage 1.
You spend almost 50 percent of your total sleep time in stage 2 sleep, about 20 percent in REM sleep, and the remaining 30 percent in the other stages. Infants, by contrast, spend about half of their sleep time in REM sleep.

Sleep Readings

Stage 1: This is light sleep where you can be easily awakened. Polysomnography (sleep readings) indicate a reduction in brain activity between wakefulenss and stage 1 sleep. Your eyes move very slowly and muscle activity slows. You might experience sudden muscle contractions (hypnic myoclonia) preceded by a sensation of falling. These sudden movements are similar to the "jump" you make when startled. Stage 1 lasts for 5 to 10 minutes.

Stage 2: This is a period of light sleep during which brain waves show intermittent peaks and valleys. This indicates spontaneous periods of muscle contraction mixed with periods of muscle relaxation. Your eye movements stop, heart rate slows, and body temperature decreases. The body is preparing to enter deep sleep.

Stage 3: This is a period of deep sleep when extremely slow brain waves called delta begin to appear, interspersed with smaller, faster waves.

Stage 4: This is a period of deeper sleep than stage 3 sleep when your brain produces delta waves almost exclusively. During stage 3 and 4 sleep, there is no eye movement or muscle activity. If aroused from sleep during these stages, you will feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes. During stages 3 and 4, your body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, and appears to strengthen the immune system. As you get older, you sleep more lightly and spend less time in these deep sleep stages.

Stage 5 (REM): When you enter REM sleep, your breathing becomes more rapid, irregular, and shallow, your eyes jerk rapidly in various directions, and your limb muscles become temporarily paralyzed. Your heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, and males develop penile erections. When awakened during REM sleep, you might recall bizarre dreams. Brain wave pattens during REM are similar to those recorded during wakefulness. REM sleep occurs about 70 to 90 minutes after the onset of sleep. The first period of REM lasts about 10 minutes with each recurring REM stage lengthening until the final period might last up to an hour.

Time spent in each stage varies as the night progresses. By morning, you will spend most of your sleep time in stages 1, 2, and REM.

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Sleepy Woman

Sleep is just as important for long-term health as diet and exercise. If you feel drowsy during the day, even during boring activities, then you are not getting enough sleep. The amount of sleep you need depends on many factors including age.

  • Infants require about 16 hours a day
  • Teenagers need about 9 hours on average
  • Most adults need 7 to 8 hours a night for the best amount of sleep, although some people may need as few as 5 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day
  • Women in the first 3 months of pregnancy often need several more hours of sleep than usual

People tend to sleep more lightly and for shorter time spans as they get older, although they generally need about the same amount of sleep as they needed in early adulthood. About half of all people over 65 have frequent sleeping problems, such as insomnia, and deep sleep stages in many elderly people often become very short or stop completely. This change may be a normal part of aging, or it may result from medical problems that are common in elderly people and from the medications and other treatments for those problems.

The amount of sleep you need increases if you have been deprived of sleep in previous days. Getting too little sleep creates a "sleep debt," which is much like being overdrawn at a bank. Eventually, your body demands that the debt be repaid. You don't adapt to getting less sleep than you need. While you may get used to a sleep-depriving schedule, your judgment, reaction time, and other functions will be impaired. In the short term, sleep deprivation causes:

  • Decreased Performance and Alertness - Sleep deprivation induces significant reductions in performance and alertness. Reducing your nighttime sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just one night could result in a reduction of daytime alertness by as much as 32%. The 2005 Sleep in America survey found that 28% of working adults said they had missed work, events and activities, or made errors at work because of sleep-related issues in the previous three months.
  • Memory and Cognitive Impairment - Decreased alertness and excessive daytime sleepiness impair your memory and your cognitive ability (your ability to think and process information).
  • Stress Relationships - Disruption of a bed partner's sleep due to a sleep disorder may cause significant problems for the relationship (for example, separate bedrooms, conflicts, moodiness, etc.). Nearly 8 in 10 married couples say their partner has a sleep problem, like snoring, insomnia, or incessant tossing and turning. A quarter say sleep difficulties force their mate into separate sleeping quarters. About 20% say that they have sex less often or have lost interest in sex because they're too sleepy for sex.
  • Poor Quality of Life - You might be unable to participate in certain activities that require sustained attention, like going to the movies, seeing your child in a school play, or watching a favorite TV show.
  • Occupational Injury - Excessive sleepiness also contributes to a greater than twofold higher risk of sustaining an occupational injury.
  • Automobile Injury - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates conservatively that each year drowsy driving is responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities.

Long term sleep deprivation is associated with serious illnesses: high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, obesity, depression, mood disorders, attention deficit disorder (ADD), mental impairment, and fetal and childhood growth retardation. Studies show an increased mortality risk for those reporting less than six hours per night. One study found that reduced sleep time is a greater mortality risk than smoking, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Sleep disturbance is also one of the leading predictors of institutionalization in the elderly, and severe insomnia triples the mortality risk in elderly men.

Understanding Sleep Problems
At least 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders each year, and an additional 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems. Since people don't often talk to their doctors about sleep problems or assume it's normal to feel sleepy and doctors don't ask, sleep disorders are severely under-diagnosed and under-treated.

Sleepy Woman

There are nearly 100 identified sleep/wake disorders. If you have trouble getting to sleep or sleeping through the night, if you wake up too early or have a hard time waking up at all, or if you are overly tired during the day, you may have one of the following sleep problems:

Hypersomnia - This is sleep deprivation, or excessive daytime sleepiness due to voluntary sleep deprivation done for social or economic reasons - like work or surfing the Internet. Currently people get about 20% less sleep than previous generations.

Circadian Rhythm Disorder - Abnormalities related to your internal clock are called circadian rhythm disorders. These include jet lag, adjustments to shift work, delayed sleep phase syndrome (you fall asleep and wake up too late), and advanced sleep phase syndrome (you fall asleep and wake up too early).

Insomnia - People who have insomnia don't feel as if they get enough sleep at night. They may have trouble falling asleep or may wake up frequently during the night or early in the morning. Insomnia is a problem if it affects your daytime activities. Insomnia has many possible causes, including stress, anxiety, depression, poor sleep habits, circadian rhythm disorders (such as jet lag), and taking certain medications. About 60 million Americans a year have insomnia frequently or for extended periods of time, which leads to even more serious sleep deficits. Insomnia tends to increase with age and affects about 40 percent of women and 30 percent of men. It is often the major disabling symptom of an underlying medical disorder.

Snoring - 45% of the U.S. population snores to some degree. The noise is produced when the air you inhale rattles over the relaxed tissues of the throat. Snoring can be a problem simply because of the noise it causes. It may also be a indication of a more serious sleep problem called sleep apnea. Up to 50% of snorers have sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea - Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway becomes completely or partially blocked, interrupting regular breathing for short periods of time - which then wakes you up. It can cause severe daytime sleepiness. Evidence is building that, left untreated, severe sleep apnea may be associated with high blood pressure and the risk of stroke and heart attack. A rare form of sleep apnea called central sleep apanea occurs when signals from your brain to your muscles decrease or stop for a short time. Sleep apnea is more common among older people. It affects an estimated 20 million Americans - 24% of adult men and 9% of adult women. Only a fraction have been diagnosed and treated.

Pregnancy and Sleep - Women often experience sleepless nights and daytime fatigue in the first and third trimesters of their pregnancy due to changing hormone levels and uncomfortable abdomen size. During the first trimester, frequent trips to the bathroom and morning sickness may disrupt sleep. Later in pregnancy, vivid dreams and physical discomfort may prevent deep sleep. After delivery, the new baby's care or the mother's postpartum depression may interrupt sleep.

Narcolepsy - Narcolepsy is a brain disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness. There is a definite genetic component, but most patients have no family history of the problem. Though dramatic and uncontrolled "sleep attacks" have been the best-known feature of narcolepsy, in reality many patients do not have sleep attacks. Instead, they experience constant sleepiness during the day. Narcolepsy affects an estimated 250,000 Americans.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) - In people who have RLS, discomfort in the legs and feet peaks during the evening and night. They feel an urge to move their legs and feet to get temporary relief, often with excessive, rhythmic, or cyclic leg movements during sleep. This can delay sleep onset and cause brief awakening during sleep. RLS is a common problem among middle-aged and older adults. There are many possible causes including kidney failure, nerve disorders, vitamin and iron deficiencies, pregnancy, and some medications (such as antidepressants). About 50% of those who have RLS have relatives with the same condition. About 12 million Americans are affected by RLS.

Nightmares - Nightmares are frightening dreams that arise during REM sleep. They can be caused by stress, anxiety, and some drugs. Often, there is no clear cause.

Night Terrors and Sleepwalking - Both night terrors and sleepwalking arise during NREM sleep and occur most often in children between the ages of 3 and 5. A night terror can be dramatic: Your child may wake up screaming, but unable to explain the fear. Sometimes children who have night terrors remember a frightening image, but often they remember nothing. Night terrors are often more frightening for parents than for their child. Sleepwalkers can perform a range of activities -- some potentially dangerous, like leaving the house - while they continue to sleep.

Lifestyle also effects the quality of your sleep. People who drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, or drink alcohol are more likely to have sleep problems than people who do not. Caffeinated drinks and drugs like diet pills and decongestants stimuate some parts of the brain and cause insomnia. Anti-depressants suppress REM sleep. Heavy smokers often sleep very lightly and have reduced amounts of REM sleep. They often wake up after 3 or 4 hours of sleep due to nicotine withdrawal. While alcohol does help people sleep, it also robs them of REM and the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep. Abnormally hot or cold temperatures can also disrupt REM sleep during which you lose some ability to regulate body temperature.

Heart failure and lung problems cause some people to become breathless when they lie down; thus, causing sleep problems.

Special Considerations with Aging
As you get older, several factors may contribute to your inability to sleep well:

Medical illness - Certain chronic medical conditions are common in older people. Some of these conditions, including heart failure, arthritis, heartburn, menopause and Alzheimer's disease, can affect sleep. These conditions can make it hard to fall sleep or may cause the person to awaken frequently, ultimately affecting duration and the quality of sleep.

Medications - Some medications may impair a person's ability to fall asleep or stay asleep and may even stimulate wakefulness at night.

Psychological distress or psychiatric disorders - Old age is characterized by many life-events, some positive and some negative. For example, life changes such as the death of a loved one, moving from a family home, or physical limitations due to illness can cause significant stress and sleep difficulties.

Sleep disorders - Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and periodic limb movement disorder may be associated with aging in some cases.

Retirement - Retirement often leads to a lot of downtime with less daytime activity and more daytime napping; this can lead to an irregular sleep-wake schedule and chronic sleep problems.

Western Medicine
Western medicine relies on treatment ranging from bright-light therapy (for Circadian Rhythm Disorders), costly prescription drugs (for Hypersomnia, Insomnia, Restless Legs Syndrome, Narcolepsy, Circadian Rhythm Disorders), and surgery (for Sleep Apnea and Snoring).

Sleeping Pills

Commonly prescribed medications are Alpha2 Agonists (Catapres), Anticonvulsants (Gabapentin, Neurontin), Antidepressants (Anafranil, Desyrel, Prozac, Trazodone, Tofranil), Benzodiazepines (Clonazepam, Halcion, Klonopin, Restoril, Xanax), Carbidopa, Dopamine Agonists (Mirapex, Parlodel, Permax, Requip), Dopaminergic Agents (Pergolide, Sinemet), GABA Agonists (Baciofen, Lioresal), Levodopa, Mirapex, Modafinil, Nonbenzodiazepine Hypnotics (Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata), Opiates (Darvon, Vicodin), Rozerem, Stimulants (Provigil, Ritalin), Sonata, and Xyrem.

The combined COMMON side effects of these drugs include back pain, bed wetting, blurred vision, clumsiness or unsteadiness, coated tongue, confusion, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, double vision, drowsiness, drugged feeling, dry mouth, excessive daytime drowsiness, fatigue, feeling of a whirling motion, frequent urination at night, headache, increased saliva (spit), increased sweating, irritability, lightheadedness, loss of appetite, nausea, nightmares, nose irritation, runny nose, sleeplessness, sluggishness, stomach upset, sweating, taste change, throat irritation, tiredness, trouble sleeping, unusual weakness, upset stomach, urinary tract infection, vomiting, weight loss or gain, daytime drowsiness, feeling of hangover, nervousness, decreased appetite, general body discomfort, incoordination, muscle aches, stuffy nose, swelling of the skin, and tremors.

The combined SEVERE side effects of these medications include abnormal thinking, aggressive behavior, agitation, Increased anxiety, back and forth eye movements, behavior changes, behavioral problems, blurred vision, change in school performance, changes in sex drive, chest pain, chills, clammy skin, cold skin, confusion, decreased coordination, decreased sexual ability, decreased sexual desire, depression, difficult breathing, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, fainting, fast heartbeat, fever, flushing, frequent to difficult urination, frequent urination, hallucinations, hives, hostility, hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, increased weakness of arms or legs, irregular heartbeat, itching, loss of appetite, loss of consciousness, loss of coordination, memory loss, memory problems, mental or mood changes, mood swings, numbness or tingling of the skin, one-sided weakness, panic attacks, persistent dizziness, persistent headache, persistent stomach pain, restlessness, ringing in the ears, seizures, severe dizziness, severe drowsiness, severe headache, severe stomach pain, shortness of breath, slow heartbeat, slurred speech, sore throat, speech changes, stiffness of arms and legs, stomach pain, suicidal thoughts or actions, swelling of the ankles, swelling of the face, swelling of the feet, swelling of the hands, swelling of the lips, swelling of the mouth, swelling of the testicles, swelling of the tongue, tightness in the chest, tremor, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, trouble walking or keeping balance, twitching, twitching of the face, twitching of the tongue, uncontrolled movements, unusual bleeding or bruising, unusual changes in behavior, unusual hoarseness, vision changes, vomiting, weakness, worsening of depression, yellowing of the skin or eyes, worsening trouble sleeping, blood in urine, light-headedness when rising from a lying or seated position, prolonged, inappropriate, or painful erections, stroke, increased jerking movements, trouble breathing, and unusual weakness.

These medications generally address only the symptoms of sleep disorder and not the underlying causes. As soon as you stop using the drugs, the problems return along with host of withdrawal side-effects!

Interfering with delicate neurological chemistry through potent synthetic chemicals should be avoided.

Ayurvedic Medicine

yogi

Ayurveda, the science of life, prevention, and longevity, is the oldest and most holistic and comprehensive medical system available.  Its fundamentals can be found in Hindu scriptures called the Vedas - the ancient Indian books of wisdom written over 5,000 years ago.  Ayurveda uses the inherent principles of nature to help maintain health in a person by keeping the individual's body, mind, and spirit in perfect equilibrium with nature.

India Herbs has a seasoned group of Ayurvedic doctors specialized in Rasayana Chikitsa, one of the eight major specialties of Ayurveda. It is the branch of Ayurveda that deals with various aspects of preventive health care. Rasayana Chikitsa includes therapies for longevity, improved memory, health, youthfulness, complexion, and strength of body and senses. Rasayana Chikitsa prescribes the therapeutic use of various herbal and holistic preparations for enhancing mental acuity while strengthening the body and overall well-being.

India Herbs' Rasayana Chikitsa doctors combine a proprietary herbal formula based on centuries' old wisdom with advice on diet, exercise, mental training, and relaxation to help you experience consistent, rejuvenating sleep through safe, natural means.

Recommendations
You can optimize your health and quality of sleep by:

1) Reversing Damage - Years of stressful living caused damage to your body and mind. To help reverse this, Mystic Sleep releases hundreds of phytonutrients that act at the molecular level to normalize hormone levels, support brain function, alleviate mental duress, remove toxins, restore your immune system, and reinstate healthy sleep cycle.

2) Set a Schedule - Go to bed at a set time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Disrupting this schedule may lead to insomnia. Avoid napping during the day. "Sleeping in" on weekends also makes it harder to wake up early on Monday morning because it re-sets your sleep cycles for a later awakening.

3) Exercise - Try to exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day. Daily exercise often helps people sleep, although a workout soon before bedtime may interfere with sleep. For maximum benefit, try to get your exercise about 5 to 6 hours before going to bed.

4) Avoid Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol - Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, which acts as a stimulant and keeps you awake. Sources of caffeine include coffee (100-200 mg), soft drinks (50-75 mg), non-herbal teas (50-75 mg), chocolate, diet drugs, and some pain relievers. Smokers tend to sleep very lightly and often wake up in the early morning due to nicotine withdrawal. Alcohol robs people of deep sleep and REM sleep and keeps them in the lighter stages of sleep.

5) Avoid Using Sedatives - While you might fall asleep, the complete restorative sleep cycle will be not realized. You might awaken feeling unrefreshed, groggy, or hungover. Once you stop taking the sedatives, you might suffer withdrawal symptoms which will further interfere with attainment of natural sleep.

6) Drink Milk - Milk contains a substance called tryptophan. The body uses tryptophan to make serotonin, a chemical in the brain. Serotonin helps control sleep patterns, appetite, pain, and other functions. Milk does not contain enough tryptophan to change sleep patterns, but drinking a glass of milk before bed may help you relax.

7) Avoid Large Meals / Excessive Fluids - This might cause you to awaken due digestion problems or urination.

8) Relax before Bed - A warm bath, reading, or another relaxing routine (deep breathing, yoga, meditation) can make it easier to fall sleep. You can train yourself to associate certain restful activities with sleep and make them part of your bedtime ritual.

9) Don't Lie in Bed Awake - If you can't get to sleep, don't just lie in bed. Do something else, like reading, watching television, or listening to music, until you feel tired. The anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can actually contribute to insomnia. Don't expose yourself to content that is prone to increase anxiety - like the news.

10) Create a Sanctuary - Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet. Use eye shades or earplugs if needed. Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom. Extreme temperatures may disrupt sleep or prevent you from falling asleep.

11) Minimize Snoring - Sleep on your side to minimize snoring and breathing problems.

12) Sleep until Sunlight - If possible, wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning. Sunlight helps the body's internal biological clock reset itself each day. Sleep experts recommend exposure to an hour of morning sunlight for people having problems falling asleep.

Results: The precise combination of ingredients in Mystic Sleep along with a mind-body focus precisely addresses your relaxation and sleep!

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