Back to Sleep Basics
My first college course was Intro to Psychology. I loved it.
So much so that I made psychology my major, later to be adjusted when I saw how much math was involved! Lol.
My interest was peaked in that course some 15 years ago, especially within the section on sleep. I found and continue to find the subject of sleep to be so fascinating.
And sleep is a big deal when it comes to healing endometriosis.
Today I’m going to dig into the stages of the sleep cycle and why these are important for healing and how they play into feelings of fatigue so commonly coupled with endometriosis.
The Natural Rhythm of Sleep
I went back to that old psychology book that still remains on my bookshelf and flipped to the sleep section that inspired me all those years ago.
It started like this,
The rhythm of the day parallels the rhythm of life—from our waking to a new day’s birth to our nightly return to what Shakespeare called ‘death’s counterfeit’
– David G. Myers, Psychology
This rhythm corresponds with innate circadian rhythms that are regulated by your suprachiasmatic nucleus, a small group of nerve cells found in the hypothalamus in your brain.
The hypothalamus is a master gland of your body’s hormonal system controlling hunger, thirst, fatigue, body temperature and sleep cycles.
The comparison with nature, circadian rhythms and sleep is simple. The light hours are when we should be awake (or waking) and the dark hours are when we should be sleeping (or preparing to do so).
Life changed a lot with the advent of artificial lighting and the many technological devices all around us. We stay up later and are more electrically stimulated then ever before.
So, needless to say, this natural cycle is easily disrupted 🙂
Stages of the Sleep Cycle
There is also a biological rhythm present during your sleep. Every 90 minutes or so we pass through a cycle of distinct sleep phases.
When you first fall asleep the cycle starts out like this…
The first stage is a light sleep where your breathing and brain waves slow down. This phase only lasts for a few minutes. You may experience a feeling of falling then quickly jump awake. You are easily awakened during this stage.
The second stage of sleep is longer and lasts about 20 minutes. Your brain characterizes this stage with sleep spindles, which are bursts of rapid, rhythmic brain wave activity. Sleep talking can happen during this time.
For the next few minutes you go into stage three, which is a transitional stage that takes you to the deep sleep stage four… where the magic happens 🙂
During stage four, deep sleep, your brain emits large, slow delta waves that can last from 30-45 minutes. During this time you are hard to awaken.
Deep sleep is where your body is able to truly rest and rejuvenate.
REM: The Dream State
After about an hour of falling asleep you return to stage three and stage two, where you spend about half of your night.
Between these stages you experience the most intriguing phase of all – REM sleep.
The REM part of the sleep cycle starts off short, lasting about ten minutes. During this time your brain waves become rapid and saw-toothed, your breathing becomes rapid and irregular and your eyes dart around in rapid eye movement (REM).
REM sleep is when dreams happen.
The later into the night, the longer the REM stage becomes, lasting upwards of an hour. You may have intense dreams during these times.
I’m especially fascinated by dreams and visions that come while I sleep, fueled by my subconscious and beyond… but that’s beyond the scope of this post.
Though It has fueled the writings in my upcoming fiction book 🙂
Importance of Deep Sleep for Healing
Non REM deep sleep is an important time. This is when your body repairs and grows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens your immune system. This is when your body builds up energy for the day ahead.
If we are to have a chance at feeling energized and refreshed, getting quality deep sleep is essential.
If you don’t get enough deep sleep then your body is constantly trying to catch up, which cascades into a slew of health issues and disrupts your body’s natural healing mechanisms.
Remember that the sleep cycle happens every 90 minutes or so. As the night passes onwards the deep sleep stages gets shorter and then disappears, so it’s best to take advantage of these times early in the night.
To take advantage of the most healing, deep sleep, it’s best to get to bed no later then 11pm (10pm is better).
During this time (10pm-12am) human growth hormone (HGH) is released, which helps to maintain healthy tissues. Why not take advantage of that 🙂
Sleep Deprivation Effects
When you don’t get enough deep sleep, or don’t sleep enough in general then your body is impacted.
Those who sleep less than seven hours often show signs of sleep deprivation including:
- feeling depressed
- feeling irritable
- poor judgement
- not fully “on”, mishaps or accidents more likely
I most definitely experience these effects when I don’t sleep enough. They are easily recognizable when I’m flying off the handle about something, or crying out of nowhere.
Sleep deprivation is for real 🙂
Stop next time you have one of those moments and check in. How was your sleep the night before? Or in general? Is sleep a factor?
Sleep-loss effects also include suppression of your immune system. This is not good news if you’re dealing with endometriosis or any other chronic condition.
We need our immune systems working in top order!
Another effect of sleep deprivation is blood sugar issues, which I’ll dig deeper into next week, but in a nutshell, when we don’t sleep enough we crave starches, sugars and general stimulants like caffeine.
This is your body’s natural calling for energy and attempt to balance itself out.
You may not notice the impacts of sleep deprivation at first. You may pull through with the help of stimulants.
But if you begin a pattern of not sleeping enough or not getting enough deep sleep then a long term pattern emerges that decreases your body’s natural healing mechanisms.
On the Positive Side?
Now that we know how important sleep, especially deep sleep is, then I hope you’re inspired to do what you can to improve your own sleep.
I admit, this is something I need help with too. Especially the getting to bed earlier part 🙂
To help with this, I’ve put together a free eBook with 21 Natural Sleep remedies.