Are you getting enough sleep

Discussion in 'Off Topic Area' started by Simon, May 16, 2010.

  1. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    There are a few threads on MAP with questions about sleep, so I thought I would give an explanation on what is going on during your sleep, how to get to sleep and why you may have sleep problems.

    Our ancestors were not governed by the alarm clock. They would have gone to bed when it was dark and got up when it was light. This influence of light and dark is linked to the movement of the planets and affects nearly all living creatures including plants, which open and close with the cycle of the sun.

    What causes us to wake when it is light?

    When light (from whatever source) hits our eyes or skin, the brain thinks it is morning. In response to this the hormonal system releases cortisol. This is the wake up hormone that says ‘get up, get ready and prepare for work’. For our ancestors this would have been’ get up and prepare for survival’ it is not any different for us today, we just perceive it differently.
    Cortisol levels rise at about 06.00am and peak about 09.00am, after which they drop slightly but remain high through lunch time so you can carry out your desired activity. Cortisol starts to drop in the afternoon when the sun starts to go down, which is when you reach for the coffee or energy drink (I will explain why that is not a good idea later). When cortisol decreases then melatonin levels start to rise. Melatonin is the sleep hormone (which promotes growth and repair).This is when we should follow our ancestors and start to prepare for sleep, which should ideally be around 10.00pm. The above pattern is known as the sleep/wake cycle, which can be seen in the illustration below.


    Why can I not sleep?

    There are many reasons why cortisol levels may remain high well into the evening and night. Your body releases cortisol in response to stress. The body does not know the difference between falling down the stairs, alcohol, coffee, light stimulation from televisions, computers, fluorescent lights etc. It is all just stress to the body, which responds by producing cortisol (wake up get ready to go). This would be a good thing if you was in a situation where you needed to needed to get a task done (such as driving to meet a loved one in danger,or fighting to survive), but not when trying to get to sleep. Cortisol can take hours to leave the bloodstream, which will inhibit the release of melatonin, this at night when you are trying to sleep, will cut into the body’s physical and psychological repair time, making you wake up tired and irritable.
    Let us take coffee as one example of a stimulant that will release cortisol. Caffeine has a half life of around 6 hours. So that coffee taken a 09.00pm will lead to half the caffeine still being in the blood at 03.00am. This is when you should be well into the psychological repair phase of your sleep. Therefore, it would be better to avoid stimulants of any kind after lunch. Remember stimulants will include light sources.

    Drinking water and remaining hydrated is very important, as dehydration is seen as stress by the body.

    Stress = release of stress hormones = wake up hormones.


    Entrainment is defined as the tendency for two oscillating bodies to lock into phase so that they vibrate in harmony. It is also defined as a synchronization of two or more rhythmic cycles. The principle of entrainment is universal, appearing in chemistry, pharmacology, biology, medicine, psychology, sociology, astronomy, architecture and more. Christian Huygens a notable physicist coined the term entrainment after he noticed, in 1666, that two pendulum clocks had moved into the same swinging rhythm, so one clock had become entrained to the rhythm of the other. Subsequent experiments duplicated this process.

    How does this affect sleep patterns?

    Chances are during the day (and night) you will be exposed to low frequency electromagnetic energies. Power lines, electrical circuits in your walls, ceilings and floors and electrical appliances such as electric blankets and TV’s all emit such energies. This electromagnetic pollution can disrupt natural sleep / wake cycles.

    What to do

    Try unplugging all electrical items in your bedroom, including clocks, TV’s and lights. If your sleep quality improves, rearrange your bedroom so that all electrical items are as far away from your bed as possible. Also do not use an electric blanket.

    Other forms of entrainment

    Doctors and psychologists have discovered that you can become entrained or synchronized to a dysfunctional schedule in as little as 7-21 days. This means that if you stay up to midnight for one to three weeks in a row, your internal body clock will become entrained to wait until midnight to start reducing cortisol output and increasing melatonin output. If your body gets used to going to bed late and you then decide to get to bed earlier one night, you’ll probably have a hard time falling asleep. Now you are faced with the task of entraining your system to release your sleepy-time chemicals early enough so that you can get to sleep on time for a full cycle of physical and mental repair. In addition, if you work in an environment with other people, your heartbeat will show up in the brain waves of any weaker people in the group. In other words, you get entrained down to their level. This is one of the reasons at the end of the day you go home mentally tired.

    In summary

    All the above is very difficult to change in the world we live in today, we fly from one time zone to another, we have deadlines to meet, training is often done in the evening after work when we should really be winding down, your young child cries at night causing you to release cortisol again and so on.
    With that said, I would recommend that if you are unable to recover from injury, are suffering from lack of energy, get irritable quickly or just cannot sleep, then you take a look at your sleep pattern.

    Note.Some of the information in this thread was taken in part from Eat Move and Be Healthy by Paul Chek.
  2. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

    What to do

    Don't have children. Or adopt children after they're six years old. Or send your toddler off to military school. Obstacle courses are good for gross motor development, right?

    Seriously, I'm lucky to get six hours per night, and even that is not six hours's generally two three-hour blocks.
  3. 47MartialMan

    47MartialMan Valued Member

    Yes. Kids really change sleep patterns and quality sleep time.
  4. Kuma

    Kuma Lurking about

    Then you get lucky like me and get to multiply that by the night shift you're already working and how you have to try to sleep during the day. And that's when you're lucky and you don't have court.
  5. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    I think that a majority of people in industrialised nations suffer from some sort of sleep depravation (me included). How often have you found that on holiday it takes a few days just to get the tiredness out of the body? This is when you get entrained into the new pattern of sleep.
  6. Kuma

    Kuma Lurking about

    I actually did a veteran sleep study locally for one of the universities. Got the psychological tests and had to sleep at the hospital wearing all the crazy sensors for a night. Turns out I'm an oddball and my optimal sleep time is 6 hours a day. The main thing that was hurting me was I used to take my dogs for a walk as soon as I got home in the morning. I was doing the three things that keep you awake: exercise, socialization, and sunlight. Once I started walking them in the afternoon when I woke up it worked out great for me.
  7. Estrix

    Estrix Valued Member

    On this topic I did an experiment in what has been called the "everyman sleep pattern." Its an example of polyphasic sleep (I think that's the right term anyway).

    Basically it's an experiment in trying to bend the human body into a sleeping pattern more like that of other animals. Most animals don't sleep in a long solid block of 8 or so hours like people do. Instead they sleep in shorter naps, with a core sleep cycle that is quite short; maybe only a few hours.

    So basically I tried to sleep for only 3 hours between 2300-0100 as my "core" sleep pattern. Then you divide the remaining day into 4 pieces with 30 minute naps between them. So the total sleep time is 5 hours but spread out over the day.

    In short, by day 5 I thought I was going to die, it was very VERY unpleasant, though some people swear by it. There is another version called the "uberman sleep pattern" which is all 30 minute naps without the core sleep period. You can google either of them for more info.

    I would love to try it again some time, but its probably better to do it with some one else as well, for when the going gets tough. The extra hours can also make you feel quite lonely.
  8. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    This is interesting and is exactly the same as the way our ancestors worked. They did their hunting in the morning (when they woke up), as this is when the animals (prey) were most active. You walking your dogs when you wake up replecates this.
  9. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    Great thread!
  10. Knight_Errant

    Knight_Errant Banned Banned

    No. And I blame you, MAP.
  11. Moi

    Moi Warriors live forever x

    I'm not. Bed at 5 last night/this morning. I'll sleep when I'm not stressed and busy
  12. Talyn

    Talyn Reality Hacker

    I'm not sure how accurate the original post is. I find it funny that in a post about sleep cycles there's no mention of circadian rhythms. It seems to assume a unilateral reaction to the day-night cycle, even though that's not often the case. When in university I was on an 1100-0300 cycle, and found it difficult to wake up at 0800. It should be noted, as Wiki points out that "Freerunning organisms that normally have one consolidated sleep episode will still have it when in an environment shielded from external cues, but the rhythm is, of course, not entrained to the 24-hour light/dark cycle in nature."

    Also, I think the whole cortisol thing is inaccurate. Cortisol is produced when one is deprived of sleep, and when is in a stressful situation; also when one drinks caffeine. The phase markers for the sleep cycle are determined by melatonin and the offset of melatonin -

    People who swear by it have actually gotten into a polyphasic sleep cycle. Five days is not enough for REM deprivation to drop you efficiently into REM the moment you nod off. You're better off sleeping four hours with three forty-five minute naps for the first week, and then cutting back an hour off the main and fifteen minutes off the others. After three weeks you should be fine.
  13. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    I have not used the words Circadian Rhythm, you are correct, but The chart on the first post is an overview of the human circadian biological clock with some physcological parameters. Circadian Rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that result from the movements of the sun and planets following a 24 hour cycle and affecting nearly all living creatures including plants.
    Circadian Rhythms are produced by natural factors within the body, but they are also affected by signals from the environment. Light is the main cue influencing Circadian Rhythms, turning on or off genes that control an organisms' internal clocks.

    Sleep cycles may well be determined by melatonin and the offset of melatonin, but what would cause that offset? Well inthe morning it would be cortisol and at night if the body is under stress again it would be cortisol.

    Sure not everyone is going to strictlyneed 8 hours of sleep, Margaret Thatcher famously only needed 5 hours a night.

    I have tried to offer this thread as a guide to those who may have either a sleep problem, lack of energy (even though they train) or an injury they can't shake off.
  14. Talyn

    Talyn Reality Hacker

    But what causes the offset of cortisol that increases melatonin? You're trying to make the picture fit your argument rather than reading the link I posted which tells you how it happens. "The SCN takes the information on the lengths of the day and night from the retina, interprets it, and passes it on to the pineal gland, a tiny structure shaped like a pine cone and located on the epithalamus. In response, the pineal secretes the hormone melatonin. Secretion of melatonin peaks at night and ebbs during the day and its presence provides information about night-length."

    If you think cortisol is involved provide a source.

    That's a matter of age as much as it is individual differences. The older you are the less sleep you need, and the more narrow your tolerance for temperature becomes.
  15. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    I am not trying to provide an arguement either way. Circadian rhythm, entrainment, cortisol and melatonin secretion are not subjects I would imagine many people are aware of. We tend to go to bed and get up by the clock, so a little knowledge provided may just help someone in the right direction.
    It is like the diet arguements. There are some very good basic things to do, which make good common sense, but for some it is a great problem, so some understanding of biological functions can be of great benefit.

    This post is a pointer for those who may require some basic knowledge.
  16. Talyn

    Talyn Reality Hacker

    Right. So, try to get it right, eh? :cool:
  17. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    If it makes you feel better.
  18. CosmicFish

    CosmicFish Aleprechaunist

    Great thread.

    It wouldn't be complete without this link though:


    Also, as a tiny concession to using computers late into the evening, there's a piece of free software called F.Lux that dims the screen at local sunset for you. I've no idea how much difference it makes (probably not much) but it's worth a mention:
  19. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    Great link CosmicFish. On that website is a link to brain waves which is worth a look.

    The section on binuaral beats is interesting. I use binaural beats via my i-pod at work if the girls in the office are talking too much, or the guys are bragging about football or fighting. It stops me getting entrained to their rhythm.
  20. Estrix

    Estrix Valued Member

    Most of the sources I read seem to suggest you should drop into REM cycle during the nap period by day three, though I am prepared to admit it seems to take some what longer. By day 5 I was responding very badly to the cycles: finding it impossible to get warm (it was the middle of an unusually cold winter), then I started to be physically sick and training injuries were not repairing either. I think the body stops self-repairing on short cycles.

    I'm intrigued by this idea of starting with slightly longer cycles for the first week or so and then cutting back, that might work better, However the anecdotal evidence suggests only around 30% of people can actually adopt the cycle. Though my biggest problem was having one nap point completely derailed on day 3 by police activity in the area and I think that threw me.

    Also there is no real scientific studies on the effects of both the uberman and everyman sleep cycles, the last woman who used uberman when she sailed around the globe apparently came back mad. Most of the evidence is only from people who have tried it.

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