Recently, I purchased anÂ alarm clock that wakes me upÂ using light instead of noise. ItÂ increases the amount of light itÂ shines over a 30 minute periodÂ ending during my set wake upÂ time. After that, it beeps anywayÂ just in case.
The idea is that Iâ€™ll wake upÂ the natural way of the body responding to light instead of howÂ I normally have to arise in thisÂ God forsaken land where the sunÂ rises after I am already at school.Â
The box of this product claimsÂ it will make me more energeticÂ throughout the day. Iâ€™m not reallyÂ sure if it was worth it, as so farÂ the beeping function is what always ends up waking me anyhow.
The average human willÂ spend about one third of theirÂ life asleep and it is the time thatÂ the mind is most active. DuringÂ sleep, the mind and body areÂ building neural pathways, forming short term memories intoÂ long term ones, strengtheningÂ the immune system, rebuildingÂ muscles, building bones, restoring energy and even more.
The way someone approaches sleep can define the rest ofÂ their life.
â€œSleep is the process by whichÂ the brain stays healthy,â€ saidÂ Roxane Prichard, a neuroscience professor at the college ofÂ St. Thomas.Â
â€œSleep allows for networkÂ changes in the brain thatÂ wouldnâ€™t be possible otherwise,Â so itâ€™s keeping us alive and keeping our brains sort of finely tunedÂ for whatever challenge happens that day, month, or year.â€
The Stages of Sleep
As the body sleeps, it follows a four stage cycle. Beginning with
the lightest sleep of the night atÂ stage 1, the body progresses intoÂ increasingly deeper sleep with aÂ total of four stages. Each of theseÂ cycles last about 70-90 minutes,Â repeating after stage 4 and happens multiple times in a night.
â€œThe stages of sleep are different psychological processesÂ that can be described duringÂ sleep,â€ said Roxanne Prichard,Â â€œYou have light sleep, deep sleep,Â and rapid eye movement sleepâ€Â
The first stage of sleep isÂ not what most people wouldÂ consider sleeping. It is easilyÂ interrupted and when it is, theÂ sleeper normally doesnâ€™t evenÂ notice they entered it. It lastsÂ only 2-5 minutes and is moreÂ of a transitionary period between wakefulness and sleep.
In the second stage, the body
is properly asleep. At this point the bodyâ€™s heart rate and temperature are dropping. The main action of sleep isnâ€™t quite occurringÂ yet, but the body is getting there.Â This stage lasts about 25 minutes.
Â The third stage is the deepestÂ part of sleep. Breathing and heartÂ rate are at their lowest point. During this stage the body repairsÂ and regrows tissues, strengthens the immune system, buildsÂ bones and restores its energy. It
is very difficult for this stage toÂ be interrupted, but when it is itÂ can take the sleeper a total ofÂ 30 minutes to properly wake up.
The fourth stage is sometimesÂ not included as a stage of sleep.Â Itâ€™s called Rapid Eye MovementÂ (REM) sleep after how the eyesÂ move under the eyelids during
it. During this stage the mindÂ dreams the most and breathingÂ becomes more irregular and erratic. The mind is the most activeÂ during it and the brain is turningÂ short term memories into longÂ term ones. It will last ten minutes
on the first cycle.
After REM, the cycle restartsÂ and returns to stage 1. As theÂ cycle repeats, the body spendsÂ less time in stage 3 and moreÂ time in stage 2 and REM sleep.
By the last cycle, the body canÂ spend as much as 90 minutes in
REM sleep and practically noÂ time in stage 3.
The stages of sleep are whyÂ it is recommended to only everÂ nap for 30 minutes at a time. PastÂ that the body will begin to enterÂ deeper sleep, and the body will
just be more tired when wakingÂ from the cycle being interrupted. If things run their naturalÂ course, then the body will onlyÂ wake up during stage 1 of sleep.
This is the principle thatÂ the previously mentioned lightÂ alarm clock works on. By slowlyÂ increasing light over a 30 minuteÂ period it attempts to wake theÂ user during the natural stageÂ 1, as opposed to normal alarmÂ clocks that run a high risk of interrupting one of the deeper stages.
â€œWake up naturally.â€ said Roxanne Prichard, â€œI donâ€™t recommend using an alarm clock. Because if you are using an alarmÂ clock you are not getting enoughÂ sleep.â€Â
The CDC considers Sleep Deprivation a national epidemic.Â Four National Surveys conducted between 2007 and 2013 sayÂ that one in every three adults doÂ not get the recommended sevenÂ hours of sleep a night.Â
Among highschoolers thisÂ number rises to seven out of tenÂ who are not getting their recommended eight hours of sleep. AÂ survey taken recently in Minnehaha found among a total of 173Â responses that six out of every tenÂ students reported that they doÂ not feel they get enough sleep.
In other words, it is easier toÂ count the number of teenagersÂ who are not sleep deprived thanÂ those who are. Sleep deprivationÂ has become an American HighÂ School experience.
â€œSleep deprivation shows upÂ in pretty much every organ system you have,â€ said Prichard.Â â€œYou can go with a reducedÂ amount of sleep, but your bodyÂ interprets that as a stressor soÂ it compensates by sort of cheat-
ing your other systems out ofÂ the energy and nutrients thatÂ they deserve… your cravings for
food change, it’s harder to buildÂ protein to build muscles, youâ€™reÂ slower, and you have a moreÂ negative psychological view onÂ things.â€
A good nightâ€™s sleep increasesÂ the bodyâ€™s ability to learn. SleepÂ deprivation, by contrast, hindersÂ the bodyâ€™s ability to make decisions, solve problems, controlÂ emotions and behavior, and dealÂ with change. It has also beenÂ associated with depression, suicide, and risk taking behavior.Â A study from UC Berkeley even
suggests that sleep deprivationÂ even makes people less sociable.
â€œIf a kid puts his head downÂ and within five minutes he isÂ snoring then heâ€™s probably sleepÂ deprived and I have let kidsÂ sleep in Learning Lab,â€ saidÂ Elaine Ekstedt, Minnehahaâ€™sÂ learning specialist.â€œOnce I had a
parent tell me â€˜yeah my son wasÂ really tired and he fell asleep inÂ your class. He had called me andÂ told me he wanted me to pick himÂ up but because you let him sleepÂ he was able to finish his day.â€™â€
The physical effects are similarly disastrous. Sleep deprivation causes an increased risk ofÂ heart disease, stroke, obesity,Â kidney disease, and high bloodÂ pressure. It also weakens theÂ immune system, harms healthyÂ development, and deprives theÂ body of when it repairs muscles.
Even just 1-2 hours of lost sleepÂ per night can lead to deficiency.
Lack of sleep can also causeÂ microsleeps, a process whereÂ someone falls asleep for moments throughout the day without even realizing it. MicrosleepsÂ cause people to lose awarenessÂ at random intervals. This canÂ cause someone to miss a lecture,Â or cause a tragic accident.Â Studies show that drowsiness
can be even more dangerousÂ than being drunk while driving, and some famous tragic incidents, such as the ChernobylÂ plant meltdown and the Challenger shuttle explosion, wereÂ indirectly or directly caused by
a lack of sleep.
â€œSleep is required for life.â€
said Prichard. â€œItâ€™s like water,
food, and air. You need it to live.â€
How to sleep better
The body falls asleep throughÂ a mechanism called the circadian rhythm, a 24 hour clock thatÂ tells the body when to do what.Â For sleep, this is done throughÂ two different chemicals.
The first, adenosine, is created as long as the body is awakeÂ and is broken down while theÂ body is asleep. It is what signalsÂ the body to shift toward sleep.Â Stimulants like caffeine work yÂ inhibiting adenosine.Â
The second, melatonin, isÂ produced according to howÂ dark it is and peaks duringÂ the evening suggesting itÂ is related to falling asleep.Â
â€œPay attention to when yourÂ body wants to go to sleep,â€™ said
Prichard. â€œThere are signsÂ when your body wants to goÂ to sleep: your eyes feel heavy,Â youâ€™re cold, youâ€™ll have a greater sense of sluggishness, andÂ if you have a good circadianÂ rhythm that should happenÂ about the same time everyday.â€Â
One of the main things thatÂ interferes with falling asleep isÂ a misaligned circadian rhythm.Â Keeping a consistent bedtime,Â even on the weekends, can be immensely helpful in falling asleepÂ at the right time.
In addition, it is recommended to avoid a digitalÂ screen an hour before goingÂ to bed. A similar principle applies to what someone is doing before going to sleep.
â€œItâ€™s hard to go directly fromÂ something really exciting toÂ sleep.â€ said Prichard. â€œFor instance, You need to have a transition period between watchingÂ a fun, addictive show and go-
ing to sleep… you have to slowÂ down your brain and relax.â€Â
This can be a warm bath,Â mediation, journaling, reading a relaxing book or anythingÂ of that nature. Journaling andÂ meditation can also be helpfulÂ in dealing with stress. An hourÂ before bed set aside for this purpose can be very helpful. It is alsoÂ important to avoid large mealsÂ about 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Other things such as 30 minutes of light exercise earlier inÂ the day can also help with falling asleep. Itâ€™s important toÂ avoid nicotine or caffeine for atÂ least eight hours before fallingÂ asleep. Keeping a cool, optimallyÂ between 60 and 67 degrees, and
dark bedroom is also important.Â
The body wakes up in theÂ morning through the use of aÂ different chemical called cortisol which is conversely releasedÂ by sunlight and exercise. Going for a walk outside can helpÂ start the day. Not using an alarmÂ clock, if possible, also helps, asÂ that means the body isnâ€™t beingÂ abruptly interrupted while sleeping.
â€œWake up naturally.â€ saidÂ Prichard, â€œI donâ€™t recommendÂ using an alarm clock. Because if
you are using an alarm clock youÂ are not getting enough sleep.â€
With the importance of sleepÂ and the downsides caused by missing it, sleep deprivation may justÂ be one of the most unhealthyÂ commonalities in the UnitedÂ States.
Itâ€™s normal to miss sleep,Â but making an attempt to improve sleeping hygiene mayÂ just be invaluable. Perhaps, anÂ alarm clock that works by lightÂ instead of noise is a good idea.