BY RITA HARTLEY
One of the many ways regular Jazzercise workouts contribute to optimum health is by helping us sleep so well.
Think sleep is overrated? A tad lazy, perhaps? Like Napoleon? Asked how many hours per night a person needs, he said, “Six for a man, seven for a woman, eight for a fool.” How about Margaret Thatcher? She got by on a mere four hours. “Sleep is for wimps,” was her mantra.
Truth that. Hemingway felt his life was so messy he ended it with a double-barrelled shotgun. The restorative powers of sleep were likely lost on him due to a possible bi-polar condition, numerous concussive hits to the head and alcoholism. In the above quote he probably meant, “I love passing out.”
Alcohol may calm the body, prepare it for sleep, but it does not improve sleep quality. “According to the findings,” says www.webmd.com, “alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a while, but it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.”
Hence the reason for this blog. My Fitbit monitors sleep and sleep quality, and recently my REM sleep had fallen to less than my usual hour, or slightly more, so I needed to do some research.
Sleep stages are as follows:
- just dipping into sleep, hearing things, aware
- asleep, but easily awoken
- important, more than 50% of night
- body maintenance happening, with body processing memories and emotions, metabolism regulating
- breathing and heart rate typically decrease
- 10-25% of night, mostly first half because so hard to wake from deep sleep
- about the body, which secretes growth hormone enabling cellular rebuilding and repair
- brain shut down, muscles relaxed, heart rate regular, no dreaming
- strengthening of immune system
- body knows what it needs, once needs are met, cycles between light and REM
- 20-25% of night, mostly second half
- about the brain, which is active, dreaming, eyes moving rapidly in different directions
- body is inactive, effectively paralyzed
- heart rate increases, breathing irregular
- important for emotion regulation and memory, protein synthesis at cellular level
Too little REM? You’ll feel groggy, less focused and prone to memory issues. Too much? You’ll be prone to anger, irritability and any tendency to anxiety and/or depression will be exacerbated.
To get my REM back into line? I declined a glass of wine at a late dinner and voila! My REM that night was one hour and 38 minutes.
Our bodies cycle through the above sleep stages, which average 90 minutes, multiple times/night. It’s worth noting that there is also an “awake” stage on my Fitbit, which lasts on average for women of my age (60) 12-24% of the night. So, if I want to get seven hours of sleep/night (seven to nine is the recommended average for adults), I need to be in bed at least eight hours.
Another thing? Too little or too much sleep can promote weight gain as hunger hormones are thrown off balance.
So, decline the coffee and/or wine close to bedtime, choose the zillion-thread count bamboo sheets, keep on coming to Jazzercise and enjoy your seven to nine hours of zzz’s per night. You not only earn them, you need them.