Making the Most of Your Sleep 

Last month, we discussed a few things to think about in terms of improving sleep quality and timing. Sleep is one of the most important factors impacting overall health and recovery. As patients who receive chiropractic care, we can only assume that health and recovery are priorities in your life. 

Sleep occurs in 2 types of stages – REM sleep and non-REM sleep. The first half of the night is dominated by non-REM deep sleep, and the second half is dominated by REM sleep. Each stage of sleep has very different and important functions. It is important to try to get a continuous bout of sleep for at least 90 minutes at a time, in order for your brain to go through each stage of sleep. In REM sleep your brain activity increases by up to 20% – functioning to help to restore your brain from the day’s work. In fact, the brain paralyzes the body during REM sleep so that the mind can dream safely without taking action. (REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement….but that is a whole other story!)

How to Optimize my sleep to get the most out of each stage? 

Can I have a good sleep if I wake up during the night?  Yes- it is typical to wake up during the middle of the night, especially as we age. When we finish the 90 minute cycle, our bodies wake up to change positions after being “paralyzed” during REM sleep. As long as your efficiency is 85% or more (you’re asleep more than 85% of the time you’re in bed), that is a healthy sleep. There is room for improvement if you are awake for 20-25 minutes every time you wake up.

The myth of the “Night Cap”  As alcohol is a “depressant”, many think of it as something that can help you to fall asleep – you can feel tired when you drink a glass of wine after dinner! However, alcohol is actually very disruptive to your sleep. Alcohol blocks REM sleep hugely, and actually fragments your sleep so you wake up without having a continuous sleep. Even one drink with dinner will impact your REM sleep time and change the hormonal releases throughout your sleep cycles. 

Interestingly, THC and CBD (the active ingredients in cannabis) also negatively impact your sleep. THC makes you go unconscious faster, like alcohol, but still blocks REM sleep which prevents adequate sleep recovery. In terms of CBD, the evidence is not as clear- in some studies, it promotes wakefulness, but in some, it can reduce anxiety, and improve thermoregulation in sleep. 

Keep your body COOL  If your body becomes too warm while sleeping, you will wake up, which disrupts your continuous sleep. Keep your bedroom cool (between 68-70 degrees fahrenheit) to have a cool sleep. 

A few last thoughts: 

  • If you have a bad night of sleep, don’t change your schedule or behaviours (sleep in, early bedtime, nap, extra caffeine etc) 
  • A bedtime wind-down routine can help to prime your body to go to sleep on time 
  • You can sleep TOO MUCH. There is a bell-curve type relationship with sleep time and health – the shorter you sleep, the shorter your life, but if you sleep beyond 9 hours regularly, the mortality risk rises again. However, if we are sick, we will sleep more and this is normal
  • If you’re a good napper, don’t be afraid to nap. Naps as short as 17 minutes can benefit learning and memory, but it is recommended to keep your naps brief (max 25 minutes) and at the latest, 7-8 hours before bedtime.
  • Consider your pillow and give thought to our water pillow which is the best!

Be sure to ask us more about sleep– it is one of the most critical components of your body recovery from injury and to maintain wellness.