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What is sleep and how to sleep well
We are going to explain the sleep process so that you have a good understanding of how it works and then we are going to see strategies for getting a good night’s sleep.
The first thing you have to take into account is that our sleep depends on our biorhythm, that is, we have an internal rhythm in our body in which activity and sleep mark us, it is in the brain in a specific area called suprachiasmatic nucleus, and that internal clock that tells us when we have to wake up and when we have to sleep is synchronized under a series of synchronizers and the most powerful of them is undoubtedly the alternation between light and dark.
How light affects sleep
Very easy. In our eyes we have a series of receptors that when they perceive light they tell our brains that we have to be active, however when that light goes and turns into darkness, that is, we are at night, those receptors stop emitting that signal and they tell your brain: “hey active suprachiasmatic nucleus” it sends information to another area called the pineal gland and there it produces melatonin which is the hormone of restorative sleep.
This is the first key idea. To sleep, to have a restful sleep we need to produce melatonin and melatonin is only produced in dark conditions. That is why there is so much emphasis on avoiding screens when we go to sleep. It is essential that our brain goes into “SLEEP” mode.
The alternation between light and dark is super important since it is the greatest synchronizer of our biorhythm. During daylight periods, during light, that light produces an inhibition of some receptors that we have in the retinas and that goes to our biological clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus and then tells it not to produce melatonin, however at night, that night what it does stops stimulating that area the area of those receptors and that starts the stimulation of the pineal gland and what it produces is that we generate melatonin, the hormone of restorative sleep and that is super important.
Obviously, the big difference between the production of melatonin during the day, which is practically nil, and when the afternoon begins to fall, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. the peak begins at 8:00 p.m. In the afternoon, that melatonin begins to rise upwards until we will have a maximum peak about two in the morning and then from there it goes down, going down, so that when we get up in the morning that melatonin is already very low and allow us to wake up.
So the melatonin rises as the ambient light goes down, the greater the darkness, the more melatonin production.
Here we can already establish some quite important recommendations:
The first one, based on scientific evidence, science tells us that we should get between seven and nine hours of deep sleep each night. That is to say of restful sleep. If we sleep less than seven hours, we will not be producing enough melatonin for our body to regenerate, repair itself and have a necessary rest, but on the contrary, sleeping more than nine hours each night is not the best thing to do either.
Science also tells us that we should go to bed no later than eleven thirty at night because if we go to bed after that time, the production of the melatonin cycle is altered. We can imagine that most of the population have an altered melatonin cycle and it is one of the reasons why the quality of sleep that western populations have today is quite regular.
And another very important thing that you always ask me is the subject of naps. Many times they ask me, does a nap affect sleep? Good news and bad news, the good news is that the nap does not affect but the bad news is that it has to be short so if you are to take a nap in your pajamas and bed, forget nothing, we know that science tells us that if you are over 20 minutes if it alters the biorhythm but, on the contrary, sleep between 20 minutes, half an hour at the most, after the meal it improves the rest in our organism, refreshes the brain, makes us have more activity in the afternoon and does not alter the night’s sleep.