As you lay, now for your third hour, staring at the ceiling in the dark, your mind begins to wander. Disgusted, you consider counting sheep and decide to count in a foreign language (might as well prepare for next year’s cruise!). Not able to count very high, you opt instead to visualize a serene setting: a gorgeous white-sandy beach.
Imagine lying by a bright-blue ocean, listening to the crashing of the waves, surrounded by hundreds of other sun worshipers … No, definitely too distracting! “If only I had a powerful, effective and non-addicting herbal sleep-aid product.”
It has been estimated that 90 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. On the surface, insomnia may seem like a trivial problem, but its impact has both grave health and economic consequences. For instance, it is widely known that sleep disorders affect one’s physical and psychological health. Yet few realize that fatigue, resulting from inadequate sleep, is the leading cause of truck accidents in the United States. Worker fatigue has also been linked to some of the worst industrial accidents in recent history, including the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.
Many of us will concede that sleep is important to our bodies. After all, we spend 25 to 35 percent of our lives sleeping. But why is it so difficult for some to get their required amount of sleep? Regrettably, it is not a simple matter of just closing one’s eyes. Sleep is a complex, physiologic process. In order for sleep to be effective, the body must proceed through five different stages of sleep. First, there is stage one sleep. While in this stage, you are aware of noises around you and can be easily awakened. Often one will experience a flight of ideas as the body begins to relax and unwind. Generally, we spend about five to 10 minutes in stage one before proceeding to stage two, a deeper level of sleep. It is here that the body starts its reparative process and begins to relax.
As we progress to stages three and four, the level of sleep deepens, and the level of relaxation, repair, rejuvenation and restoration increases. Skeletal muscles of the limbs lose their tension and go limp. Smooth muscle cells lining the blood vessels relax and dilate. The blood pressure falls; the heart rate decreases; the body temperature drops; and respiration becomes less frequent. This increases the blood flow to all tissues in the body allowing them to get bathed with the oxygen and nutrients found in the blood. This influx of blood also removes waste products and toxins that have accumulated throughout the day.
As we enter the fifth stage of sleep, a dramatic change occurs. During stages two through four, the brain was resting and being rejuvenated along with the rest of the body. However, the brain is very active during stage five, sending nerve impulses throughout the body. As a result, blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and respiration all increase. Also, skeletal muscles begin to contract, even those that control eye movement. In fact, stage five sleep is also referred to as R.E.M., referring to the rapid eye movements that occur at this time.
Dreaming occurs during stage five. Experts believe that dreaming is a means for our bodies to deal with stress at a subconscious level — a way to heal ourselves intellectually, emotionally, cognitively, psychologically and spiritually. This is accomplished directly or indirectly through symbolization and role playing in our dreams. Without the ability to enter into stage five sleep and dream, many of the stresses that we internalize throughout the day would continue to build. This might lead to irritability, poor concentration, emotional dysfunction and diminished physical performance. Most of us have experienced or witnessed these effects after a restless night, but can you imagine the cumulative effect of insomnia that occurs night after night? It would be devastating.
Overall, sleep should provide physical repair (during stages two through four) and psychological rejuvenation (during stage five). To accomplish this, the body cycles through these stages approximately six times a night, each cycle lasting about 60 minutes. The first few cycles are spent primarily in stages two, three and four. As the night progresses, more time is spent in stage five.
As mentioned earlier, 90 million people in the USA have a sleep disorder. Approximately 40 percent have difficulty initiating sleep, 30 percent have trouble maintaining sleep, and 30 percent have problems initiating and maintaining sleep. At best, people with these sleep disorders are completing one or two cycles of sleep. They are getting some physical repair, but not enough. Also, they spend little or no time in stage five sleep; therefore, minimal cognitive or psychological repair has occurred. Is it any wonder that these people are tired, irritable, agitated and hostile during the day? Since chronic sleep disorders deprive the body of these necessary restorative processes, is it any surprise that these individuals suffer from stress-related illnesses such as hypertension, ulcers, heart disease and psychological disease? Likewise, it should come as no surprise that such disorders may limit one’s life expectancy.
We are often asked about melatonin. Melatonin helps to regulate the body’s clock, or circadian rhythm, and has effects on the secretion of important hormones in the body. Despite its current popularity and notoriety in the press, it remains controversial and the effects of its long-term use are unknown. It is also prohibited in most countries outside the United States. Melatonin is itself a hormone and is produced in a portion of the brain called the pineal gland.
So rest easy with the help of safe and effective, non-addicting ingredients. You will wake up refreshed, rejuvenated, relaxed and ready to start the day. Remember to sleep tight … and don’t let the bedbugs bite!