Health 102: Sleeping

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Health 101: What Health Is

Losing sleep is a risk to your health

Short-term physiological risks show within one or two days of lost sleep

  • Increases inflammation and slows healing
  • Weakens the immune system
  • Lessens the effect of vaccines
  • Causes high blood pressure
  • Creates irregular heartbeats
  • Physically weaker
  • Intensifies chronic pains
  • Diminishes reaction time
  • Exponential risk of auto accidents
  • Disrupts circadian rhythm (natural time clock)
  • Tremors
  • Aches
  • Diminished accuracy
  • Decreased body temperature
  • Slurred speech

Long-term physiological risks can persist for weeks after chronic sleep loss

  • Increases risk of cancer
  • Increases risk of diabetes
  • Increases risk of heart disease
  • Increases risk of stroke
  • Increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Weight gain
  • Permanent skin damage
  • Diminishes life expectancy
  • Destroys bone tissue
  • Stunts growth
  • Kills brain tissue
  • Increased chance of dying in general

There are also psychological risks beyond physical ones

  • Causes higher levels of depression
  • More unstable mood swings
  • Increases anxiety and irritability
  • Creates difficulty in reading others’ emotions
  • Cluttered thoughts
  • Causes delusions, hallucinations, and delusional thinking
  • Impedes learning
  • Diminishes stress management skills
  • Impairs judgment
  • Inhibits creativity
  • Memory problems in retaining, storing or retrieving
  • Increased perception of pain
  • Depression

On top of avoiding the above risks, there are tangible benefits of staying well-rested

Looking better, in physical appearance and vitality

Better memory

A general state of happiness

More energy

Higher likelihood of succeeding professionally

Happier and more well-behaved children, if you have any

If you know how to inspire sleep, sleeping well isn’t difficult

Your daily cycle must have a routine

Drink plenty of water to stay well-hydrated

Exercise regularly (more on this later)

  • As little as 10 minutes a day can set a proper cycle
  • Avoid exercising right before bed, since it heats the body up for 4-5 hours

Make sleep part of your routine

  • Learn to de-stress, meditate, and wind down at the end of the day
  • Listen to the same song every time you’re tired, then play it back when you can’t sleep
  • Make a routine with pajamas and a cup of tea in bed by a specific time

Avoid these things before bedtime

  • Alcohol can initially cause sleep but will sabotage sleep cycles
  • Caffeine can diminish deep sleep
  • Eating will make the heart rate go up to digest food for up to 4 hours and increases waking up in the middle of the night
  • Fasting can make it hard to get to sleep
  • Light can confuse the body’s clock
  • The blue light from a screen near bedtime can disrupt sleep from the body thinking it’s still daytime
  • Noise can interrupt your sleeping, use earplugs if you need
  • Pets in the bedroom can interrupt your sleep
  • Sleeping pills can disrupt natural sleep cycles
  • Wireless networks may run the risk of interfering with natural rhythms

Stressful situations are the most common cause of insomnia and can delay or reduce sleep

Many easy tricks will cure insomnia

Take something to calm down

  • Drink chamomile tea or passion flower tea
  • Mix five parts organic honey with one part Himalayan sea salt, then put the mixture under your tongue before going to bed
  • Eat a spoonful of honey
  • Drink a glass of fresh lemon juice
  • Have a night-time drink
    1. Heat a cup of milk or almond milk on high until it’s hot enough to foam
    2. Stir in a teaspoon of honey, two drops of vanilla extract, and a pinch of ground cinnamon

You will fall asleep when your mind has had about ten seconds of no thoughts running through it

  • It’s easier to fall asleep the less you think about trying to sleep
  • Mentally tell yourself that you are tired
    • Think of sleep-related words such as relax, calm, and rest
  • Count backward from 99
  • Visualize counting something, such as sheep or cards
  • Read a book in bed
  • If you can’t stop thinking, calm down by thinking about the past
    • Thinking about the future will keep you up at night from the uncertainties
    • Focus on what happened during your day

Use your body’s state to inspire sleep

  • Repeatedly practice 4-7-8 deep breathing (4-second inhale, 7-second hold, 8-second exhale)
  • Blink fast for a minute to make the eyes tired, then relax them
  • Relax the muscles bit by bit, focusing on tense muscles
  • Stay completely still for 15 minutes
  • Take a hot shower to relax the body
  • Stretch out your legs and back
  • Set the thermostat to 65-72°F to cool down the body
    • A body cools down naturally during sleep, which means a cooled body falls asleep more quickly
    • Make a wind tunnel with a box fan and sheet if it’s still too hot to sleep
    • Wet a t-shirt, wring it out as much as possible, and wear it to bed
    • Place an ice pack under the pillow and flip it each time it gets warm
  • Lay down on your right side, since you’ll get to sleep faster than on your left
    • Observe the position you wake up in and go to sleep in that position

Some issues may be preventing your sleep

  • If your allergies are acting up, take a shower to get the pollen off of you
  • If you have back pain
    • Place a towel or thin pillow under your groin area while on your face
    • Place a pillow between your legs while on your side
    • Place a towel under your knees while on your back
  • If your nose is congested, leave a sliced onion overnight near the bed
  • If you have coughs at night
    • Eat a spoonful of honey
    • Put Vick’s Vapo-Rub on your feet and wear socks over it
  • If you have cramps, drink a mix of two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with a little honey and water
  • If you have indigestion, sleep on your right side to prevent your digestion from backing up
  • If you keep waking up in the middle of the night, eat a slice of bread or a spoon of peanut butter
  • If your roommate’s or significant other’s phone alarm is going off and you can’t reach it, call the phone to disable their alarm

If you need something drastic

  • Look at photos or videos of other people sleeping
  • Read a boring book in bed
  • Cuddle with or have sex with your significant other before going to bed
  • Play the didgeridoo
  • Go camping for a week without electronics to synchronize your melatonin to sunrise and sunset

Traveling will naturally disrupt sleep

When we are in somewhere that our mind sees as new, our brain stays alert throughout the night to protect us

  • It’s much harder to fall asleep when we visit a new environment
  • Gradually, the brain will lose its constantly alert state and adapt to sleeping deeply
  • Frequent travelers naturally lose this ability from becoming accustomed to new sleep environments

Accommodate yourself to prevent sleeplessness from traveling

  • Try to find a low-traffic area in a hotel, such as a top-level room
  • Use blackout curtains or blinds
  • Ask for or bring a white noise machine, earplugs and an eye mask
  • Bring a pillow with a scent and feel you’re accustomed to
  • Eat a light dinner that isn’t spicy, fatty or rich in carbohydrates that could upset the stomach
  • Pack and plan for the next day and put away all electronics to avoid having any active thinking
  • Take a hot bath to relax the muscles
  • Meditate and breathe deeply
  • Get up if you can’t sleep or your brain will become conditioned to your bed for lying down without sleeping

If you’re only traveling for a day or two, keep your home’s sleep pattern

Jet lag is almost always unavoidable, so be ready to fix your body’s rhythm

  • Drink a natural tea like Yerba Mate, ginkgo biloba or ginseng
  • Take a warm shower in the morning
  • Spend the day outside, ideally in the morning between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.
  • Exercise in the early morning or late afternoon
  • Wear “re-timer” glasses that emit a soft green light
  • Nap for up to 20 minutes at a time to get back on schedule
  • Avoid anything that can interfere with your sleep like coffee or alcohol
  • Take a cold shower in the evening

How and when you nap creates drastically different results

10-20 minute naps

  • Ideal for a boost in alertness and energy
  • Limited to lighter sleep stages and is non-REM
  • Very useful for getting creative answers and for a quick re-focusing
  • After an all-nighter, a 15-20 minute nap right before the sun comes up will reset the body’s clock

According to NASA, the perfect nap should last 26 minutes

  • Taking coffee right before a nap will guarantee waking up 20-30 minutes later

30-minute naps may cause sleep inertia (a hangover-like groggy effect for up to 30 minutes after waking up) before your body takes advantage of the nap

60-minute naps

  • The best nap for improving recall of facts, faces, and names
  • Includes slow-wave sleep, the deepest stage

90-minute naps

  • A full cycle of sleep, which includes lighter and deeper stages including REM
  • Leads to improved emotional and procedural memory and creativity
  • Typically avoids sleep inertia

Healthy adults who don’t sleep as much as they’d like to should take naps

  • Laughing for 15 minutes has the same effects as getting 2 hours of sleep

The older people get, the less time they will want for napping

Sitting slightly upright prevents deep sleep

Depending on your sleep cycle, the ideal napping time is usually between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

  • Napping too late in the day or for over 20 minutes can interfere with sleep cycles

Have a consistent and full sleep schedule

It takes a whole week to shift a sleeping pattern, but only one day to return to an old one

Learn how much sleep you need

  • Falling asleep within five minutes of lying down is a sign of sleep deprivation
  • Track when you need to fall asleep naturally with

Each person has one of three different natural patterns (chronotypes)

  • Early chronotype (morning people) – 10% of the population where productivity peaks at 9 a.m.
  • Late chronotype (night owls) – 20% of the population where productivity peaks at 9 p.m.
  • Intermediate chronotype (middle of the day) – 70% of the population where productivity varies across the day

Wake up at the same time every morning

  • Your body’s natural clock is waking you if you awaken before your alarm goes off, so don’t go back to bed
  • Don’t binge sleep on the weekends unless you want to throw off your sleep cycle

If you want to reset your sleep cycle completely

  1. Stop eating during the 12-16 hour period before you want to be awake
  2. Break your fast when you’d like to wake up
  3. Carry on throughout the day and fall asleep at your preferred time

There are many types of sleep schedules you can maintain

The sleep cycles outlined below aren’t as extreme as they sound

  • The body doesn’t need hours of sleep as much as it needs sleep cycles
  • Without training or adaptation, each sleep cycle naturally lasts about 1.5-2 hours
  • Anyone sufficiently determined to adjust their sleep cycle can adapt to any of them


  • The most common sleep cycle
  • Runs without interruption for 7-9 hours a night
  • Total daily sleep time: 7-9 hours

Segmented Sleep (Biphasic)

  • Scientifically proven to be the most natural cycle
  • Runs 3-4 hours at a time for a total of 6-8 hours a night
  • Total daily sleep time: 6-8 hours

Siesta Sleep (Biphasic)

  • A prevalent sleep cycle in many European countries
  • 5-6 hours a night accompanied by 20-90 minutes during the day
  • Total daily sleep time: 5.5-7.5 hours


  • One of the most natural cycles to switch to from a monophasic sleep cycle
  • An eight-hour cycle – fall asleep for 1.5 hours and then stay awake 6.5 hours
  • Total daily sleep time: 4.5 hours


  • The second most intense sleep cycle to adjust to
  • Sleep for 4.5-6 hours accompanied by two 20-minute daytime naps
  • Alternately, sleep 3-4 hours with three 20-minute naps
  • Total daily sleep time: 4-6.5 hours

Dual-Core Sleep

  • Sleep around dusk, then around dawn, then take several naps in the afternoon
  • Total daily sleep time: 4-6.5 hours


  • The most commonly attempted and failed sleep cycle
  • Adapting to the cycle takes a very long transition period
  • Take six to eight 20-minute naps every day
  • Total daily sleep time: 2-3 hours


  • Very few people ever accomplish sustaining a Dymaxion sleep cycle
  • A six-hour cycle – take a 30-minute nap every 5.5 hours
  • Total daily sleep time: 2 hours

SPAMAYL – Sleep Polyphasically As Much As You Like

  • Recently has become more popular and is more flexible than many cycles
  • Take 7-10 naps across the day, ~20 minutes a nap
  • Total daily sleep time: 1.5-4 hours

Every sleep cycle creates dreams, but people don’t usually remember their dreams

Drinking half a glass of water before bed and half a glass when waking up can be a psychological cue to remembering all your dreams

Warm up the room before going to bed if you have trouble with nightmares

Apple juice has a chemical compound that causes vivid and crazy dreams

We all dream, but there isn’t much scientific explanation about how or why we do

Many common dreams have relatively logical interpretations of our subconscious thoughts


  • Being back at school – the work-related side of life
  • Flying – the feeling of freedom
    • Trouble flying – feeling impeded from a liberty
  • Food – symbolizes energy, knowledge or nourishment
  • Houses – representative of the self, basements hold secrets while inner rooms are intensely personal things
  • Teeth – the feeling of confidence and strength
    • Teeth Falling Out – loss of courage or strength
  • Vehicles – represents the power for us to achieve or move forward
  • Water – life or the emotional side of existence, the water’s turbulence refers to unresolved feelings

Insecurities and anxiety

  • Being lost – insecurity or anxiety
  • Driving an out-of-control vehicle – feeling out of control
  • Falling – a sense of failure or feeling insecure or out of control
  • Getting cheated on – concern about real-life infidelity
  • Paralysis – the feeling of powerlessness
  • Test/exam day – difficulties with managing life or failing at responsibilities

Fear and hope for the future

  • Being late or unable to perform – fear of failing at an upcoming event
  • Death – the contemplation of death or sensing a significant future adverse circumstance for you or someone close to you
  • Pregnancy – growth or a new experience, unacknowledged desire to create something
  • Running – could be from a problem or struggle or to a goal or achievement
  • Sex/Friends – the desire for others’ traits
  • Snakes – hidden threats
  • Spiders – manipulating a situation or feeling manipulated

Communication problems

  • Can’t find the bathroom – unable to express personal needs
  • Can’t make a phone call – communication problems
  • Nakedness – vulnerability and exposure in a situation

Lucid dreaming is the ability to control what’s going on in a dream without waking up

To tell if you’re dreaming check a clock twice, you’re dreaming if it’s drastically different the second time around

Pinching yourself may help as well since you can’t feel physical pain in dreams

Next: Health 103: Having A Good Memory