It’s an undeniable fact that all of us need sleep. We need to allocate hours to allow our body and our mind to rest by means of sleeping. Without sleep, our body suffers significantly in various aspects that can range from physical, mental, social, emotional and even spiritual health.

Nowadays, people find it hard to fall asleep because of the several distractions that disrupt our sleeping patterns. With all the gadgets and tech in our lives, it’s quite difficult to get a sense of peace with all that’s going on. Add to that the workload that we need to accomplish day in and day out.

But before getting to the root of sleep problems, it’s best to understand the basics of sleep first and how it really works. Understanding the key concepts of sleep will bring enlightenment to questions that are unanswered and problems without solutions.

What is Sleep?
Sleep is a natural phenomenon that occurs, not only in humans but in most animals. It is characterized by an altered level of consciousness, usually decreased in nature. The senses are significantly inhibited and the movements of most voluntary muscles are also lessened. The ability to respond to stimuli is also decreased but not to the point of being irreversible or alarming compared to states such as hibernation or coma. It’s during sleep that the body is given the chance to rest. Most body systems undergo an amplified anabolic state which promotes growth and recovery of various organs and cells.

What Kind of Sleep is “Deep” Sleep?
The term “deep sleep” isn’t a new thing to hear about. Slow wave sleep or deep sleep is an important type of sleep that allows the consolidation or merging of new memories. Studies suggest that deep sleep is a mechanism wherein the body automatically undergoes to recover from all the weight of the work it has done throughout the day. The secretion of growth hormone is affected by the functions of deep sleep. However, it is often at this stage that events of bedwetting, night terrors, sleepwalking and other similar experiences are common, especially among children.

The Power Nap
A power nap is a short type of sleep that ends right before deep sleep is achieved. The purpose of deep sleep is to quickly recover and rest the body within a few minutes. This practice of short period sleeping comes from the concept of maximizing all the benefits of sleep while minimizing the time used up in sleep. However, it should be noted that power naps are not meant to replace regular sleep. Instead, power naps are utilized to supplement the regular sleep pattern, most especially when the person experiences a lack of sleep during the day.

There are a number of variations that power naps have. These are very short when compared to the normal sleep that we do. These power naps can range from ten (10) to fifteen (15) minutes. One of the purposes of power naps is to allow the person to get some degree of rest without allowing you to travel into the state of deep sleep wherein it is difficult to awake from. Power naps, if executed right, can improve your level of energy, vigor, alertness, concentration and focus right after waking up without any negative effects of sleep inertia, wherein one feels even more exhausted and groggy upon extending until the initial stages of deep sleep. This happens because a full cycle of the regular sleep was not completed.

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Studies have found that power naps that last thirty (30) minutes are the best when it comes to restoring wakefulness. But power naps that are even shorter than that, even as short as six (5) to ten (10) minutes, also help in restoring wakefulness, recovering energy and improving concentration and learning.

What is Non-Restorative Sleep?
There are times whenever we wake up from our sleep, we feel that our body is still exhausted, tired and drained – physically, mentally and emotionally. This event might come as a bit of a surprise especially when you found yourself asleep for eight (8) to ten (10) hours straight. Understanding from that duration, you expect to feel well rested and energized since you slept for a long time and without disturbance. This occurrence is known as non-restorative sleep.

Non-restorative sleep is a type of sleep wherein the body perceives that the sleep you have gotten was still not enough, despite the long hours allotted for sleeping. This is a common occurrence for those who are chronic users of sleeping pills. When they wake up after a night’s rest, they still feel tired and exhausted. The feeling that one hasn’t slept at all lingers. Another good example for non-restorative sleep is for surgical patients induced with anesthesia. Sedative-hypnotics are pre-anesthetic agents that enhance the effect of the main anesthetic agent. Once the anesthesia takes effect, the patient falls into a state of unconsciousness. But upon waking up, the patient still feels tired despite sleeping through the whole operation.

Non-restorative sleep’s effects include fatigue, both physically and mentally, memory problems, decreased concentration, irritability, anxiety, depression and other health problems.

What is Restorative Sleep?
Contrary to non-restorative sleep, restorative sleep is when the body acquires the sleep it needs. This is often experienced when a number of factors are met and healthy sleeping habits are done. Restorative sleep allows the body and the mind to relax, letting the organs and cells recover from all the work they have done throughout the day. The feeling of being refreshed upon waking up from sleep is most often associated with restorative sleep. However, what’s surprising about restorative sleep is that one doesn’t have to sleep for extended periods of hours. The number of hours that one has to sleep varies from person to person in achieving restorative sleep. The benefits of restorative sleep include improved focus and memory, enhanced decision-making skills, clearer thought process and physical energy that can last.

There are many factors that can affect sleep, whether to contribute to getting better sleep or disrupting sleep. Understanding the different concepts of sleep is crucial. Sleep is an important aspect of our lives and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

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