Sleep A-Zzzz: What You Need to Know About Sleep and Health

Sleep A-Zzzz: What You Need to Know About Sleep and Health

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Did you get a good night’s rest last night? We hope so because sleep is one of the fundamental pillars of health – alongside getting proper nutrition and enough exercise every daySleep deprivation, or a lack of deep (high quality) slumber at night, can negatively affect your mood, cognitive function and performance during the daytime.  It can also put you at greater risk for experiencing long-term health conditions, including but not limited to anxiety, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, mood disorders, Alzheimer’sand cancer. Though snoozing may seem like a mundane activity, it is essential for survival and longevity.  Keep reading to learn the basics of sleep – what it is, why it’s important, and how it affects virtually every part of your life. 

What is sleep, and why do we do it?

Sleep is the body’s rest cyclea vital process that naturally occurs in mammals, birds and reptilesFor humans specifically, sleep typically accounts for 7-9 hours out of a typical 24-hour day, during which the brain and body recover and flush out toxins to help prepare for tomorrow  [It] is a period during which the brain is engaged in a number of activities necessary to life—which are closely linked to quality of life,” says Johns Hopkins sleep expert and neurologist Mark Wu, M.D., Ph.D.

What is the anatomy of sleep?

Sleep is a complex and dynamic activity that researchers are still working to better understand. What we do know is that there are several structures within the brain that are involved with this process.

Source: Nature

Hypothalamus – While this region of the brain is small, it plays a crucial role in many important functions, including but not limited to releasing hormones, regulating body temperature, as well as sleep cycles.  Within the hypothalamus is an even smaller structure called the Suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) which contains thousands of photosensitive cells that receive light inputs through the eyes and control your circadian rhythm. 

Pineal gland – Often referred to as the “Third Eye”, this pea-sized gland produces and regulates hormones – including melatonin, which is best known for the role it plays in inducing sleep. Scientists believe that peaks and valleys of melatonin over time are important for matching the body’s circadian rhythm to the external cycle of light and darkness. (NINDS)

Brain stem – Located at the base of the brain, this structure communicates with the hypothalamus to relax the body’s muscles and reduce arousal so that we don’t act out our dreams while we sleep. 

Thalamus – During REM sleep, this area of the brain transmits imagery, sounds, and other sensations that fill our dreams to the cerebral cortex (which interprets and processes information from short- to long-term memory). 

Amygdala — This almond-shaped structure is often referred to as the “emotional gas pedal” within the brain that decodes and processes emotions.  It is notably increasingly active during REM sleep. It relies on messages that brain cells (neurons) send to each other to produce sensationsuch as fear, pleasure, and excitement – especially when the brain needs to learn that one thing leads to another. This strengthens the synapses between neurons and reinforces the emotions that you feel.

Source: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

What are the stages of sleep? 

Once thought to be a passive state, researchers now know that sleep is a highly active time in which the brain and some physiological processes are hard at work following a structured process.  

Sleep is divided into two main categories: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-REM:  

Non-REM Stage 1 – This is when your brain waves begin to slow from their daytime wakefulness patterns to sleep.  Your heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements begintoslow, and your muscles relax. 

Non-REM Stage 2 – This is a light sleep period that occurs right before you enter deeper sleep.  During this stage, your core temperature drops, and your body continues to relax.  You spend more of your repeated sleep cycles in stage 2 Non-REM sleep than in other sleep stages. 

Non-REM Stage 3 – This stage is often referred to as “slow wave,” “delta” or “deep” sleep.  Your heartbeat, breathing and brain waves all slow down to their lowest levels during sleep.  This is when the brain becomes less responsive to external stimuli, and as a result, it is most difficult to wake a person up from this stage. (Live Science) 

REM – During REM sleep the brain is active, your eyes move rapidly in different directions (hence the name), and your heart rate increases. REM is when most dreaming happens. According to the National Sleep Foundation, REM sleep is when the brain processes information from the day so it can be stored in long-term memory.

Source: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

The human body ebbs and flows through cycles of REM to non-REM sleep every 90 minutes. Each stage is important and has specific functions related to cognitive function, forming memories, removing toxins, and keeping the tissues and organs throughout your body healthy.

For continued reading: The Most Comprehensive List of Sleep Facts

Junk Light, Disrupted Sleep, and Your Health

Exposure melatonin disrupting junk light can have have effects on many aspects of your health

Sleep cycle disruption

Junk light exposure when traveling can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Long-term exposure to light at night which accompanies shift work is listed as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Light at night has shown to be highly associated with significantly the risk of hormone specific such as cancers of the breast and prostate.

Headaches/Vision

The flickering wavelength of light associated with LEDs and compact fluorescent lights emit blue light that inhibits melatonin production but also create a unique glare that impacts your retina causing eye strain, headaches, and physical and mental fatigue.

Weight Gain

Red light and darkness move leptin and ghrelin into patterns that are (context dependent) associated with less hunger, while blue light does the opposite and can move both into patterns associated with more hunger.

Anxiety/Depression & Depression

Increase in cortisol, the stress hormone, due to circadian disruption. Memory recall is impaired with consistent sleep deprivation and may leave you distracted and not performing your absolute best.

The Importance of Melanopsin Cells

The Key to Better Sleep

detects blue light

The melanopsin cells detect blue light it tells your brain that it is “daytime” and less melatonin is produced.

sending signals to your brain

The signals to your brain to alert brightness and for the brain to increase or suppress the sleep hormone, melatonin.

Light Source

Melanopsin cells can’t differentiate the blue light that occurs naturally form the sun from the junk light emitted from your computer monitor.

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Harness Your Biology to Fight Junk Light

Your body requires some blue light at the right time of day and from the right sources. That’s why we created TrueDark® Sleep Technology that gives you 24-protection from junk light day and night.

Use TrueDark® Twilights When You’re Ready for Sleep

Stop Junk Light with patented TrueDark® Twilights technology that frees your hormones and neurotransmitters to do their best work.

When the sun goes down, blue light isn’t the only junk light that can disrupt our sleep cycle and more than blue blockers are needed. Patented TrueDark® Twilights is the first and only solution that is designed to work with melanopsin, a protein in your eyes responsible for absorbing light and sending sleep/wake signals to your brain. Without melanopsin, melatonin can’t be accessed.

When you wear your Twilights for as little as 30 min before bed you prevent your melanopsin from detecting the wrong wavelengths of light at the wrong time of day. This supports  your circadian rhythm and helps you fall asleep faster and get more restorative and restful sleep.

glasses to help with computer eye strain computer glasses

TrueDark® Daylights for Your Waking Hours

The highly advanced lenses in TrueDark® Daylights operate on a more advanced level than traditional blue blockers.

Blue light emitted from the sun helps regulate our sleep/wake cycle. However, in today’s world, we’re exposed to an overabundance of blue light, or junk light from artificial light. This includes hours spent in front of  TVs, phones, and computers. It also includes time spent in artificial man made light with LEDs and fluorescent lights. Even if we’re simply reading a book, we’re doing that in artificial light which emit dramatically more blue light than the sun. That overexposure to junk light during the day has a dramatic impact on our neurotransmitters and hormones that are responsible for quality sleep.

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