The Sleep Revolution: How To Get Back To Sleep

Sleep is a vital part of our overall health and well-being. In this article, learn about four eye-opening theories on why humans sleep, why it’s important to heart health, the dangers of not getting enough, and how to get back to sleep ASAP!

I’ll also disclose the magic number of hours you should aim for every night.

Are you ready to get a better night’s sleep? Let’s get to it!

Why Do We Sleep?

There are a few interesting theories as to why humans sleep. They’re pretty interesting and worth mentioning, even if some don’t apply to today’s world. Keep reading to discover the four theories of human sleep.

Sleep Theory #1: Inactivity Theory

This theory is sometimes called the adaptive or evolutionary theory of sleep.

The inactivity theory suggests that we become inactive at night as a survival technique. You see, our vision isn’t as good in the dark, so we are more vulnerable at night to predators (1).

This theory proposes that humans sleep to protect themselves from danger. According to the theory, this gives us an evolutionary and reproductive advantage.

However, some may argue that sleeping puts us at a higher risk, and survival would be more likely if we stayed awake 24 hours a day. In my opinion, the inactivity theory doesn’t apply to most cultures today, as we’ve become more and more evolved.

Sleep Theory #2: Energy Conservation Theory

Next is the energy conservation theory. This theory proposes that the main purpose of sleep is to reduce energy needs at night when energy levels are not efficient enough to search for food (2).

This theory is backed up by research suggesting that metabolism decreases by up to 15% during sleep (3). Very interesting. However, I feel there is more reason to sleep than to conserve energy.

Sleep Theory #3: Restorative Theory

Third is the restorative theory of sleep. This theory hypothesizes that we sleep as a means of repairing and rejuvenating.

This includes improving our immunity, healing damage, dreaming, promoting growth and learning, removing waste, and avoiding any serious side effects of sleep deprivation (1).

According to this theory, our bodies repair and replete cellular components during sleep that are depleted throughout the day.

This theory does have some criticism, however. This is primarily because other organisms besides humans sleep, including single-cell organisms and plants. So, do these organisms improve learning during sleep just as we do? And do they also dream as we do?

Difficult to wrap your head around a house plant having dreams, isn’t it?

Sleep Theory #4: Brain Plasticity Theory

And lastly, there is the brain plasticity theory. This theory suggests that we sleep to promote neural reorganization and the growth of new neuron connections in our brain (2). It also stresses the importance of sleep stages, including rapid eye movement (REM) sleep for making these new connections and memories.

Getting adequate amounts of uninterrupted sleep is crucial for going through an entire sleep cycle and maintaining a proper circadian rhythm.

This theory explains why infants and children need more sleep (up to 14 hours per day)- which is because their brains are still developing neuronal connections.

Sleep and Cardiometabolic Health

Sleeping is crucial for health, especially cardiometabolic health.

According to the American College of Cardiology, around 47 million people in the United States have cardiometabolic disorders. This puts them at higher risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Lack of sleep increases your chances of developing metabolic syndrome– also known as cardiometabolic syndrome.

Cardiometabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

The role of sleep and the circadian system is not to be ignored when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. Sleep disruptions are linked to a range of cardiometabolic health outcomes.

One study shows that shorter sleep duration and poor sleep quality are linked to a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in adults. The study analyzed data from 1,683 adults over 10 years.

They found that adults who slept less than six hours each night were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes (3).

Poor sleep quality also increases your risk of developing heart failure and cardiovascular disease. This risk increases if you sleep less than six hours per night compared to those who get six to eight hours per night (4, 5).

What Happens When We Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

As you can see there are many theories as to why we sleep. I personally think the best theory is a combination of them all!

Either way, getting adequate sleep allows our bodies to function at their best, both physically and mentally. When we don’t get enough sleep, it can have negative effects on our health. Some of the most common include:

  • Impaired cognitive function– When we don’t get enough sleep, our brains don’t have a chance to rest and recharge. This can lead to problems with concentration, memory, and decision-making.
  • Increased risk of accidents– Sleep deprivation can lead to fatigue, which makes us more likely to make mistakes, which can lead to accidents. This is especially true when we are driving or operating machinery.
  • Depression or Mood swings– When we don’t get enough sleep, our emotions can be more volatile. We may become irritable, anxious, or depressed.
  • Weight gain– Sleep deprivation can lead to hormonal changes that regulate hunger- leptin and ghrelin. These changes make us more likely to gain weight (6).
  • Heart disease– Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
  • Stroke. Lack of sleep has also been linked to an increased risk of stroke.
  • Diabetes– Sleep deprivation can make it more difficult for our bodies to regulate blood sugar levels, which can increase the risk of diabetes (6).
  • Immune system dysfunction– Sleep deprivation can weaken our immune system, making us more susceptible to illness.
  • Cancer– Some studies show that lack of sleep may increase the risk of certain types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, prostate, and endometrial cancer (7).

In addition to these consequences, you may also experience headaches, nausea, and sleep apnea from lack of sleep (6).

Related article: Can Sleep Apnea Be Cured?

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

The amount of sleep we need varies from person to person, but what is a healthy amount of sleep?

Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Children and teenagers need even more, with younger children requiring up to 14 hours per night.

Age RangeHours of Sleep Per Night
18-60 years7 or more hours per night
61-64 years7-9 hours
65+ years7-8 hours
Table 1: Amount of sleep adults need by age

Related article: 5 Things You Can Do to Support Heart Health NOW

Sleep Calculator Tools

Several online calculators can help you determine how much sleep you need. These calculators use information like age, gender, and activity level to calculate hours of sleep.

One of the most popular sleep calculators is the Sleep Foundation Sleep Calculator.

Simply enter your age range, when you want to wake up, and when you want to go to bed.

Some sleep calculators may also ask for your activity level or sleep habits including how often you wake up during the night and how long it takes to fall asleep.

Remember that these calculators are just estimates. The amount of sleep you need varies from one person to another, and you shouldn’t rely solely on a sleep calculator.

More importantly, if you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. There may be an underlying medical condition that is interfering with your sleep.

Tips For a Restful Night

There are several sleep behavior strategies we can use to improve our cardiometabolic health and get a healthy amount of sleep. Some proven tips for getting restful sleep include:

  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (even on weekends)
  • Creating a relaxing bedtime routine (warm bath, reading a book, music, meditation, stretching, journaling)
  • Limiting the use of electronics (or using a blue light filter) which can block melatonin production
  • Making sure our bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool
  • Avoiding a heavy meal before bedtime and choosing a light snack instead
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Seeing a doctor if you have a sleep disorder

These are just a few suggestions. Another alternative medicine option is using essential oils or aromatherapy to help relax you as you drift into slumber.

Additionally, if you have a condition like insomnia, studies show that cognitive behavior therapy may be beneficial (8).

Foods To Get You Back To Sleep

Did you know that certain foods help promote better sleep? Many of these foods are either natural sources of melatonin and tryptophan or have other supportive components to sleep health.

Here are some of the best foods you can eat before bedtime to get a healthy amount of sleep:

  1. Kiwi– this fruit boosts serotonin that converts to melatonin in our bodies to make us drowsy.
  2. Nuts– preferably unsalted varieties if you have high blood pressure. Eating around 1.5 ounces at night provides a good source of magnesium and zinc that can boost melatonin levels.
  3. Yogurt– this is a natural source of the amino acid tryptophan, which promotes sleep. Yogurt is also a good source of protein and carbohydrates to keep blood sugar stable.
  4. Banana– this fruit contains tryptophan, potassium, and magnesium which can prevent muscle cramping at night and relax nerves.
  5. Popcorn– this complex carbohydrate gives you hunger-busting fiber to get you through the night. Whole grains like popcorn also lead to insulin production and an increase in tryptophan. Lightly salted or unsalted air-popped popcorn will do the trick!
  6. Cherries– here’s another sleep-promoting fruit that provides melatonin and tryptophan. Tart cherry varieties like Richmond, Montmorency, and English Morello are preferred. You can also drink tart cherry juice.
  7. Chamomile Tea– Chamomile contains the antioxidant apigenin, which can induce relaxation.
  8. Eggs– Eggs contain the drowsiness-inducing amino tryptophan. Try poached, scrambled, or hard-boiled eggs about an hour or two before bedtime.

For more on the health benefits of tea: Tea for Heart Health: How a Cup a Day Can Improve Your Cardiovascular Health

foods to help you get back to sleep

7 Best Apps To Help You Sleep

You can keep track of sleep habits using phone apps that you can download as well. There are several highly rated ones available for iPhones, Androids, and tablets.

Most of these apps promote sleep by using relaxation techniques as part of the bedtime routine. I personally use the BetterSleep app and find the customizable sounds so soothing that I’m sleeping within minutes.

Here are a few popular apps you can try:

Tide app for better sleep
The Tide app uses mindful meditation, calming quotes, and white noise to promote relaxation.
Sleepo app for better sleep
The Sleepo app has over 300 sounds, including white noise, everyday ambiance, and mixes you create yourself.
Relax Melodies app for better sleep
Relax Melodies uses sounds, melodies, and brain wave frequencies to help you fall asleep fast.
Insight app for better sleep
The Insight Timer app has thousands of guided meditations to choose from that help relax you.
Snorelab app for better sleep
SnoreLab is the perfect app for those who snore; record your snoring and get recommendations to fix it.
Sleep Cycle app for better sleep
Sleep Cycle tracks and analyzes your sleep and gently wakes you up exactly when you need to.
Better Sleep app for better sleep
The BetterSleep app uses music, sound waves, stories, and more to help you get a good night’s sleep.

FAQ About Sleep

Can sleep deprivation cause nausea?

Yes, lack of sleep can cause nausea and other gastrointestinal issues. This is because sleep deprivation can lead to changes in the way our bodies process food and fluids. Lack of sleep also causes us to produce the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can interfere with digestion and lead to nausea.

Do women need more sleep than men?

Some studies have shown that women may need slightly more sleep than men. This is likely due to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle and menopause.
In addition, studies show that women report poorer sleep quality with more insomnia, daytime sleepiness, and difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep than men.

Can lack of sleep cause high blood pressure?

Yes! Getting less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night can increase your risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) by 7%. This risk increases to 11% when you get less than five hours of sleep each night.

Ready To Get More Sleep?

As you can see, there are a few theories explaining why humans sleep. Sleep is essential for overall health and well-being. By prioritizing sleep we can improve our mood, boost our energy levels, and reduce our risk of chronic disease.

If you are having any of the symptoms mentioned in this article and suspect it’s related to lack of sleep, try using the sleep calculator, address your underlying health issues, and utilize the above techniques to help you get back to sleep.

Following a healthy diet and choosing foods that promote healthy sleep can also ensure you are getting a healthy amount of sleep. Many foods contain natural ingredients to promote sleep. Incorporate them into meals and snack times.

And finally, don’t forget to mention any concerns to your doctor. Managing sleep deprivation early on can prevent future health issues if they’re properly treated. Sweet dreams! 😴

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