I FEEL ASLEEP!!
What is Sleep?
We experience sleep across multiple stages that can be tracked by something called electroencephalography (EEG). It's a graph that measures the electrical activity in your noggin. Your heads wrapped in a cap full of electrodes with conductive gel to bridge the gap between your noggin and those electrode sensors. I've experienced it one time, and I continue to stand by this being the most persistent hair gel ever. Anyway, this graphing method can be used for a whole host of studies (e.g. sleep, mood, seizures, etc.) done simply by measuring brain wave activity. In short, we have the technological means to confirm six states of consciousness (awake and sleep stages 1-5). Please note: I'm grossly simplifying a deep topic that you can explore via a medical branch called "sleep medicine."
I'm going to switch gears and briefly describe how nutrition and exercise function in tandem with sleep. Throughout a "day," how we eat and exercise typically impacts about when our body knows it's time to sleep. In short, you eat for energy, you dispense energy to think and move about, and eventually your brain initiates a count down to "time to conk out." Typically, this countdown hinges on the presence or lack of sunlight (pro tip: blue lights can disrupt your brains ability to cue the transmission of sleep hormones). Now, this happens a bit differently for everyone, and there's science to show that everyone will not function effectively on the fabled 10PM-5AM sleep schedule no matter how you budget the numbers. Is it dysregulated laziness that keeps night owls up late? Absolutely not - special shout out to shift workers and anybody who wants to be up because 3AM is magical when you're a night owl. Are early birds truly the most successful? Only if you expect everyone to be productive at 5:00AM sharp, but that's confirming a bias. So, real answer: No.
Having a Sleep Disorder
How do sleep disorders happen? That's where a medical team can help determine the causal factors. Sleep disorders are complex and plentiful (e.g. narcolepsy, insomnia, parasomnia, shift works sleep disorder, etc.) and often vary depending on the specific diagnosis (e.g. Type I narcolepsy, Type II narcolepsy, etc.) and our unique personal factors. Myself, I experience REM parasomnia which occurs during more active parts of sleep. My parasomnias include nightmare disorder (long-lasting and detailed nightmares during the second half of sleep), sleep paralysis (brief sleep-induced paralysis when falling asleep or waking up despite being awake), and exploding head syndrome (sudden loud sounds when trying to fall asleep which usually illicit myoclonic tremor/muscular jerk/nearly jumped the f' out of bed for absolutely no reason). As you might suspect, my sleep schedule becomes fairly irregular and the end-result can lead to cyclical anxiety about the entire wake-sleep process.
The damage of not getting enough sleep: impaired immune system, higher risk of chronic conditions, impaired judgment, impaired memory, impaired focus, impaired balance, low sex drive, decreased recovery (fitness junkies, that applies to you too).
It's 3AM now, I can't sleep, and I feel asleep. More to come about sleep strategies, stress management, exercise, and what life on a schedule looks like! And please let me know what you found helpful, and what you do to get those Zzzz's!
Website: National Sleep Foundation
Book: Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, PhD
Book: The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It by W. Chris Winter, MD.