The second type of sleep is Rapid Eye-Movement (REM) sleep. In pop culture, REM sleep is talked about much more than NREM sleep, and rightfully so!
When REM sleep occurs, it's the time that your brain is cognitively restored.
We selectively process, encode, and store information, skills, and life events during REM sleep. In fact, researchers have found that people who are actively deprived of REM sleep often have poorer performances on motor skills and mental exercises.
These performance decrements can be restored with a power nap in the afternoon - a time when REM sleep is physiologically favored.
Below are a few ways that you can optimize your sleep at night.
Implement these tips and watch your sleep quality, and quantity, skyrocket!
1. Minimize Light at Night
The light emitted from cell phones, tablets, and HDTVs actively suppresses the release of melatonin: “the hormone of darkness”.
Melatonin is released to help us fall asleep and stayasleep.
However, melatonin release is extremely sensitive to light, particularly LED light. Put away your technology at night and read a classic!
2. Keep a Sleep Journal
There are plenty out there. Check out Apple’s ‘Health’ app or this free resource from the Sleep Foundation.
While most (if not all) do not accurately detect deep stages of NREM sleep or REM sleep at night, these devices promote goal-oriented behavior at the very least.
Pen and paper work just as well.
3. Focus on Nutrition:
Science is constantly proving that “we are what we eat.” You may have come across the buzzword “microbiome” -the idea that our guts’ bacteria have a directly profound effect on physiology and behavior. Ratios of good versus bad gut bacteria are dependent upon the food we eat.
Prioritizing greens, healthy grains, fats, and proteins throughout the day stabilizes the body’s blood sugar levels. Eating a low sugar, high protein snack before bed prevents blood sugar levels from spiking during the night partly due to its slow digestion.
BONUS: Three Nutrients to Prioritize For Better Sleep:
Most people are magnesium-deficient and need to supplement. In fact, research shows that half of the US population is deficient. Magnesium helps to maintain a healthy neuromuscular system, allowing you to become fitter, faster, stronger, and sleep better. Foods rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens (e.g., kale and spinach), almonds, cashews, black molasses, nuts, and seeds---especially those of the pumpkin and squash variety.
• Vitamin E and Iron
Restless legs syndrome and general nervous system fatigue are common with intensive training. Vitamin E and iron help to maintain a healthy vascular system, helping with oxygen transport. Foods rich in Vitamin E and iron include sunflower seeds/oil, red meat, and eggs.
• Vitamin B
Vitamin B is well-known to promote energy and alertness, but do you know that it can also promote sleep? Vitamin B aids in the conversion of the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin: a neurochemical driver of sleep. One lesser-known but potent source of Vitamin B and other valuable nutrients is blue-green algae.
Take from a sleep scientist, getting proper sleep is crucial.
Do whatever you can to achieve the golden 8.4 hours of sleep per night.
It’ll be the single greatest thing you can do to positively impact your health in 2021.
Allison is a neuroscientist specializing in the physiology and genetics of sleep and performance. She is author of Meathead: Unraveling the Athletic Brain which debunks the myth of the "dumb jock" and serves as a manual for optimizing athletic performance through neuroscience. Outside of the laboratory, she is a former D1 varsity athlete, Crossfit Games team athlete and still competes in track and field: pole vault and hurdles.