Sleep is an essential biological function for most living things. Studies on the physiology of sleep have shown that a variety of highly relevant biological processes take place during sleep. These include energy conservation, metabolic regulation, memory consolidation, elimination of waste substances, activation of the system, and immunity. All human beings are familiar with the sleep and dream process, since we experience it on a daily basis. However, it is difficult to define it conceptually, so it is easier to point out its behavioral characteristics.
Parallel to the study of sleep physiology, on a clinical level, every day a little more is known about which sleep disturbances or disorders exist, what is their frequency, their causes and, more importantly, what are the consequences that these SDs can have on human health, both in the short and long term. Most population studies suggest that there is a global increase in the frequency of different SDs, perhaps because it’s a growing problem.
NORMAL SLEEP AND ITS PHASES
This biological function is usually divided into 2 large phases that, normally, always occur in the same succession: everything begins with the sleep without rapid eye movements (No REM).
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine indicates the following stages or phases of sleep:
Phase N1: This phase corresponds to drowsiness or the onset of light sleep, in which it is very easy to wake up the individual. Muscle activity gradually decreases and some sudden, brief muscle jerks can be observed that sometimes coincide with a sensation of falling (hypnic myoclonus). The electroencephalogram (EEG) shows low-voltage mixed frequency activity and some sharp waves from the vertex.
Phase N2: The EEG is characterized by specific patterns of brain activity called sleep spindles and K complexes. Physically, the temperature, the heart and respiratory rates begin to decrease gradually.
N3 phase or slow wave sleep: This is the deepest Non-REM sleep phase, and very slow frequency activity (<2 Hz) is seen on the EEG.
Phase R: It is characterized by the presence of rapid eye movements. Physically, the tone of all muscles decreases (with the exception of the respiratory muscles, the bladder and anal sphincters). Likewise, the heart and respiratory rate becomes irregular and may even increase. During REM sleep, most of the daydreams occur (what we colloquially know as dreams), and most patients who wake up during this phase tend to vividly remember the content of their dreams.
A young adult spends approximately 70 to 100 minutes in non-REM sleep and then passes into REM sleep, which can last 5 to 30 minutes, and this cycle repeats every hour and a half throughout the night of sleep. Therefore, 4 to 6 REM sleep cycles can normally occur throughout the night. However, it is important to mention that the duration of these phases has significant changes in relation to age. For example, as age advances, the percentage duration of stages N1 and N2 increases while the duration of phase R gradually decreases.
Insomnia and Remedies
Sleep disorders affect a large number of people around the world. There can be many different causes of insomnia and sleep loss. However, they all have one point in common: they disturb the sleep and inflict daily fatigue. Many people use sleeping pills to sleep better. However, it is far from natural, and can present certain dangers. On the other hand, there are natural solutions to alleviate the sleeplessness and the disorders that accompany it. Amino acids, vitamins and other trace elements can help us get quality sleep.
It is one of the eight essential amino acids, a precursor of serotonin which itself synthesizes the sleep hormone (the famous melatonin). The necessary intake of tryptophan would be 200 mg / day minimum.
We find it in proteins (eggs, meat, fish, tofu, milk) and pulses, but in very small amounts. To optimize our chances of benefiting from them, we associate these foods with carbohydrates, which will help “capture” the amino acid. And in tablets? In case of insomnia, you need 2 tablets per day of L-Tryptophan 500 mg.
It is a mineral element essential for the proper functioning of the body. It stimulates the immune system, preserves our bones, fights stress and depression. Its sedative action helps fight against insomnia.
Where can we find it? you can get it in legumes, dried oleaginous fruits (almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, etc.), sardines in oil, cocoa, and seafood. For tablets, it is strongly recommended to do a course of 2 to 3 months per year – the food intake is rarely sufficient. We take 2 tablets per day of Magnesium 400 mg during meals.
It also plays an important role in the functioning of our body, mainly on ossification. Many studies have shown that in case of a deficiency, we would be exposed to the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer. diabetes, depression and sleep disorders. 80% if the people lack vitamin D in winter!
We can find two-thirds of our vitamin D from the sun’s rays. The remaining third, through food, such as fish, butter, and eggs. They are preferred in drops: 1 per day, to be taken as a food support for a month.
This trace element, best known in its medicinal form to treat bipolar disorders, is very effective in soothing anxieties, irritability and negative emotions. In short, anything that usually keeps us awake!
It is found in drinking water, green vegetables, meat and fish. In supplements, the solution is kept under the tongue for 1 to 2 minutes before swallowing. The doctor may prescribe you to take it 2 to 4 times a day on an empty stomach or 15 minutes before meals.
What about melatonin?
This “sleep” hormone is produced when we sleep by the pineal gland, located at the base of the brain. Its role is to inform the brain about the cycles of the day or the night. In short, it warns us that it’s time to go to bed.
We can find it in foods rich in tryptophan, since this amino acid is the source of its production. Another way is to expose yourself as much as possible to light so that the melatonin is secreted at a higher dose in the evening. The tablet form is low in dosage. From 2 mg, it is considered a drug, and exclusively prescribed by a specialist. In any case, it is better to talk to your doctor. It seems that we lack perspective on the effects of this hormone in the long term.