4. What Determines The Quality And Quantity Of Sleep We Need?
The amount of sleep that a person needs varies according to the individual’s body and his or her sleeping conditions. Some people fare nicely on five or six hours of sleep daily, while others require eight or nine hours daily. Why the difference? Sleep needs vary with every individual and every circumstance. People sleep more in winter than in summer! Why should that be so? Mental workers sleep more than physical workers! What causes that? People who work and sleep outdoors get by with one to two hours sleep less than those who work equally arduously indoors and sleep indoors. Why? To answer the above questions, one must understand the intricacies of nerve energy expenditure and the conditions that enable the body to most efficiently regenerate it.
4.1 Conditions That Promote Efficient Sleep
The most efficient sleep is termed sound sleep, slow-wave sleep; delta sleep, stage four sleep or deep sleep. Deep sleep produces about twice the amount of recuperation as does lighter stages of sleep.
Since most Americans are toxic, it is doubtful that sleep researchers have examined the sleep of very many truly healthy people. The data the researchers have charted as normal really reflects the average of unhealthy people.
Truly healthy people sleeping under ideal conditions require less sleep than less healthy individuals. This is due to several factors. Firstly, a healthy person needs less recuperation due to less energy expenditure. Secondly, a healthy person is capable of a greater proportion of very sound sleep because of less internal body disturbance. Thirdly, a healthy individual can regenerate nerve energy faster due to the increased efficiency of the person’s faculties.
The ideal conditions of sleep are determined by both internal and external circumstances. The more comfortable the sleeper, the sounder their sleep will be. Pure air occasions less sleep and quiet surroundings promote deeper sleep. Also, the less light in the sleeping area, the less disturbed will be the sleep.
4.2 Conditions That Interfere With Sleep
Certain internal conditions favor or disfavor sleep. A person with a toxin-free body sleeps more readily and more soundly than a toxin-laden individual. For example, insomnia will often result from drinking coffee. The distress and stimulation from the caffeine may inhibit sleep, especially sound sleep. The body must expend energy in expelling the caffeine. At the same time, it generates less nerve energy because of lack of sound sleep.
Another condition that interferes with sleep is eating at bedtime. The primary reason for sleep is to regenerate nerve energy. However, if a person eats before sleeping, his/her body will direct much of its energies towards the digestion of the food. Since the brain is involved in digestion, less sound sleep will result. Additionally, the body will suffer a deficit of nerve energy because less was regenerated during the digestive process than would have been if the food had not been eaten.
Anything that is in the sleeper’s environment or body that disturbs the senses or uses more nerve energy than normal interferes with sleep, thus making it less efficient and effective.
The book Better Sleep for a Better Life details specific conditions that interfere with sleep.
4.3 Fresh Air and Sleep
Those who sleep in fresh air invariably report better sleep and a lesser need for sleep than those who sleep inside their homes. Why should this be so? Stated very simply, any improvement in sleeping conditions improves sleep. When a person sleeps in fresh air, the body receives its oxygen needs in a relatively pure state. Air inside homes is likely to have less oxygen and more pollution than fresh air. Impure air furnishes less of our needs and gives the body more problems than does fresh air.
It is very beneficial to sleep by open windows in a quiet environment so that fresh air flows freely during sleep. If the environment is noisy, it is wise to have the house ventilated so that fresh air is continuously funneled to and through the bedroom. Even polluted air from the outside is better than stale air trapped indoors. Sleeping is also improved by working in a fresh air environment during the day.
4.4 Exercise and Sleep
Exercise is a blessing that we should indulge regularly. Optimally, we should exercise daily, but certainly not less than four times weekly. Performed as much as possible within our limitations, exercise confers only benefits and no liabilities. Exercise in the form of jogging, calisthenics, gardening, bicycling, swimming, brisk walking, etc., up to about half an hour daily, takes no time from our waking moments! Sleep needs are reduced by about that amount!
Exercise “fine-tunes” the organism. Elimination is so accelerated by exercise that extraordinary body cleansing occurs. The body not only eliminates extra carbon dioxide generated during vigorous exercise, but it also occasions the removal of accumulated toxins ingested from nonfoods and drugs and toxins created as a result of overeating, eating wrong combinations, eating under stress, etc.
A pure, less toxic body needs less nerve energy. Less expenditure of nerve energy means less nerve energy need be generated, hence less sleep is required by a person who exercises regularly.
4.5 Eating Practices and Sleep
Foods that require less digestive and assimilative energy use less nerve energy. Foods that are associated with toxic materials, such as cooked foods, condiments, additives, etc., give the body eliminative problems. Eliminative problems require a great deal of nerve energy to be properly dealt with. For example, a single bout with alcohol can exhaust the body for a day or two. The need for sleep is greatly increased so that the body may recuperate its energy.
Here are some salient principles you should keep in mind relative to diet and sleep requirements:
- The more wholesome the food, the less nerve energy is required to digest and use it. Wholesome food lessens sleep needs and increases sleep efficiency.
- The more unfit the foods eaten, the more nerve energy is expended and the more sleep is required. Moreover, sleep will be less efficient when unwholesome foods are consumed.
Fasting individuals require only three to five hours of sleep daily after fasting for a short time. People who eat meat, condiments and cooked foods and who overeat require inordinare amounts of sleep. Despite the extra sleep, they are usually not well rested because they have a perpetual deficit of nerve energy due to their unwholesome practices.
You should not eat for at least two hours prior to bedtime. Though meals do sometimes occasion drowsiness and sluggishness, due to the redirection of blood supply to the digestive organs, we should not expect to sleep well while the body is conducting digestive and assimilative tasks.
Eating beyond the body’s need imposes an enervating task upon the body. Processing and disposing of food requires a great deal of energy. Improper combinations or unwholesome foods usually end up in a pathogenic mess that drains the body’s resources in eliminative efforts. This drain of energy results in poor sleep and in a correspondingly greater need for sleep. An enervated individual who sleeps 12 hours daily may be less rested than a healthy person who gets only six hours!
4.6 Relaxation and Sleep
Relaxation is a great prelude to sleep. In a relaxed state, we drop the cares of the world and let go. Also, muscular tensions are released. When we take it easy and let go of tension, the body redirects its energies to its most needed tasks.
The cares of the world may be difficult to drop. I personally find it easy to let go of them by doing a few words on a crossword puzzle, solving a few chess problems or by pursuing some other consuming interest. Then I lay down, close my eyes and let myself go limp as if I were a bag of sand.
Somnolence comes quickly when the need for sleep exists and the demands upon the brain have been lowered as much as possible. Tensions, worries and stresses increase the need for sleep while simultaneously making it more difficult to fall asleep.
Many excellent relaxation methods can be practiced with benefit. One method that does not help you fall asleep so much as it helps you perform everyday activities in a relaxed and efficient manner is the Alexander Technique. There are instructors in many major cities.
People who are tense and who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, besides improving their diet and getting more exercise and fresh air, should search for and find a relaxation method that will help them.
4.7 Bedding and Sleep
In America, bedding usually consists of an innerspring mattress over box springs, sheets, a pillow with pillow case and blankets and/or quilts.
For body comfort, the softer the mattress, the better. Of equal benefit is airiness. A soft innerspring mattress meets these conditions ideally. A thin cotton mattress on top of a foam, air or waterbed mattress works well too. The body is disturbed by pressure points, hot spots, cold areas and areas deprived of air. The body, like the lungs, will suffocate without fresh air. While the skin requires only a fraction of the air required by the lungs, it requires it nevertheless. Plastic materials deny the body air.
Body exudates then collect and irritate the skin, thus causing a lighter stage of sleep and frequent body shifting to overcome the discomfort.
Fabrics that breathe, such as cotton, solve this problem. Sleep should be conducted on cotton surfaces with lots of circulation underneath. Cotton sheets, blankets or materials should be used for cover.
Sleep is more efficiently conducted when the body is comfortable in temperature and when it is physically at ease. If the air temperature is warm, nude sleeping is ideal. Indoors, a fan may prove valuable if the air is very warm. If the temperature is in the sixty- to seventy-degree range, light-weight cotton pajamas or nightgowns will permit the warmer air radiating from your body to rise through the coverings into the cooler air outside the covers. Thus circulation is assured.
Perhaps you know that sleeping on concrete would provide very few contact points between the body and the concrete. The body’s weight would rest on these points, thus creating pressure points that interfere with blood circulation and skin respiration. Distress of the areas in contact would soon occur and thus rouse the brain into a lighter stage of sleep in order to conduct a body movement.
On the other hand, a very soft bed permits the underside of the body to make rather even contact with the sleeping surface. Optimal air circulation can occur on the underside if cotton is underneath, and body weight is evenly distributed so as to cause no uncomfortable pressure points.
In nursing homes and hospitals, very hard beds are used. This is in keeping with the current medical philosophy. Bed sores frequently occur, with resulting “infection.” Rather than “infection,” what really happens is that oxygen-starved cells and tissues that are under constant pressure die and suppurate due to decomposition. No one should be confined to bed all the time. Daily fresh air and sunshine on the body is of inestimable importance. Neither should the body lay on hard or overly firm surfaces.
To sum up, bedding should permit optimal air flow and maintain an even, comfortable body temperature and even distribution of body weight over the underside.
- 1. Introduction
- 2. What Is Rest?
- 3. What Is Sleep?
- 4. What Determines The Quality And Quantity Of Sleep We Need?
- 5. The Value Of Napping
- 6. Dreams And Their Role In Sleep
- 7. Establishing Conditions Most Favorable For Sleep
- 8. Sleep Problems In Adults And Their Solutions
- 9. Sleep Problems In Infants And Children With Suggested Solutions
- 10. Nostrums, Medications And Drugs Adminstered For Sleep Problems
- 11. Our Biological Clock And Sleep
- 12. Improving The IQ Through Sleep
- 13. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: How To Put Yourself To Sleep Easily By A.F. Willat
- Article #2: Rest: A Much-Neglected Health Factor
- Article #3: The Need For Rest By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
- Article #4: Rest vs. Stimulation By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton