The self care series will be of five parts namely:

The self care series will be of five parts namely:

  1. What is wholesome sleep?
  2. How to enjoy wholesome sleep ?
  3. Water – the elixir for everlasting health.
  4. Wholesome nourishment from food.
  5. Bare minimal physical activity for healthy life.

Wholesome sleep is something basic, natural and effortless for all sentient beings just like breathing. As a species, we evolved as humans and have inhabited planet earth for almost a million years and never before in this long history of humankind have we ever struggled with sleep as we do in the present millennia. That turning point occurred just about a hundred and fifty years ago when humans invented the electric light bulb! 

To understand this, let us see what happens in the physical body when we get ready to sleep. The body starts to produce a hormone called Melatonin also referred as the sleep hormone. This is a light sensitive activity and as sunlight fades into the darkness of the night, gradually this hormone is produced and it puts our physical body to rest. Fading light or darkness triggers melatonin secretion and conversely exposure to light inhibits it totally.  Especially exposure to blue light, which is the light emitted by all the devices we use such as television, laptops, desktop computers, tablets and smartphones, also most of the ambient lighting such as florescent bulbs, tube-lights, LED lights, neon-lights, mercury lights, etc. inhabits melatonin. 

Natural wholesome sleep is not one night long period of unconsciousness. It is an amazing wondrous pattern of cycles called the sleep-cycle. Each cycle consists of four different phases and each cycle lasts for anywhere between sixty to ninety minutes. 

The first phase is a relaxed state between sleep and wakefulness, and it can be called relaxed wakefulness. The second stage is light sleep. In this stage sounds like doorbell or phone ringing could wake you. The third stage is deep sleep when short of physically shaking your whole body, nothing else could wake you up. The fourth stage is REM sleep or the dreaming stage, which is accompanied by a rapid eye movement as if your eyes are watching a fast moving movie within. Each of these stages are of varying durations but all put together takes about 90 minutes for most humans. For some it could take lesser than 90 but not below 60 minutes per cycle. 

A wholesome sleep requires at least five sleep cycles each night. Typically if your sleep cycle is 90 minutes, you would need 450 minutes or seven and half hours of sleep. Anything less than four cycles consistently would put you into severe sleep deprivation and disease. Therefore a bare minimum of six to seven hours of sleep daily is absolutely necessary for a healthy life and whatever minor shortfalls can be compensated over the weekends or with daytime naps. 

Each stage in the sleep cycle has a specific purpose and rests or rejuvenates a different aspect of your mind-body combine. You begin the sleep with stage one but you don’t end the sleep with stage four, you end it after another stage one. Let us see what happens in each stage, you can study more details of this by reading some good books – I recommend – Ariana Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution. Information online may be conflicting and confusing but if you read only researched information form authoritative sources, there are a lot of good research work on sleep in recent times and you can learn a lot of useful information. 

In stage one the body has gone to sleep and the mind is awake winding down the day that went by and getting ready to let go and relax. In stage two both the mind and body are diving deeper and deeper into a state of rest. Stage three is the deep resting stage when the body healing, repairing mechanisms are active. In stage four the emotional mind is awake while the rational mind is still sleeping. Your dreams are pure expressions from your emotional mind and helps you express and release pent up emotions. You would naturally wake up in the middle of the night for a visit to the toilet when one cycle is complete and you begin the stage one of the next. 

In the first part of the night stage one and two occupy larger part of the cycle and in the middle of the night the stage three deep sleep occupies larger part. As you near the later part of the night, the REM sleep takes longer time. That is why if you have had lesser than the minimum seven hours of sleep, your body and mind might be rested but your emotions are still imbalanced. For a balanced and grounded emotional state of mind therefore, five cycles of wholesome sleep is a must. Children, teenagers and sports people may need more than five cycles of sleep and older people may need lesser. 

Read the next article to learn how to inculcate habits that could help you enjoy wholesome sleep. The habit of daily meditation could greatly enhance your sleep quality and lead you to better health, physical, emotional as well as mental.