What’s your definition of sleep and what are sleep cycles? 

Sleep, an active, organized process, is the restorative and rejuvenating phase of daily life. It consists of sleep cycles of about ninety minutes each, during which we cycle through light sleep and deep sleep. On a typical night, we go through four to five such cycles, and with each cycle, our REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep gets longer, deeper, and more restorative.

The sleep state includes two major types of sleep: REM sleep and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep is divided into three different stages, with stage three referred to as “delta sleep.” In adults, non-REM sleep accounts for approximately 80 percent of their sleeping time, while REM sleep occupies 20 percent of the normal sleep experience.

Sleep plays a vital role in memory consolidation, information processing, and retrieval. Adequate duration of regular sleep is necessary to maintain normal levels of cognitive skills such as memory, speech, complex thinking, and creative problem solving.

How much sleep do we need?

This is the question I get asked most commonly. My answer is simple: whatever it takes for you to feel alert, energetic all-day long, every day. For your spouse, it can be 7 hours, for you it can be 7.5 hours.

In a Consensus Statement published in June 2015, American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society recommended 7 or more hours of sleep every night.

  1. Sleeping less than 7 hours per night on a regular basis is associated with adverse health outcomes, including weight gain and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, depression, and increased risk of death. Sleeping less than 7 hours per night is also associated with impaired immune function, increased pain, impaired performance, increased errors, and greater risk of accidents.
  2. Sleeping more than 9 hours per night on a regular basis may be appropriate for young adults, individuals recovering from sleep debt, and individuals with illnesses. For others, it is uncertain whether sleeping more than 9 hours per night is associated with health risk.
  3. People concerned they are sleeping too little or too much should consult their healthcare provider.

Please make necessary adjustment in your life and your work so that you can get sound sleep of seven hours every night. Your mind, body, soul, and your family will appreciate it.

What to do if you’re not getting enough sleep?

The most critical thing to do during these trying times is that you take care of your deep sleep. You don’t want to be sleep deprived both quantitatively, and qualitatively. Follow good sleep habits with fanaticism. Avoid caffeine after 1 PM. Avoid alcohol after 7 PM. Find time and exercise for 30 minutes. Keep a cool, quiet, dark, and comfortable bedroom. Do a prayer before bedtime. Learn progressive muscle relaxation. Avoid working or worrying in bed. Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule.

Can meditation help you improve sleep?

Yes, it certainly can. Yoga and meditation facilitate sleep onset and improve deep sleep percentages. Meditation, in addition, results in emotional and spiritual rejuvenation, while sleep alone results in physical and intellectual enhancement.

Is a power-nap during the day beneficial or does it have a negative effect for bedtime?

A power nap in the afternoon gives two days in one!

Because of our circadian rhythm, our alertness and, hence, our performance dips in the afternoon. This nadir is deeper when we are sleep deprived and when we are traveling across multiple time zones. If we can fight this drowsiness with a strategically placed power nap, then we can maximize executive function and avoid fatal mistakes. (Most fatal vehicular accidents occur in the midafternoon and after midnight.) A nap after 3 PM can rob you of your deep sleep, hence the 3/30 rule; The nap should be before 3 PM and should be shorter than 30 minutes!

Studies prove that a fifteen-minute power nap provides benefits lasting up to 150 minutes, including:

  • Improved alertness, both subjectively and objectively
  • Reduced fatigue and improved vigor
  • Enhanced creativity and problem solving
  • Improved perception
  • Facilitated learning
  • Improved declarative and procedural memory
  • Positive mood and emotions, clearer communication, humor and optimism, and situational awareness

If a fifteen-minute nap gives you 150 minutes of improved executive function, how can you resist such an investment? Go ahead and take a power nap! Doctor’s orders!