Sleep 101

If you’re going to bike or do any kind of exercise sleep is something you’ll want to get enough of. Without sleep, you won’t have the energy or concentration needed for your day or ride. There are things your body needs to do that it can only do while you sleep. Many people have trouble sleeping or take sleep for granted but it’s one of the most important things you can do for your body and future health.

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This is a screenshot from my Jawbone UP3 showing a typical night of sleep for me. Let’s see what we can learn from it. As you can see there are 3 kinds of sleep cycles during the night.

Sleep cycles are important.

Not everyone gets the same amount of REM, deep or light sleep a night. It depends on age, the individual and quality of sleep but everyone has these cycles of sleep during the night.

When we are in REM our bodies are paralyzed and we dream. This is why our bodies don’t try to run when we dream about running. REM is not only for dreaming it’s when the mind does it’s sorting of what’s happened during the day. Whether you remember your dreams or not everyone has deep sleep. Our mind needs REM, it makes up sharp and helps us to learn complex things.

For more information on REM sleep: https://www.utzy.com/blogs/blogs/rem-sleep

Deep sleep helps our bodies repair themselves. During deep sleep, our bodies chemically do all the good things we’ll need for the daylight hours. There are functions our bodies can only do at night while in deep sleep. Cells repair themselves and hormones are released. Deep sleep restores us physically and mentally. Deep sleep heals the daytime wear and tear on our bodies.

For more information on deep sleep: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sleepless-in-america/201010/the-mysterious-benefits-deep-sleep

Light sleep makes sleep cycles possible. During light sleep our bodies transition between deep and REM sleep. The body rests during light sleep and we can wake up easily.

For more information on light sleep: http://www.sleepdex.org/light.htm

For all of this to happen, we need to get enough sleep each night. We need a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Finding the time for this in our busy lives isn’t easy but if you want the benefits that sleep offers you’ll have to make the time. It takes good sleep planning.

Bedtime is not just for children. 

Give up the late TV shows, get off of the computer and if you go out, plan to get home early. Pick a bedtime you can do every night and stick to it. Set an alarm so you can get ready for bed and be in bed when it’s time to go to sleep. Now that we have On Demand TV it’s not important to stay up for TV shows or movies. Life has its ways of getting in the way be firm about your bedtime.

Before bedtime read or meditate in the dark. 

Some people have problems quieting their minds before sleep. To make sure you’re relaxed enough to sleep after getting ready for bed meditate or read a book for a 1/2 hour or more before your bedtime. Turning the lights out in your bedroom ahead of time and lying in the dark can help bring on a good night’s sleep. Drinking alcohol can help you get to sleep but will play havoc with your sleep cycles giving you a bad night’s sleep.

Here is a good article with tips for better sleep. It states that you shouldn’t read before bed but new studies have found that it can actually help. I read before bed and it puts me right to sleep. It still gives a lot of good information: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20011004/12-tips-better-sleep-troubled-times

Set up your bedroom for sleep.

The bedroom should be as cool and dark as possible. Keep your blinds or curtains shut. I have a window open even in the winter, a stuffy hot room will not help you sleep well. It’s good to keep your bedroom around 50 degrees. I love being warm under a big blanket in a cold room, makes me sleep like a baby.

I make sure all electronic devices with LED’s are off or I put tape over the LED’s so I can’t see them. Blue LED’s or TV/stereo box lights can keep you awake by stimulating your mind just by looking at them in the dark. The darker the room the better.

Make sure your bed is comfortable. Dress in something loose and cool you want to be as comfortable as possible.

If you still need help getting to sleep.

Scent can help you sleep. Lavender is wonderful for sleep I have a spray I can spray on my pillowcase and it puts me right to sleep. Before you go to bed you can take a hot bath and put lavender in it. Either way, it’s heavenly.

Nature sounds of any kind are very relaxing and playing them while you go to sleep can help. There are many applications for cell phones that include timers so you don’t have to turn them off after you fall asleep. This is good if you can’t relax, or if your bedroom tends to be noisy. Do not play music it will keep you and your mind awake.

Make sure you get enough sleep.

I like to get 7 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep a night including weekends. The recommended amount is a full 7 to 8 hours a night. I set my alarms so I go to sleep at 10:05 and get up at 7 am. That leaves me about 9 hours leeway and most of the time I can sleep 8 hours or more. Part of that time is spent reading. I used to be an insomniac now I sleep like a baby but it didn’t happen overnight it took some time and planning.

It’s up to you!

You need to find what is right for you and stick with it. It might take you as long as a few months to get settled into it. Sleeping well is hard work for us folks that have trouble sleeping. It will happen! Things will come up that mess with your sleep plans but the next day get right back at it. As long as you leave time to get ready for bed and have your bedroom set up for sleep you’ll be doing awesome in no time.

Sleep has superpowers.

There are new studies coming out all of the time about the powers of sleep. It’s been proven that getting enough sleep makes you live longer. People who get enough sleep actually eat 300 fewer calories a day when they were well rested. Sleep brightens your mood for the day. People who get enough sleep don’t get sick as much. Your blood pressure goes down when you sleep giving your heart a break. Sleep helps you make better decisions and boosts your creativity. It also gives you more energy. They are finding out new things about how sleep helps us all of the time.

Let me know how you’re doing or if you have any questions about sleeping better.

Now, get some sleep!

Links from howsleepworks.com, psychologytoday.com, sleepdex.org, webmd.com. and The Utzy Blog.

Fact: People who sleep enough hours every night weigh less than their counterparts.

Just My Bike And Me

Wetlands passing by
the waterbirds feed
it’s a very good day
on San Francisco Bay.

To be out of the city
yet see it ‘cross the bay
even foggy days
it’s there on display.

Wind in my hair
just a gentle breeze
sun hot on my back
as I follow the bike track.

The sharp salt smell
the clicking of the gears
the songbirds sing
colors on the wing.

Drifting down the trail
I feel like I’m flying
at peace so quietly
just my bike and me.

© Rebecca Sanchez 2016

I am very lucky to be able to bike the Bay Trail up close and personal at this time. Sharing my photographs and poetry is one way I can show you just how special this area is to me and why we should keep it as pristine as we can. The animals who live here depend on us.

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The featured image is San Francisco with the fog coming in as seen from Coyote Point. This image is the San Mateo Bridge, Highway 92, looking from Foster City towards San Mateo. The tide is out so the wetlands are exposed but when the tide comes back in the waters of the San Francisco Bay will be all the way up to these rocks and beaches.

Read more of my poetry at Capricious Poet.

The Nod

The serious bikers out there all wear these funny helmets. If you ever rode a motorcycle (like me) we call them “brain buckets” and for good reason. If you have a fall or god forbid, get in an accident you will be glad you are wearing one.

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My brain bucket is buckled firmly on.

They come in all styles, even aerodynamic if you’re one of those crazy fast cyclists who move at the speed of light. It’s important to be safe but without a helmet, you will be hard pressed to communicate with the other bicycle riders and that would be sad.

Being the friendly person I am when I first started riding my bike I’d see the other person coming towards me on a bike, have a big smile plastered on my face, make eye contact and before reaching them say hello. I would feel the blast of wind, see the person streak by and wait. Nothing.

Surely it wasn’t me? I pushed on.

Soon it was clear that unless it was a family biking, people walking or someone moving at a slower speed that I wasn’t doing something right. These “bikers” were just unfriendly! How could I make contact with my own kind? I kept trying, watched and waited.

Then one day I saw it…I almost missed it because it happened so fast. To be sure I watched carefully and saw it again. It was not always accompanied by eye contact but it was given freely and in solidarity. It was “the nod.” Suddenly I understood and was elated!

It’s not always easy to see and there are some cyclists who really don’t bike to be social so they will ignore you and that’s ok but if you are like me you will want to communicate with the others.

Some people smile, some don’t but you will see the nod of the helmet, a slight, quick, forward dip of the head made easier to see by the funny helmet they are wearing. Now that I’ve cracked the code you know what to do.

Next time we pass on the bike trail I’ll not be saying hello but I will give you “the nod” meaning all is well-enjoy your ride!

Safety is no joke get a helmet and wear it when you ride.