Tracing the relationship between sleep and happiness is like seeking an answer to the question of whether an egg comes from a chicken or a chicken comes from an egg. Consistently, it has been observed that people who approach life with a positive outlook sleep much more comfortably at night. As you can imagine, people who wake up from their sleep in the mornings feeling well rested are also among the group who show more positive attitudes towards daily events.
While happiness is often a factor that facilitates sleep, our sleep routine suffers when one’s happiness changes too much in response to daily fluctuations. Sleep deprivation is an important factor in how we express our emotions. So much so that when we are sleepless, we find it difficult to express ourselves correctly or ask for support when we need it. In fact, when faced with situations that are to our advantage, or when a gesture is made to us for example, we may not be able to perceive this opportunity. In summary, regular and good quality sleep pattern makes visible changes to daily pleasures of your life.
Until a few years ago, I was a woman who lived my day divided into two. The day goes by with housework, parenting, cooking, playing, and at night, after everyone sleeps, I was working on the computer until the early hours of the morning. Side effects such as increased fatigue, weakness of my muscles, loss of attention, and loss of joy were gradually increasing. Then I decided to divide my day and night not in two or three, but into joy. So everything that gives me and my daughter joy became my priority. I did not miss my job, my sleep, my home or my responsibilities. Unlike; When joy became my priority, my responsibilities naturally found their place in my life. This both increased my creativity and made me feel happier. I realized that my regular sleep was not a waste of time as I thought, but it enabled me to do more work during the day as I was more energetic when I rested.
Knowing the stages of sleep and being aware of my own life rhythm encouraged me to aim for a sufficiently restful night’s sleep. I would like to briefly share this information with you in this article.
During an ideal night’s sleep, your body has enough time to go through four to five 90-minute cycles that follow different sleep phases as the night progresses. In general, each cycle moves in sequence at each stage of sleep: wake, light sleep, deep sleep, REM (Rapid eye movement), and repeat.
At first we start with the falling asleep phase known as light sleep. We can wake up to the slightest sound. The brain emits theta waves. Then our eye movement and muscle movements slow down. Theta waves continue to spread within the brain. If someone wakes us up at this stage, we’ll say, “No, I wasn’t sleeping, I was just resting my eyes.” But we are actually asleep. In the next stage, the transition to deep sleep begins gradually. The brain emits delta waves instead of theta waves. You are no longer in a position to wake up to the slightest sound. In fact, if someone wakes you up quickly, you will feel sleepy. The period until the end of this phase of sleep constitutes 75% of sleep.
After that, in the last stage, we switch to REM sleep. So travel into the realm of dreams. At this stage, our heartbeat accelerates. When you look carefully at the eyelid, you can notice that the eye moves quickly. The dream occurs at this stage. If you wake up at this time, you can remember your dream. This stage, called REM sleep, constitutes 25% of sleep and thus we complete the full cycle.
The amount of daylight and oxygen we receive during the day has a huge impact on our night sleep. Researchers show that a week of camping can help reset our body clock to be more in tune with nature’s cycle of light and dark. Spending more time in nature helps improve our sleep patterns and natural light exposure makes it easier to fall asleep at night. (Previous article from this series “Joy and Nature” explores the relationship between happiness hormones and oxygen, soil and daylight.)
In an experiment conducted by Western University in Ontario, participants were allowed to remain awake until 4AM before having four hours of sleep and given a series of tests to complete. The results were that subjects who slept less were less active in the frontal and parietal lobes, the parts of your brain responsible for problem solving and decision making.
In addition to these findings, there are many studies showing that sleep can have a noticeable effect on our sexual life as well. Insomnia affects our libido and makes us less prone to physical intimacy. So, in addition to fluctuations in our mood, it becomes difficult for us to make the right decision about what will be good for us when we are sleep deprived. Unfortunately, it is not easy to quiet our minds and have a good sleep after a tense day.
Just like in sleep cycles, our body and mind are actually going through similar cycles during the day. While trying to achieve multi-tasking in our everyday routines, we compromise our pleasure and sleep.
Being understanding and compassionate towards ourselves and others, realizing that everyone is going through their own life stages, living our day without panic is our greatest help to bring joy to the forefront. Living voluntarily to notice the gifts of life during the day, and reminding ourselves the moments we were thankful for before going to bed at night are the first steps of a quality sleep.
Let us all have joyful days and sweet dreams! Let’s celebrate our life moments to the fullest.