Dog sleeping in bed alongside master's feet

Hello everyone! I gave a couple food pointers relating to getting to sleep last time, so lets dig into what happens after you’ve hit the hay!

As a certain time rolls around (which varies from person to person, based mainly on habit), your body starts producing/releasing a hormone called Melatonin. Melatonin hits your brain, signaling that it is ready to hit the “sleep” part of your daily cycle, and your brain says “Ok, cool. Eyes: get heavy and a little grainy. Conscious mind, chill out, take a break. Muscles! Stop it.” We recognize these feelings as “well, it’s time to go to bed”, and off we go. Fight as you will, sleep is inevitable.

After you crawl into bed and shut your eyes, your body starts a sleep cycle with 5 stages. Non-Rapid Eye Movement 1 (NREM1) is that light feeling as you’re falling asleep and shortly thereafter. After a bit, you hit NREM2, and your internal temperature drops slightly (1-2 degrees). Once you’re cooled a little, you hit NREM3 and 4, where most of your physical healing takes place, and finally REM sleep. After about 15-20mins in REM, the cycle resets with a slightly longer REM stage. NREM 3-4 and REM are what I’d like to focus on, as these are associated with what I do for a living. 🙂

During the later NREM phases, your breathing becomes slow and deep. This allows a maximum amount of oxygen to be breathed in, grabbed and exchanged for carbon monoxide, and exhaled. That oxygen is moved immediately into your blood stream, which is moving a bit slower as well due to a drop in blood pressure and a general relaxation of muscles. At the same time, the blood supply to your muscles is increased, allowing that oxygen-rich, slow-moving blood to recharge the energy supplies you so desperately need there. Naturally, “building supplies” from dinner have been placed on-location (or are still on their way) to any areas damaged by your exploits throughout the day. Cuts on the skin heal faster, thinning artery walls are coated with cholesterol (as a patch; it SHOULD be removed when repairs are complete) as repairs are set up/continued to the wall itself, your liver moves from “detoxify” mode to “repair/regenerate” mode, hormones such as your growth hormones (ESSENTIAL for children, and important also for adults, specifically those looking to “bulk up”) are manufactured and released, and the list continues from head to toe, your body going through a fat stack of repair orders and addressing as much as it can with the materials it has on hand.

After NREM4, you hit REM sleep…Rapid Eye Movement. Oxygen transfer focuses more on the brain for this short period of time, mentally refreshing you in a very literal way. Almost all of your muscles turn off (except your respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and eyes, you are temporarily paralyzed, more or less), and your brain activity shoots up to almost “awake” levels. Most of your dreaming occurs during this phase, your eyes dart back and forth (hence the name), and your subconscious works on those darned problems your conscious mind can’t get a handle on. Research suggests that, during this phase, your brain is evaluating what parts were actually used throughout the day, strengthening some connections and weakening ones deemed “unnecessary”, as well as removing any physical aberrations such as plaque associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. After about 15-20 minutes (which increases with each cycle), you actually wake up and (usually) fall immediately back to sleep, resetting the cycle at NREM1. To move from NREM1-REM usually takes about 90 minutes.

Pretty cool right? Now, with all this going on, there’s plenty of room for problems. The transfer of oxygen into the blood stream could be low (increasing iron and/or vitamin C intake can help with this. Vitamin C is also a natural immune stimulant, and the most likely deficiency). Transfer of oxygen from the blood stream into cells could be having a problem (Vitamin E, and trace mineral Selenium).

Hormone deficiencies could be a problem. For instance, stress burns through Cortisol like mad and is on a separate “creation” leg than sex hormones, which could lead to low estrogen / estrodial / testosterone levels which creates it’s own set of problems. Cholesterol, believe it or not, is a precursor to Pregnenalone, the base “daddy” hormone that all the rest are made from. Statins strip out your cholesterol from artery walls, muscle fibers, and storage depots, making it difficult to keep hormone levels in check, arterial walls strong during repair, causes severe whole-body muscle ache, among other things. (I don’t like them. They are occasionally necessary…maybe…but still.) Oops, got off topic. What I was getting at is, if you’re under enough stress, the cortisol consumption could block creation of other necessary hormones…there’s another reason why it’s important to manage your stress levels throughout the day. And of course, Melatonin is a hormone itself. You’ll get tired without it, eventually, but…

And so, once again, avoiding problems comes down to food. (Naturally. I’m a nutritionist. Lol!)
I’m sure you all have at least one friend or family member that is a health nut. Spends hours at the grocery store reading labels, buys ungodly expensive stuff “because it doesn’t have preservatives or GMO’s”, etc. Of course, I agree with them. I also understand that it’s more expensive. I would like to present “food shopping” as an investment to you, though.

You see, processed foods, be they actual “GMO” (Genetically Modified Organisms. Sounds great, in theory, but science isn’t there yet…at least not to the point of modifying them without harm) or just “preservatives added for freshness” style, have a lot of partial chemical chains that are very close to “real” but not quite. Imagine putting a new water pump in your truck. You can get a refurb cheap, but the holes don’t quite line up so you have to drill them or find some other way to secure the pump. Or, you can buy a new one actually made for your make and model, which fits properly but is more expensive. With the refurb, you’ve added time to the job that could have been spent on the lawn, and you have an inferior product. With the new pump, you’re exchanging a higher cost for an easier to install, guaranteed product which still leaves time to mow the grass (or, in your body’s case, you move on to the next area of concern).

Processed foods are the refurb. “Real” foods are the new pump…your body looks at the “real” food and says “I know exactly what that is, and I know where and how to use it,” the food gets broken down quickly, efficiently, and the full chemical chains can be sent where they need to go without delay and minimal effort. Processed foods are close, like the refurb pump, but not quite there. “I recognize that as a water pump, but before I can use it I need to do this and this to it,” it takes longer to break down and requires supplies not included (your body has to complete the broken/damaged/incomplete chemical chain before it can use it, and takes the necessary supplies from somewhere else in your body). What I’m trying to say is, the more expensive *real* food is exponentially better for you in every way. If you simply can’t afford it, so be it, and I completely understand, believe me…but if you can afford it, and you do eat real food, balanced meals, consistently, you’ll notice a huge difference in how you feel…which will not only help your waking hours, but will also lead to a more restful and revitalizing night’s sleep.

Kyle Cheney

Kyle Cheney

Hello! My name is Kyle Cheney (Kouryuu), Nutritionist by day, dad and husband by night. One of the DoD Community Managers asked if I would be willing to talk a little bit about nutrition, to put a bug in the ears of my peers if you will, and it sounded to me like a great way to participate in the community and help my fellow dads to the best of my ability.
Kyle Cheney

Latest posts by Kyle Cheney (see all)