Have you ever heard the statement “Your body needs an average 8 hrs of sleep”?  The assumption that without being asleep for 8 hrs, your body fails to function or develop optimally. However, you may know of a person who seems to function daily with abundant energy averaging only 5 hours of sleep, while other who attain 8 hours or more. are still barely to start their day without a coffee, energy drink, or something else to jumpstart their brain and body to a minimal alertness for allowing for normal daily function. If this variation exists, how much sleep does one ACTUALLY need to function optimally? The answer is not as clear cut as you might think.

Understanding the Difference

To understand the difference between quantity versus quality of sleep, first take a look of how the sleep cycle works. A typical sleep cycle 5 stages of brain activity progressing over 90 minutes that affects different functions of your body.  Stage 1-2 is the “light sleep” stage being. Then 3-4 is the “restorative” stage of sleep. Finally  5 is REM (rapid eye movement) phase synonymous with dreaming. Throughout the night, your body cycles multiples times back and forth between stages 2-5.  Factors such as emotional stress, physical exertion, chemical intake, food consumption, and certain wavelengths of light can affect on the time it takes to transition from stage 1 to stage 5, along with the amount of time spent at each stage. The greatest restoration of cells and tissues occurs during the delta wave brain activity, which occurs exclusively in stages 3 and 4. You will cycle back and forth numerous times between stages 2-5 throughout the night, but the accumulative time you spend in stages 3-4 will dictate the QUALITY of your sleep.  The systems and hormones which kick in during your “fight or flight” stress moments (sympathetic system) is downgraded or shut off completely. The hormones and systems the promote “resting and digesting” are maximized (parasympathetic system).


What happens during stages 3-4 of sleep?

These are the following processes occurs at the cellular level:

  1. Repairs muscles, organs and cells
  2. Infection-fighting antibodies (called cytokines) are released, strengthening your immune system
  3. Clears waste from the brain allowing for learning and memory
  4. Growth hormone is released
  5. Cortisol (stress hormone) decreases


What does chiropractic have to do with sleep?

Sometimes while a patient is under chiropractic care, we often hear “Hey doc, after you adjusted my spine, I slept like a baby that night”. That is because chiropractic spinal adjustments affect your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) by recalibrating the delicate balance between your “fight or flight” systems (sympathetic) and your “rest and digest” systems (parasympathetic). Sleep is maximized when your parasympathetic system is in full, and your sympathetic system is suppressed

-Dr. Brent Maxwell-


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