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Sleep well perform better should be your way of thinking.
You already know some facts about sleep from your studies as a student pilot. Sure you remember some days the quality of your sleep the previous night was much better than other nights. What is wrong with your sleep, anyway? How can we put some extra knowledge in all these that you already know? Let us see how the brain works during our sleep.
“Early in bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”
In 2001 Clifford B. Saper a sleep researcher at the University of Harvard found the sleep switch. Sleep switch or ventrolateral preoptic nucleus (VLPO or VLPN) is located in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that is responsible for the production of essential hormones for our body, helping in functions as thirst, hunger, temperature regulation, sleep, mood and some more. Our brain uses a rich chemical cocktail to make us fall asleep.
The two types of sleep
- REM sleep: The most active stage of sleep as the brain heats up. While in REM we learn complex tasks. The important scientific fact here. Latest studies have shown that when you want to learn a new habit, it is very good to practice it before you go to bed. Is it chair flying for you? Probably it will be good to practice it at night. The very next day you will be more efficient. So practice before bed!
- Slow Wave Sleep: Deep sleep with a lot of brain waves occurring. It is the sleep that our brain is restoring and is very difficult to wake up from. Also, we tend to burn fat during SW sleep. Another reason you have to sleep efficiently. As a pilot, you need to be healthy :-).
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Both types of sleep occur at night which alternate five to six times on average every ninety minutes.
The Chemistry of sleep
- The first ingredient of this cocktail is Adenosine. Adenosine is responsible for maintaining a balance between sleep and awakeness as it works independently at day and night. As Kat Duff points in The secret life of sleep ”Adenosine depletes over the course of the day, making us increasingly tired until we fall asleep”. To make it clear Adenosine prepares us for sleep. Very common counteracts of adenosine are coffee, tea, and energy drinks due to the fact that they block the release of it. Laboratory studies in animals have shown that blocking adenosine’s release leads to alertness, while adenosine’s injections induce normal sleep.
- Our next chemical for sleep is melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for sleep timing, blood pressure regulation, and some other functions. It is responsible for the proper function and programming of circadian rhythms as you learned on Human Factor. It is almost absent during daylight hours and peaks at its highest levels during 4:30-5:00 am. It is released in our blood and we begin to feel less alert.
- Histamine is responsible for wakefulness while it reaches its highest levels during the non-sleeping time, decreases during on non-REM sleep and has its lowest price during REM sleep.
- Acetylcholine stimulates activity in the forebrain and cerebral cortex and drives alertness and wakefulness. It is also active during REM sleep.
- Orexin is responsible for arousal, wakefulness, and appetite. All these are hormones that play a major role in our sleep as they cooperate in our brain. They are not the only ones, however, we write here some to show you how synthetic procedure sleep.
Κeeping these hormones in normal levels, it is the most efficient way to be healthy and “fresh” the following day. In our next post, we will show you 7 perfect ways to hack your sleep. Until this day, enjoy flying!