Sleep is often undervalued in today’s society. The youth stay up till ridiculous hours of the morning and adults work from daybreak till way after sundown forcing them to stay up way too late into the night winding down. Shift workers are another story altogether as their circadian rhythms are completely destroyed.

Before we examine factors that influence sleep, it is important to take a closer look at what sleep actually is and the specific phases of sleep.

Most people simply classify sleep as either deep or shallow. This is actually quite accurate. Sleep has two distinct phases: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.

Non-REM sleep can be broken down into four gradually merging stages. The table below shows the characteristics of these stages.


The stages of sleep

There are two phases of sleep REM (rapid eye movement) and  NREM (no rapid eye movement)  divided into nine cycles during the night. These phases go through different wavelengths that have different purpose in the healing and detoxification process.

Electroencephalogram (EEG) trace

Beta Wave – (13-40 Hz)

You are wide awake where you are focussed, concentrated and highly alert.

During day you find yourself primarily in Beta wave state. This state holds your personality and is were you actively engage with the world. The lower range from 13 to 25 Hz  is required for daily tasks, routine jobs and all the things that do not cause any mental and emotional anxiety.

Beta waves in the range of 25 to 40 Hz are achieved whenever you are tense, stressed, anxious, afraid, angry, or have any other heightened emotion. They activate the fight and flight mode that produces excessive amounts of adrenaline, cortisol and dopamine. The increased amount of hormones and neurotransmitters then shuts down body functions like digestion, nutrient uptake, detoxification, healing and repair in favour of increases mental alertness and muscle response.

It is well known that any prolonged state of stress is directly related to many different chronic diseases present in our society today. Your constant exposure to stressful environments and your inability to change your mental state (letting go) perpetuates illness.

Alpha wave – (7.5–12.5 Hz)

Your creative, happy state where you are relaxed and more receptive.

About 20% of your waking day is in the alpha wave state. This state is either shortly after waking in the morning or before falling asleep. Sometimes you reach these Alpha waves while reading a book, listening to music, daydreaming, watching a sunset or a butterfly at play.

This state is your contemplative state and much more perceptive to deeper understanding. Very often you remember in that time what your conscious mind (Beta Waves) could not remember. Or you have insights that could not be achieved while thinking hard.

During Alpha waves self awareness is greatly enhanced and you come up with solutions your active mind could never see. These minutes during the day help to recharge your batteries before you return into the turmoil that often accompanies the Beta wave state.

Theta wave – (4–7 Hz)

This wave length is often referred to as meditative, problem solving or intuitive state.

Theta waves are often referred to as your meditative state. Its where you switch of conscious thought and your mind starts to convert short term memory into long term memory. In this state you are able to reach a higher level of self awareness and consciousness. Theta waves are the birthplace of deep insights and where you find solutions that are hidden to the conscious mind.

Theta waves also initiate your physical repair. All detoxification processes are activated once you mind is at rest. This part of sleep is very crucial as it is the only time your body can fully focus on organ repair, immune response and detoxification.

If everything is OK you naturally enter Theta waves approximately 30 minutes after you fall asleep. You experience this state completely unconscious yet it gives you the energy to live and move on. Meditation masters train to be able to achieve this state consciously without falling asleep because it’s described as the closest state to being one with God. Its a state of oneness and unconditional love which recharges all of our cells.

Another added benefit is that pain is switched off when you are in Theta state. You do not feel any pain when you sleep. That’s why many clinics now incorporate brain wave manipulation in order to stay drug free during a treatment. This increases results and reduces side effects.

Delta wave – (0.1–4 Hz)

Delta is associated with DEEP sleep, healing and repair.

Delta wave frequency is achieved during deep sleep about 2 hours before midnight. If you look at the chart to the left you see that this state is only achieved once at the beginning of the night. It is the state in which physical repair and healing occurs. The conscious and unconscious mind rest and are unbound by restraints to drift.

 Many of the physical functions in the body shut down and energy is focused on rejuvenation and healing of damaged areas. Unfortunately many people today are not able to successfully cascade through the different brain wave states into deep delta sleep.

Perpetuated by ill health, hormonal imbalances, lack of energy and poor lifestyle choices, deep, restoring sleep is not reached and therefore healing cannot occur. Some of the most obvious reasons are pain, going to bed too late and disturbances during sleep.

During stage three and four of NREM sleep, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. As you get older, you sleep more lightly and get less deep sleep.

How REM sleep affects our brain and body has often been theorised. There is no concrete evidence behind any one theory. However, it is generally agreed that the increased brain activity during this phase is linked with cognitive function and the consolidation of memories. It is hypothesised that what we experience each day (thoughts, experiences, emotions, stresses) are processed in the REM phases of sleep.

REM sleep happens about every 90 minutes during the night and REM periods lengthen as the night progresses while the time spent in non-REM stages three and four decreases.

This is a very important consideration when talking about when we should sleep. During the early hours of the night we go deeper into the non-REM stages and therefore increase the regeneration of our body. If we do not go to bed early enough we miss these vital stage 3-4 REM cycles.

It is interesting to note that the production and release of the human growth hormone is directly linked with stage 3 and 4 REM cycles. This enforces the powerful regenerative effect these stages have on the body. Sleep deprivation therefore inhibits not only the regenerative/healing power of the deep REM cycles but also inhibits the production and release of the human growth hormone, which is vital for human development (especially during youth).


Melatonin and cortisol are the sleep and wake hormones in our body.

Cortisol is responsible for keeping us awake and ensuring our body is in a state to deal with awake daily life, while melatonin makes us go to sleep and helps maintain healthy REM cycle sleep. The balance of these hormones can be a very clear sign of ill health in an individual and are linked with everything from stress to diabetes.

For example; someone that is pre-diabetic may be waking during the night and unable to fall back asleep because cortisol (which mobilises glycogen from the liver to increase blood glucose levels) interacts with melatonin. This interaction, decreasing melatonin, may be the only physical sign of insulin dependence.


Recommendations to get a healthy sleep

Some simple recommendations to enhance quality sleep include:

Opt for natural fibres (cotton, linen, silk, hemp or wool) as all synthetic fibres such as nylon, polyester and acrylic are made from thermoplastics and therefore off-gas plastic molecules whenever they are heated or warmed. The off-gassing of these molecules will not only affect a patient’s health in the long run but is also linked with sleep-breathing disorders and sleep disturbances. These fibres also cause static electricity build up and this can interfere with the sensitive REM cycles.

Melatonin made by the body plays a large role in the daily rhythms of sleeping and waking. Some recent studies have found that people who work night shifts may be at increased risk for cancer, which could be linked to melatonin levels in the body.

Our biological clock resides in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of our brain (SCN), which is part of the hypothalamus. Based on signals of light and darkness, our SCN tells our pineal gland when it’s time to secrete melatonin.

Light comes in through the eyes and travels up the optic nerves to the SCN, which is exquisitely sensitive to cycles of light and darkness. When we turn on the light at night we send misinformation to our brain believing it is daytime. Our pineal glands immediately cease its production of melatonin.

It doesn’t matter if the light is on for an hour or just seconds, the effect is the same, the melatonin pump doesn’t turn on again.

It has been long believed that this hormone is only produced when we are in complete darkness. Recent research contradicts this theory. For millions of years human beings have slept under the light of the moon and stars. For almost just as long humans have also been sleeping by firelight. When studied, it showed that ‘this’ light does not interfere with the body’s production of melatonin. In the test, blue light presented as the light that most interfered with melatonin production. This may explain why using a phone or computer before bed can have such profound effects on sleep and recovery. So if you do need to sleep with a night light, use yellow, orange and red wavelengths as they don’t suppress melatonin production the way white and blue wavelengths do. In fact, the range of light that inhibits melatonin is fairly narrow — 460 to 480 nm. Switching over to a low wattage bulb with yellow, orange, or red light protects the melatonin production. Using a salt lamp illuminated by a 5-watt bulb in this color range is a great alternative.

The hormone melatonin has many health benefits. It not only ensures better sleep but also reduces stress and anxiety, migraines and fights against cancer.

The balancing act that occurs between melatonin and cortisol is misbalanced strongly by stress and diabetic conditions. Therefore, the management of some sleep disorders may need to focus on the regulation of blood sugars levels throughout the night and reduction of stress.

Neurotransmitters, which during times of stress or imbalance can be up-regulated, stopping the body from switching off and going to sleep. GABA is the neurotransmitter that down-regulates all other neurotransmitters and therefore supplementing or boosting the body's own production of GABA can help initiate and keep the body asleep.

Magnesium is the mineral that is responsible for initiating sleep. Ensuring that the patient has adequate levels of magnesium for cellular processes is important for muscular and skeletal health.

The thyroid, which in patients that are having troubles sleeping is often disturbed, can exacerbate the issue even further. Hyperthyroidism can have issues resting and often present with insomnia. The up-regulated hormones inhibit the relaxation of the body. Patients with hypothyroidism often have no issue falling asleep initially however often wake during the night and typically wake tired in the morning.

Electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) are becoming better known every day and the list of side effects grows exponentially. EMF sensitivities are becoming more common and people are more susceptible to wireless devices and other electronics. Therefore, during sleep all electrical devices should be switched off or moved as far away from the bed as possible. There have been numerous case studies illustrating the increased quality of sleep and energy throughout the day when they removed EMFs from their bedroom. EMF meters are invaluable in locating EMFs and higher than tolerable levels are often more common than people believe.

Geopathic stress due to the earth’s fault lines, electrical wires, underground waterways and other earthly disturbances have a severe effect on the sleep cycle. Case studies have also shown the negative effects these can have on REM cycles. Divining can be used to choose appropriate bed placement in a room or house.

Avoiding televisions, phones and computers before bed may be self-explanatory however it is important to quickly note that not only the abundance of blue light before bed disturbs melatonin but the overstimulation of the brain also impairs deep sleep. Advising patients to read a book by candlelight is the best alternative to T.V.

The last meal should be more than 2-3 hours before bed as this time is needed to appropriately digest food. Proper regeneration during 3-4 REM cycles is impaired if the body is busy digesting food.  The last meal should also be as light as possible to speed along digestion. Avoid heavy meals containing large amounts of fat, carbohydrates or protein.

Having a clean bedroom free from dust and bugs may seem self-explanatory but can be an important point to remind patients of. Having a clean bedroom also means having adequate fresh airflow. Ensure that windows are opened during the day and stale air is pushed out.

These simple things are often overlooked but have a profound effect on health in general.


Further studying but not required: 

Book: Sleep, Health & Consciousness by Reza Samvat and Henry Osieki