Have you ever thought about how much more you could get done in your day to day living if you didn’t have to sleep? I have thought about how much more I could accomplish if I didn’t have to sleep. Realistically, if you didn’t sleep, more than likely you would not be able to accomplish much as your body and brain would be fatigued and the quality of the things that you did would suffer, plus no matter how hard you try you would not be able to stay awake forever. You spend approximately one third of your life sleeping, and since you have to sleep to recharge your batteries so to speak, it is in your best interest to improve the quality of your sleep as much as possible. I think that everyone at some point in their life has problems getting good quality sleep for a variety of reasons, and if you are aware of and understand these problems and know what to do about them, you will be able to improve the quality of your sleep.

Significant research and studies have been done regarding sleep and some of the basic discoveries found that, when it comes to sleeping, quality is better than quantity. A person can sleep for ten to twelve hours and still not feel completed rested, while others feel completely rejuvenated after four to six hours. Another important factor in addition to the quality of sleep is the regularity of your sleeping habits. Some doctors, scientists, and researchers believe that getting less than six hours of sleep will seriously impact your health. The reasoning is that your body replenishes some chemicals while sleeping and if you are not getting enough quality sleep it may affect the development of these chemicals and hormones resulting in physiological and psychological problems. Additionally, good quality sleeping habits will enhance the production of certain proteins that helps your brain regenerate neurons. The more neurons produced, the more capable your brain is when it comes to learning and understanding information.

There are a number of reasons why your sleep may be interrupted or you are not getting the quality of sleep that you require. It seems that everyone now and again may experience insomnia or short period of sleeplessness or a reduced quality of sleep. However insomnia can be mild and lasting for just a few days, or it can be extreme lasting for several months or longer. Consequently, no matter what you do you just can’t seem to get the quality of rest you need. Naturally, when you don’t get the quality of sleep you require, you experience a lack of concentration, fatigue during the waking part of your day, and possibly depression. One thing you can do to help with your insomnia is to practice yoga regularly. It is a great way to help you focus and be at ease. Yoga stretching and techniques can teach you to meditate and visualize away the things that may be bothering you and preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep. It also reduces stress and hormones that cause stress. Get physical by doing something active that you enjoy. This type of activity will raise your adrenaline and increase your body’s temperature, however, don’t do this right before sack time because your body will be too stimulated to fall asleep. Exercise in the afternoon or evening five to six hours before retiring for the night.

Experts say not to eat a lot or heavy foods before going to sleep. Reason has it that your stomach may feel bloated and may be difficult for you to sleep. Personally I have found that it is difficult to fall asleep on an empty stomach. The trick is to eat something light to stop the stomach growling and eat foods high in tryptophan and foods that are protein rich like turkey, chicken, nuts, dates, potatoes, or tuna. Tryptophan is a chemical that tells your brain to release serotonin which makes you relax and feel sleepy. You know how you feel after a big Thanksgiving turkey meal, sleepy and ready for a nap, that’s because poultry is high in tryptophan.

Sleep apnea is another problem that can lead to not getting the quality of sleep you need. It is more than just snoring. While snoring is described as a sleep disorder, it is not as significant as sleep apnea because the upper airway is not completely restricted. Actually snoring is quite natural and affects most people. Normal breathing during sleeping happens when air passes from the nose and throat and into the lungs without obstruction and quietly. The airway can be blocked in the nose, or the base of the tongue can restrict breathing, and it is also possible that the soft tissue in the upper palate can vibrate as air passes through creating noise by breathing.

A side note, if you have a spouse or significant other he or she may not be getting the quality of sleep they need either because of your noisy sleep habits.

Sleep apnea is result of restricted air flow causing you to actually stop breathing for a few seconds and then followed by a big deep snort allowing you to start breathing again. This can happen frequently while sleeping. In an extreme case breathing can be stopped for a minute or more.

There are three types of sleep apnea and the most common is termed obstructive. In the most common type the soft tissue at the back of the throat blocks the airway while sleeping. Central sleep apnea is the second type and happens when the brain shuts down and it can’t send signals to the body to inhale and exhale. Mixed sleep apnea is the third type and is a combination of the first two. The brain will disturb sleep just long enough to continue breathing. However this affects the person from a physiological standpoint because the quality of sleep is poor. If left untreated sleep apnea can result in high blood pressure, memory problems, heart disease, impotency, and headaches. If you suffer from sleep apnea it would be a good idea to consult with your doctor or sleep expert to see what you can do to alleviate this condition.

If you have normal sleeping habits generally you will experience five stages of sleep. As you progress through each stage your sleep becomes deeper. Usually you will spend most of your sleeping time in stages three and four. When you reach stage four and into stage five is when you are in a deep sleep. When you reach stage five you are considered to be in REM sleep or rapid eye movement. Even though you may dream in any stage of sleep, your most vivid dreams happen during stage five, and generally these are the ones you will remember the most. Each sleep cycle last approximately ninety minutes. During REM sleep your body does not move but your brain is completely awake and very active. This is most likely the time when you will have dreams. REM sleep happens when the brain emits a chemical known as acetylcholine and when you come out of this stage the brain utilizes neurotransmitters called serotonin and noradrenalin.

Your body has a normal and natural rhythm known in scientific circles as the circadian rhythm. Your body’s circadian rhythm is controlled or regulated by your brain. This brain matter called suprachiasmatic nucleus, releases nerve cells and controls the rhythm, and influences certain conditions in the body such as temperature, hormones, and blood pressure. For example cortisol is a hormone that affects bodily functions like metabolism. Cortisol levels are highest in the morning and as you go through your day this hormone production steadily declines. If your sleeping habits change so will the production levels of cortisol in your body. Melatonin is another chemical that is released when your body realizes that it is time to rest. When the amount of light is reduced towards the end of the day, this is when your brain signals your body to release melatonin and that causes sleepiness. If you know your body’s circadian rhythm you can better effectively plan your daily activities.

The brain is influenced by several external factors which in turn cause your brain to send messages to the rest of your body to perform certain functions. For example, when your brain detects day light it tells your body to do daily normal functions like waking up, walking, working, and eating. Conversely when your brain detects fading lights and darkness it releases hormones that reduce or switch off your body’s active function and hopefully induces sleep. As you get older, cell damage occurs in the part of the brain that controls your circadian rhythm, and as a result your waking and sleeping patterns also changes. I am sure you have noticed that people older than you rise earlier and then usually end up taking naps throughout the day. This brings up another reason why exercise is so important, even more so as we age. If you engage in physical activity on a regular basis your body temperature will remain higher and you will have more energy. On the other hand, if you are inactive and lead a sedentary lifestyle, your body temperature will be lower, you will feel drowsy or sleepy most of the time, and consequently sleep or nap more often. So find something physical that you like to do and do it regularly, plus there is a whole host of other benefits to maintaining an active lifestyle.

There are other sleep disorders that have a definite impact on the quality of your sleep. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or characteristics it would be wise to consult with your doctor or sleep experts. This would be the first step in helping you understand your disorder and determining what should be done to help you overcome your particular sleeping disorder.

Narcolepsy is a disorder that causes daytime sleepiness causing you to fall asleep without warning. You just sort of take an involuntary nap, and basically it doesn’t matter where or when. It is a chronic disorder that affects the brain and can include sleep paralysis which is identified by an inability to move during sleep transitions. It is also characterized by dream like situations during sleep transitions which are actually hallucinations and cataplexy characterized by loss of muscle tone.

Sleepwalking and night terrors are characterized by, well walking while sleeping and waking up from terrors or nightmares. These usually happen during non-REM sleep.

Restless leg syndrome is characterized by pain in the leg muscles and an uncontrollable urge to move your leg or legs around to try and relieve the pain but that generally does not help. The exact causes of restless leg syndrome or how it originates is not fully understood or known. As of this writing, scientists, doctors, and experts in this field are trying to locate the part of the brain that causes or triggers this condition. Additionally, they are trying to identify if it’s genetic which gene transmits this condition to other cells, and what other physiological or nutritional factors could activate these episodes of pain. If you experience these symptoms please don’t dismiss them and consult with your doctor as this could be a sign of something more serious.

There are some sleep tests or studies that can help you identify and hopefully eliminate your particular sleep disorder. You will need to consult with your doctor to determine which test is right for you.

Polysomnograph study uses small electrodes that are connected to specific body parts that measure or track your breathing rate, air intake, snoring, heart rate, eye movement, body movements, and oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood. This study is designed to be as comfortable as possible so that you won’t be disturbed during sleeping and six hours of sleep is needed to achieve accurate results.

Multiple sleep latency tests uses the same electrodes as the polysomnograph study, however the difference requires the patient to take naps every two hours after the regular night’s sleep. During each two hour segment the first twenty minutes is used to allow the patient to fall asleep, then the patient is awakened after fifteen minutes, and then the patient is not allowed to sleep until the next scheduled time for napping.

The multiple wake tests also uses the same electrodes as the two previous tests, but the difference is the patient must stay awake without taking naps during the day time.

In the realm of human development we have many therapies available to help us along the way. One therapy I find most intriguing when it comes to sleep disorders is called light therapy. Light therapy is used to effectively regulate the levels of melatonin in the body. You may or may not be aware of this but did you know that the use of incandescent light bulbs can disturb your sleep cycle? If you are continuously exposed to incandescent light you may feel that your day light time is longer than it should be. Fluorescent lighting is not much better and can actually deprive your body of the natural sunlight it needs. I know what you are going to say, sunlight is bad for you, but that is just really a half truth. Extended periods of exposure to sunlight is most definitely not good for you or your skin. However an hour of sunlight a day is needed to keep your body healthy and provide it with vitamin D.

Thanks to the technology we have today you can have a lot more control over the light in your life and I mean that quite literally. There are lighting products that provide the same effect and benefit that natural sun light gives you. Actually this may be better than sun light as full spectrum lighting can help you get a good night’s sleep and you won’t have to be concerned about too much sun or developing skin cancer. Another item you may want to consider in addition to full spectrum lighting is a sun alarm. I’m sure you have realized how sensitive your eyes are to light especially in the morning after you have been sleeping all night. Sun alarms are a very gentle way of waking up each day as light emitted by the sun alarm sends a signal to your brain to produce serotonin causing your body’s natural ability to wake by imitating first sign of light. No more startling loud ringing from a conventional alarm clock that adds to the stress that you may face on a daily basis. Sun alarms have a twofold function as they can also be used to simulate sunset allowing your brain to gradually produce melatonin allowing your body to relax and fall asleep in a natural way.

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Sleep apnea, or as I like to call it, snort and jerk can be a serious problem. I know this may sound a little strange but there are exercises you can do to help cure your sleep apnea. They are not exercises of the physical type but scientifically proven step by step mouth and throat exercises that strengthen your upper airway and cure your sleep apnea. With this information you will understand the relationship between sleep apnea and snoring and what causes sleep apnea. You will learn how to test your sleep apnea at home and things you can do during the day to keep your sleep apnea at a low level. This program will give you a wide range of exercises that you can mix and match for flexibility giving you a balanced assortment based on your personal preference.

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