One of the reasons I am so passionate about sleep is because I went through my bachelor’s in physical therapy and my master’s program in geriatrics for six years without hearing the words “sleep quality” once. Now, we know that a lack of proper sleep can actually rob us of our memory and cause myriad other problems, so it is more important than ever to make improving sleep quality a priority.
Having worked in hotels for more than 20 years and speaking with many guests, I can say with certainty that not only are many people having a hard time getting well-deserved shuteye, but they have learned to accept it and to live with it. But outside of certain genetic or physical conditions, getting good sleep is easier than you think. It does require a bit of discipline and hard work—almost like going to the gym, but for the brain.
Sleep and Circadian Rhythms
The circadian rhythm is a biological rhythm that exists in many species (including humans and certain types of plants, fungi and insects) and coordinates physiological processes on a 24-hour cycle.
Our circadian rhythms are controlled by several genes and are normally responsible for a variety of important functions, including daily fluctuations in wakefulness, body temperature, metabolism, digestion and hunger. Circadian rhythm also controls memory consolidation (the formation of long-term memories occurs during sleep) and the timing of hormone secretion (for example, the hormones controlling body growth work mostly at night). Cortisol and melatonin are the primary hormones controlling circadian rhythms.
Javier Suarez is the area spa director at Six Senses Douro Valley in Samodães, Portugal. He is a certified sleep coach with a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from UCSF Medical School and a master’s degree in geriatric physio from Universidad Ramon Llull, Barcelona.