KNOWLEDGE

SLEEP

Enjoy Sleep knowledge below and enter your email to watch the webinar replay of my Sleep presentation with Dr. Peter Cummings.

By Dr. Zach Bush & Dr. Peter Cummings

IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP

Over 60% of Americans report not getting enough sleep. Many scientific studies have estimated by 40 years of age we have accumulated a 20,000 hour sleep deficit.

Lack of sleep is no trivial matter. Sleep plays a vital role in the regenerative processes of every tissue in the human body. Failure to get enough sleep can elevate the chemicals in your body which promote inflammation. Increased inflammation prevents tissue healing and fosters chronic disease states. In fact, many scientific studies have linked sleep deprivation to an increased risk of developing many chronic and potentially life threatening diseases such as:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Depression

Lack of sleep has a profound impact on your brain. If you don’t get enough sleep your cognitive function is reduced, your ability to learn is impaired, your memories don’t get stored in a way you can access them when you need them, and you have slower reaction times.

If you experience a chronic lack of sleep, these deficits in brain function worsen and increase your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Several studies have demonstrated that a lack of sleep can cause chronic inflammation in the brain and subsequently lead to the accumulation of abnormal proteins associated with many forms of dementia.

Individuals who suffer from neurodegenerative diseases often experience poor sleep. It was once thought poor sleep was the result of the brain disease, but more recent medical literature is suggesting the inability to achieve consistent regular sleep over many years may have come first and played an important role in the development of the neurodegenerative disease.

METABOLISM OF SLEEP

Sleep allows us to physically disengage from our stressors and perceived reality so we can focus our metabolic energy on activities that regenerate and restore our tissues.

Nighttime shifts in metabolic pathways allows your tissues to ‘restock the shelves’. It’s during sleep that you replace the glucose in your muscles and liver and manufacture proteins important for muscle strength. While asleep your cell membranes are repaired and remodeled and your neurons create myelin to help with nerve signaling.

PHYSIOLOGY OF SLEEP

During the night, your body passes through four to six cycles of sleep. Each cycle is comprised of four stages. Each cycle lasts approximately 90 minutes.

Passing through the cycles without disruption is important to cellular rejuvenation, memory consolidation, and restoration of physical and emotional reserves.

There are four individual stages of sleep, three are referred to collectively as ‘non-REM sleep’ and the fourth is called ‘REM Sleep’.

STAGE 1:

Occurs just as you are falling asleep.

 

It’s short in duration and is considered light sleep. Physiologically, your heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements slow, and your muscles relax and may twitch. Your brain waves begin to slow down and your mind disengages from the activities of the day.

STAGE 2:

A transition stage between light sleep and deeper sleep.

During this time, your heartbeat and breathing slow, and muscles relax. Your body temperature drops and eye movements stop. Brain wave activity slows even further and you begin to phase into deep sleep.

STAGE 3:

The period of deep sleep.

This stage of sleep is vital to feeling rested in the morning and it’s most important to phase for our regenerative processes, allowing for our bodies to recover and grow. It also plays a role in bolstering our immunity system. During this phase, brain activity slows down and it is thought stage 3 sleep aids in the development of insightful thinking, creativity, and memory. Heartbeat and breathing rates reach their lowest level in this stage. Your muscles are at maximal relaxation and sleep is so deep, it may be difficult to wakeup if disturbed.

STAGE 4:

REM sleep— first occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep.

It’s called REM because of the rapid eye movements you experience during this stage. During REM sleep, your brain wave activity increases and you dream. Your breathing and heart rates also increase to near awake levels. Although your brain and physiologic functions are similar to those seen in wakefulness, your muscles become temporarily paralyzed, which prevents you from acting out your dreams. REM sleep plays an important part of memory consolidation and as we age, we sleep less time in REM sleep.

IMPROVING YOUR SLEEP

In order to experience the full benefits of sleep, it’s important to evaluate your sleep habits and your lifestyle.

Factors such as age, recent sleeping patterns, diet, and alcohol consumption can all have an impact on the sleep cycle.

We sleep less and spend less time in REM-stage sleep as we get older. There isn’t much you can do about your age, but you can focus on other aspects of your life that you can control.

Evaluating your recent sleeping patterns is an important first step. If you notice that over the past weeks or months, you’ve been getting irregular sleep with inconsistent bedtimes and waking times, it’s a signal your sleep cycle is in need of repair. If this is the case, first try setting a consistent bedtime and stick to it. Then, make changes to your sleeping environment.

Creating the proper sleep environment is critical. Avoid electronics in the bedroom. Try to avoid watching TV or using the internet or computer in the hour leading up to bedtime. Make your bedroom a quiet, peaceful space; avoid working in your bedroom and use the room only for sleep. Make sure the temperature is not too hot or too cold. If you can’t fall asleep, don’t lie there tossing and turning— read a book for enjoyment or listen to some soft relaxing music. As you get into bed, practice mindfulness and attempt to rid your mind of toxic thoughts. In my family, we end our day by listing 5 things were were grateful for— no matter how stressful the day has been, we can always find something to be thankful for.

Part of evaluating your sleep environment should include a close look at your mattress, pillows, sheets and sleepwear. Due to the presence of fire retardants, the materials inside your mattress are becoming recognized as some of the most toxin-generating products in our homes. The gasses released by a typical mattress have been shown to disrupt your endocrine system or worse, cause cancer. Advances in material science have allowed some manufactures to produce mattresses and pillow made from organic toxin-free materials such as organic latex, wools, kapok, and coconut fibers. Healthy options for sheets and other bedding include organic bamboo, and linen.

YOU SLEEP AS YOU LIVE

Your lifestyle can have a positive or negative effect on your sleep.

Think about what you eat and drink. Try to eat a plant-based whole food organic diet. This will help you avoid processed sugars and toxic chemicals which negatively alter metabolism and can rob you of sleep— even if your bedroom environment is perfect.

Try to limit caffeine, especially later in the afternoon. You’ll find once you spend a few weeks repairing your sleep you won’t need that afternoon pick-me-up.

Limit alcohol, but if you do drink with dinner or with an evening event, try to keep it to a moderate level of consumption and always consume alcohol with water. A good rule is 12 oz of water per drink. For me, two beers or two glasses of wine, equals an additional 24 oz of water. Drinking water will help reduce dehydration, flush out toxic metabolites, and protect against the negative affects of alcohol on your sleep cycle.

Regular exercise will help stabilize your mood and decompress your mind in order to improve your sleep. The drop in body temperature which occurs many hours after exercise will also help you feel drowsy. Exercise improves the biochemical functions of your cells and will assist your sleep metabolism in performing its regenerative functions more efficiently. People who exercise regularly spend more time in deep sleep and experience longer duration sleep— in short: people who exercise get better sleep.

Your sleep environment also extends into how you wakeup in the morning. Your mindset when you are just waking up can set the tone for your entire day. Try to take a few minutes as you are getting ready to get up to think about the things you are thankful for and give yourself permission to accept the challenges of the day ahead of you.

Lack of sleep has a profound impact on your brain. If you don’t get enough sleep your cognitive function is reduced, your ability to learn is impaired, your memories don’t get stored in a way you can access them when you need them, and you have slower reaction times.

If you experience a chronic lack of sleep, these deficits in brain function worsen and increase your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Several studies have demonstrated that a lack of sleep can cause chronic inflammation in the brain and subsequently lead to the accumulation of abnormal proteins associated with many forms of dementia.

Individuals who suffer from neurodegenerative diseases often experience poor sleep. It was once thought poor sleep was the result of the brain disease, but more recent medical literature is suggesting the inability to achieve consistent regular sleep over many years may have come first and played an important role in the development of the neurodegenerative disease.

HOW WILL I KNOW IF IT’S WORKING?

How do you evaluate your sleep health after you make these changes?

After a few days you should begin to feel more rested and have higher levels of energy throughout the day. You’ll notice you don’t need that 4 pm cup of coffee anymore. You may also notice your anxiety levels reducing and your workout routine and muscle recovery improving. Deeper emotional reserve and improved memory and executive function, problem solving, and creative thinking are major milestones in the sleep recovery journey.

With the advent of wearable technologies, you now have the ability to take a deep dive into your sleep patterns. Many smart watches have sleep trackers and there are many apps available which can measure the duration and even the quality of your sleep. These programs are great because they give you visible and immediate feedback.

An important and easy variable to evaluate is your sleeping heart rate. Many recent studies suggest the lowest sleeping heart rate is a better indicator of overall health than the traditional resting heart rate. Finding your lowest sleeping heart rate is easy: look at your recorded heart rates during the night. Find the lowest value— that’s your lowest sleeping heart rate.

With wearable technology you can also get important information about the pattern of your sleeping heart rate. Due to the changes in your bodies activity during the sleep cycles, the pattern of your heart rate will change throughout the night. Ideally, the overall pattern should look like a ‘smiley face’ where your heart rate gradually slows as you approach deep sleep and gradually rises as you get closer to waking up. Other patterns such as a ‘tidal wave’ or dramatic ‘crash’ indicate metabolic stress and may point to issues with diet, alcohol consumption or anxiety.

Sleep is as important to your body as water or oxygen. Without it, your body and mind cannot function at their full potential. Invest time in improving your sleep. It’s easy, inexpensive and has enormous health benefits. Getting an appropriate amount of sleep protects against a wide spectrum of diseases and has the potential to prolong your life.

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