Why Are We Talking About Sleep?

“Sleep is not merely the absence of wakefulness, it is far more than that. Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day” Matthew Walker, Ph.D. Neuroscientist and author of Why We Sleep

“The three main pillars of good health that we can exert some control over are nutrition, exercise, and sleep.” W. Chris Winter, MD sleep specialist and author of The Sleep Solution

Quality of sleep( or lack of) is related to most “medical conditions” such as, neurological disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and MS.  Cardiovascular issues, hypertension, atrial fabulation, heart failure. Hormonal issues, thyroid problems, HPA axis issues.  Digestive issues, stomach ulcers, gut biome balance. Emotional issues, depression/anxiety, and PTSD. Cancer, the most profound being breast. Kidney stones, sexual dysfunction, bedwetting, premature aging, diabetes, obesity, PAIN and pain-related as in Fibromyalgia – the list goes on and on.

1 in 5 people has a chronic sleep disorder. The most common age group is 40-59 yrs old. Stanford University has found 87 percent of teens are sleep deprived. Teens report feeling tired, stressed and sad. Many times leading them to anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications. Vehicular accidents from drowsy driving are higher than drug and alcohol accidents combined. Sleep requirements are 7-9 hours for young adults–seniors. School-age 10-13 years/teenagers require 8-10 hours . 6 hours and under in a 24 hour period is labeled insufficient sleep and shows slower reaction time, cognitive impairment, and biological age greater than chronological age. The best window of sleep is 10 pm to 6 am, with 10 pm – 2 am being most important according to some researchers.

Sleep is broken into 5 stages

  • NREM 1&2 light sleep, the brain is actively editing memories, which to save, which to store
  • NREM 3&4 deep sleep – physiologic cleansing and detoxifying of the brain. Ages 50-60 start to have less time in this phase and we see a build-up of toxins – dementia. This is the RESTORE and REPAIR phase.
  • REM Dreaming – disruptions here linked to attention problems and poor concentration.
  • Healthy sleep will cycle through these 5 stages every 90-120 minutes. 4-5 times per night.

Am I Sleeping well? Do I fall asleep within 10-20 minutes? Stay asleep through the night? Wake feeling refreshed?

How to Enhance Sleep or Repair Broken Sleep

  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Use circadian rhythm, sunshine, and darkness to produce melatonin. Eat at the same time each day, go to bed and rise at the same time.
  • Exercise daily. 30-60 minutes, moderation is best. Earlier is better – in the sunshine is even better. If difficulty sleeping – don’t exercise in the evening.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
  • Avoid large meals at night.
  • Avoid medications that disrupt sleep – check with a pharmacist and see if they can be taken at a different time of the day
  • Don’t nap after 3 pm and only nap 15-25 minutes. Set a timer if needed
  • Create a SLEEP SANCTUARY – very dark, cold (between 68-70 degrees), only sleep in the bed – no work, reading or electronic devices.
  • A hot bath before bed – raising the body temperature helps to relax and get the body ready to sleep.
  • Sunlight exposure 30 minutes in the morning.
  • Avoid all blue-light in the evening. If you must be on an electronic device wear blue-blocking glasses. Turn all blue light off one hour before bed.
  • Promote Relaxation –Prayer and meditation, Deep breathing ( count breaths, Andrew Weil, MD 4-7-8 two to four times only), essential oils, chamomile or passionflower hot tea (but not too late so you don’t have to use the restroom all night) magnesium, Rescue Sleep if trouble turning off your mind.
  • New information on Sleep Incline Therapy – helps clear and oxygenate the brain. Raise the head of your bed 4-6 inches. Also, use mouth tape if you are a mouth breather – to allow only nose breathing.
  • EMF – electromagnetic frequency – Cell phones, electronic devices, and wifi need to be away from your body at least 6 feet, preferably turned off at night.

Questions about sleep medications – research shows problems with all of them from suppressing deep sleep to severe side effects of paralysis and many others.
Melatonin supplementation – controversial. Sleep researchers quote studies that it does work. Brain researchers, like it but maybe it is not so much for sleep as for brain health.

Another big hindrance to sleep is sleep apnea. This is more than positional snoring. With apnea, there is a loss of oxygenation to the brain as the airway collapses. Waking up tired or with a headache, middle-aged males, being overweight, thick short neck, having anxiety or depression, children with ADHD or learning disabilities, GRINDING the teeth – all are risks. Have a sleep study if you have any of these symptoms.

References: Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker PhD
The Sleep Solution, Chris Winter, MD
Dr. Mercola
Dr. Josh Axe
Ask the Dentist
Inclined Bed Therapy




Photo by Gregory Pappas on Unsplash

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