How Important is Sleep?

How Important is Sleep?

It is rare to find someone in our society today who doesn’t feel he or she has a very busy and demanding schedule. We tend to push too hard and do not allow enough time for adequate rest.

According to the American Sleep Association over a forth of adults have some sort of a sleep disorder. It is projected that the growth rate for sleep aids will rise by 27% in 2018, amounting to over 700 million in sales.

It is well documented that inadequate sleep is a major health risk factor. Recent studies by the National Sleep Foundation found that over 40 % of those surveyed suffer from insomnia and 37 % experienced a lack of sleep so severe that their daytime sleepiness interfered with their normal daily activities. This percentage was 52% in shift workers. 80% of nighttime workers reported falling asleep while driving. The most alarming information that came from this study was the fact that more people are killed by sleepy drivers than by drunk drivers.

Science of Sleep

Other studies have also shown a clear relationship between inadequate sleep and long-term health. A study found that medical students who had sleeping problems and inadequate rest as young men experienced over twice the amount of clinical depression 30 years later, compared to other students. Another study found that when sleep patterns are interrupted the levels of immune system killer T-cells are significantly reduced. All these statistics are offered to emphasize the importance of adequate sleep.

Insomnia is recognized as the fourth most prominent health issue.

In my opinion insomnia is at the top of the list because lack of proper sleep lowers the body’s resistance to all diseases. Disease is really dis-ease, meaning the body is not at ease. Disease is some form of tension in the body that is inhibiting proper cellular function. We have trillions of cells performing trillions of life functions, including dying and being born. It is critically important to allow the body time to eliminate the tensions caused by the stresses of living.

Think about this

You can live without water for about 7-10 days and without food for about 30-40 days. How long can you stay awake and function well. The answer is only 24 hours. Yes people have forced themselves to say awake for days but at a high cost.

The consequences of sleep deprivation at 24 hours is comparable to the cognitive impairment of someone with a blood-alcohol content of 0.10 percent, according to a 2010 study in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health. Judgment is affected, memory is impaired, there is deterioration in decision making, and a decline in eye-hand coordination. Attention is decreased, hearing is impaired, and there is an increase in risk of death from a fatal accident.

At 36 hours your health begins to be at risk. High levels of inflammatory markers are in the bloodstream, which can eventually lead to cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Additionally, hormones are affected and your emotions can be all over the place.

At 48 hours of no sleep, the body begins compensating by shutting down for micro sleeps, episodes that last from half a second to half a minute and are usually followed by a period of disorientation. The person experiencing a micro sleep falls asleep regardless of the activity they are engaged in. Micro sleeps are similar to blackouts, and a person experiencing them is not consciously aware that they’re occurring.

Sounds to me like getting adequate nightly sleep is critically important.

Sleep

Adequate sleep is a vital component of good health.The exact functions of sleep and rest are not clearly known. However, it is known to be a time for the body to repair and regenerate itself. During sleep the spine regains its flexibility, the skin makes repairs,the muscles clear lactic acid and the immune system recovers. During sleep the body produces Human Growth Hormone which plays an important role in deterring the aging and the disease processes.

Rest

Rest is defined as the refreshing quiet or repose of sleep, refreshing ease or inactivity after exertion of labor, relief or freedom from anything that wearies, troubles or disturbs. This applies to both our mind and our body. Besides sleep, rest can consist of any technique that reduces stress such as meditation, visualization, sitting or lying quietly, reading for enjoyment, listening to relaxing music, having a peaceful enjoyable conversation, or anything that is physically or mentally relaxing.

Ideally we should allow an equal amount of time  for rest as we do for activity.

The Role of Insomnia

The primary cause of difficulty staying asleep near morning is insomnia, which is defined as difficulty falling or staying asleep, and is frequently associated with early morning awakenings. These awakenings may occur throughout the night, but they tend to be more frequent in the second half of the night, due to a diminishing ability to sleep toward the morning hours.

The ability to sleep is linked to two processes, one called the homeostatic sleep drive and the other being the circadian rhythm. The homeostatic sleep drive is the gradual desire for sleep that builds the longer a person stays awake, and relates to the gradual accumulation of a chemical in the brain called adenosine. This sleepless signal eventually helps to initiate sleep, however, midway through the night the chemical is gone and the desire for sleep is depleted.

If this awakening occurs toward morning, the ability to return to sleep will be compromised due to the lower levels of adenosine. Sleep may be greatly delayed, fragmented, or disrupted in insomnia, but awakenings near morning can be especially troublesome.

The Unexpected Influence of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea may contribute to early morning awakenings. To better understand this relationship, it’s necessary to carefully consider the structure of sleep.

In the first half of the night, slow-wave sleep occurs more frequently, especially among young people. In the second half, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep makes a more frequent appearance. Though the cycles of sleep occur regularly through the night, REM sleep becomes more prolonged towards morning. Therefore, we are more likely to awaken from it near morning and recall the vivid dreams associated with the state.

Sleep apnea is also more likely to occur during REM sleep. The muscles of the body are actively paralyzed during this stage, so we are unable to act out our dreams. If this does not occur, a condition called REM behavior disorder may result. Muscles lining the upper airway are also paralyzed, which makes the throat more collapsible and collapse manifests as disrupted breathing and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is often worsened during REM for this reason. Morning awakenings may, therefore, occur in the setting of sleep apnea that’s worsened during the periods of REM that become more frequent and prolonged towards morning.

The last major contributor to early morning awakenings is the class of conditions that are collectively known as circadian rhythm disorders. These include the natural tendency to wake early in the morning, advanced sleep phase syndrome and natural changes that occur in sleep ability as we get older. Some people are just naturally morning people: they may prefer to fall asleep earlier (such as at 9 PM) and wake earlier (by 5 or 6 AM). This may be a lifelong preference, and while it isn’t necessarily abnormal, it may lead to early morning awakenings. If a sufficient amount of sleep is obtained before getting up for the day, then there’s no reason to be concerned.

As we get older, our ability to maintain a continuous, uninterrupted period of sleep diminishes. Sleep may become more fragmented, and there may be more time spent awake in the transition to falling asleep and during the night. Slow-wave sleep diminishes, and total sleep time may be reduced.

In some cases, a condition called advanced sleep phase syndrome may become apparent. In this circadian rhythm disorder, the onset and offset of sleep moves earlier by several hours. If it’s disruptive to social life, it may be treated with the use of properly timed melatonin and light exposure at night.

If you suffer from morning awakenings, you should reflect on your situation and consider what might be contributing to the occurrence. If there’s evidence of mood disorders, these should be addressed by a doctor. When a clear explanation cannot be identified, it may be useful to speak with a sleep specialist, who may be able to provide additional insight.

Causes of insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder identified by difficulty falling or staying asleep or the inability to enjoy quality uninterrupted sleep.

The causes of insomnia are numerous but science has been able to narrow these down to the following:

1.Anxiety and stress. Anxiety and perceived stress at work, school or in relationships can create hormonal and metabolic malfunctions. Depending on the severity of the stress, those thoughts and worries may continue and even grow into the night, making sleep challenging or impossible.

2. Breathing Disorder

Interruption in regular breathing patterns or oxygen uptake can also affect sleep. The discomfort associated with a deviated septum or other breathing disorder such as asthma, trigger a disturbance in the breathing patterns which can make sleep difficult. Often times these disturbances can deprive one of REM sleep producing carry-over anxiety, mental fatigue and other complications during waking hours. There are many new devices that can help this situation, do your research.

3. Hormonal imbalances

Particularly for women, the period of menstruation and menopause is accompanied by disruption in sleep patterns. The shift in levels of serotonin, progesterone, and estrogen can be accompanied by night sweats, hot flashes, and vivid dreams or nightmares. This plays havoc with one’s peace of mind and can trigger a biochemical stress-response that fights the ordinary sleepiness necessary to fall or stay asleep. Hormonal imbalances such as thyroid issues can also affect men’s sleep patterns.

4. Over stimulation of the nervous system

Younger people tend to over stimulate their nervous systems with cell phone use, video games, TV, electronic music and other electronic gadgets and sometimes recreational drugs. Some drugs are specifically ingested because of their ability to stimulate the nervous system and keep one going for longer than normal periods.

A good rule is no screens 2 hours before bedtime

5. Poor Nutrition

Highly processed fast foods are grossly lacking in essential nutrients such as B vitamins and minerals that are essential for proper brain function. Magnesium in particular is vital for calming the body, reducing stress and is a natural sleep aid. Magnesium is known to be an important co-factor in more than 700 enzyme reactions in the human body.

Surveys have shown that more than 75% of Americans do not receive adequate amounts of magnesium in their diet. Minimum recommended dosage for adults is approximately 400 mg/day. Magnesium citrate is one of the most absorbable forms.

6. Indigestion and Constipation

Gastrointestinal problems like indigestion, acid reflux or constipation can mess with restful sleep. Eating late can leave you feeling full and uncomfortable before bed and the action of digestion itself is an energy intensive process that can rev up metabolism in the body beyond its ability to rest. Poor digestion, flatulence and constipation can result. The excess amount of acid in the GI tract from acid reflux can flow backwards into the esophagus creating a burning sensation in the chest which makes sleeping impossible.

7. Over use of and withdrawal of medications and stimulants

There are no studies, or can there ever be any, for the reactions and side effects from combinations of prescription and over the counter drugs. It is wise to first check the side effects of any medications you are taking and to be sure what you are taking are absolutely necessary.

Psychoactive drugs such as coffee, alcohol, cocaine, MDMA, and methamphetamine are intended to create altered states of consciousness. Their use often creates its own reality, behavior pattern and spectrum of activity which is different from the natural one. Prolonged drug use can have such a profound effect on brain function and hormone regulation that their use can result in a permanent disruption of sleep.

In addition when the body becomes used to the sedative effect from anti-anxiety drugs, their removal can trigger a super-stimulated state. This can contribute to the loss of the body’s own internal regulatory sensibilities. Altering the regulation of hormones such as melatonin can have direct immediate effects on one’s ability to sleep.

8. Heart Disease and Insomnia

Long term insomnia causes a chronic stress-response in the body through the adrenal-pituitary-hypothalamus circuit that makes the body feel as though it is in imminent danger. This triggers higher blood pressure, heart rate and an inflammatory response, all conditions that will make the symptoms of heart disease and their management more difficult and possibly life-threatening.

9. Physical Exercise

Exercise has a broad-spectrum effect on all body systems mental and physical. The elevated heart rate, blood pressure, muscle, hormonal and neurotransmitter activity which accompanies exercise combine to create an overall high level of stimulation or positive stress on the body and mind. But the body needs time to recover and return to its resting state. If exercise takes place in the late evening, the body may not have enough time to return to a restful state and allow the shift necessary for easy sleep. The result is making peacefulness and sleep impossible until the early hours of the morning.

10.Mental Illness

Psychiatric disorders are the leading cause of insomnia. Bipolar disorder creates dramatic mood swings and the compulsiveness that comes with mania often prevents sleep for days at a time unless medicated. PTSD and depression can cause excessive sleep during the day as a coping mechanism and create sleeplessness at night. Nightmares often accompany psychiatric disorders and the drugs used to combat the mental illnesses themselves are often the enemies of a long restful sleep.

11.Pain or Injury

A serious injury or illness can causes so much pain that sleep becomes a challenge. Tossing and turning to find the most pain-free position and the inability to move freely can hamper one’s ability to sleep. Using pain killers for accompanying inflammation, congestion or weight management can also agitate sleep patterns as they may contain caffeine or other stimulants. Similarly, heavy painkillers can create dependence and a new normal for the body such that, when removed, the body cannot sleep without the meds…. making sleep disorders worse.

Amount and Time of Sleep

Remember the rhyme “ Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man

healthy, wealthy and wise?” I’m always amazed at the wisdom to be

found in so many old sayings. Science is continually proving what

intuition has always provided to those who are open to it. This

reinforces our belief in trusting our own innate intelligence for the

answers that we seek.

The human body is innately programmed to sleep during darkness and to be awake during daylight. It has now been shown that deep sleep is interrupted and affected by light. Melatonin production is decreased when the body is exposed to light and this deficiency has been linked to cancer. It is also well known that our metabolism goes through cycles of ingestion, absorption and elimination according to light. Therefore, it seems that working at night and sleeping during the day may lead to compromised health. This implies we probably would do best by getting up at sunrise and retiring a few hours before midnight.

Studies have shown that if one receives less than seven hours of restful sleep your cognitive abilities decline. It continues to decline with every hour less than seven.

Position

The ideal sleeping positions is on your back with neck supported and feet elevated. Sleep on your side with head in alignment with the spine, resting on a supportive pillow, with bottom arm extended out to take pressure off the shoulder. Your top leg should be bent with bottom leg slightly flexed. Never sleep on your stomach. This position compresses the spine and restricts breathing.

Think of sleep as an investment in your future.

Myths

1.We need less sleep as we grow older.

Each of us has slightly different sleep requirements, however, researchers agree that most people, regardless of age, require approximately eight hours of sleep per night to operate at their optimal level. More than eight hours sleep begins to make one sluggish and of course is time that could be spent more productively.

2. We can make up sleep by sleeping in the daytime.

As previously stated sleeping in daytime does not lead to deep restorative sleep. Research however, has shown that short naps of one hour or less are beneficial for improving alertness and mood for the rest of the day.

Tips for a Good Nights Sleep

Feng Shui

Feng Shui is the art of arranging a room for optimal energy flow and balance. It is best to sleep with your head pointing north, in order to lined up with the earth’s electromagnet field which runs in a north/ south direction. Consult a good Feng Shui book such as Karen Kingston’s “Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui” for ideal bedroom arrangement.

Establish a Routine

We are creatures of habit, and our sleep is no exception. Once you determine your sleep needs, you should do your best to meet those needs every day. By consistently going to bed and getting up at the same time,we condition our body to follow a regular pattern of sleep. This allows our body’s natural clock, called a circadian rhythm, to help initiate and maintain our sleep.

So train your body to go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday. Our bodies function best with consistent cycles of rest and activity. Establish a routine 30 minutes before going to bed, such as brushing teeth, stretching and meditation.

Sanctuary

Use your bed exclusively for sex and sleeping. Do not eat,watch TV read or work in bed. This will train your body to fall asleep when in bed.

Atmosphere

Studies have shown silence and darkness are required for the deepest sleep. Use ear plugs and masks if necessary. Darkness also signals the pituitary gland to begin releasing growth hormone.

Temperature

Keep your room comfortably cool with fresh air

and no artificial heat. Use quality bedding to keep you warm.

Sleeping surface

Invest in a high quality firm mattress that supports your spine. I recommend natural latex without metal springs. You spend nearly one third of your life in bed, it will be money well spent

Stimulants and relaxants.

Both alcohol and sleep aids may help you fall asleep initially, but they inhibit deep, restful sleep and can become addictive. Try an herbal tea mixture of peppermint, rosemary and sage before going to bed

Food

Discomfort with heartburn or acid reflux, as well as needing to get up multiple times to urinate, can be very disruptive to a good night’s sleep. It’s best to avoid these situations by not eating or drinking in the few hours prior to bedtime.

Evening meal should be light and eaten at least three hours before retiring. Take a short walk after eating.

Warm up

Take hot foot baths and wear socks to keep feet warm if necessary.

Activities

Avoid exciting activities before going to bed. Even watching TV excites the nervous system and can keep some people from easily going to sleep.

Relaxation

For insomniacs… Meditate, listen to a tape with headphones of someone lecturing in a soft soothing voice. Read a boring book.

The most important advice is to respect that your body needs to sleep.Too often, we allow our sleep time to be infringed upon when our daytime obligations take longer than anticipated. Additionally, opportunities to engage in pleasurable activities,visiting friends, watching television, playing on the internet, eating out, and any number of others can cut into our sleep time, if we allow them to. It’s important to schedule your sleep time and stick to that schedule, no matter what might come up during the day.

If you are having problems sleeping consult with a medical professional…

it is a matter of life or death.

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