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The Science Behind Sleep

*Every blog is backed up by peer-reviewed literature

Sleep, what exactly is it and what does it mean for each and every one of us? 

This may seem like a silly question, but most people do not realize the importance of sleep and the impact it can have on their health . So how badly do we really need sleep or is it simply made to sound important by the people selling us gizmos? The simple truth is that there is just not enough time to sleep anymore and may be the most neglected areas in our lives.

There are two main topics I want to discuss.

First, the importance of sleep on health and wellness. The second, how your circadian rhythm regulates biological processes needed to be healthy.

Let’s discuss the importance of sleep first. During sleep your body works on healing and restoring our brain and bodily functions. Sleep plays a vital role in optimal health and well-being throughout our lives. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect our mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. The overall feeling you experience while awake is directly dependent on the quality of your sleep.

Quality sleep has been proven to:

  • Improve learning capabilities by forming new brain pathways
  • Prevent chronic health diseases such as cardiovascular disease by repairing blood vessels 
  • Improve creativity and the ability to focus
  • Enhance mood and how we react to difficult circumstances
  • Prevent obesity or visceral body fat
  • Maintain hormonal balance

On the other side of the coin, lack of sleep will weaken your immune system, it will also play a major role in hormonal imbalance. It will reduce melatonin levels which in turn will increase our risk of cancer. Lack of sleep will also prematurely age us by interfering with our growth hormone production. (If you didn’t know, growth hormones are what help you look and feel younger.)

Next let’s talk about why Circadian Rhythms are important?

Let’s start by defining circadian rhythms in order to fully understand the importance. Basically, it is a 24-hour rhythm driven by our internal clocks. Remember we all navigate our lives through the construct of alarm time, but circadian rhythms essentially give us major advantages to live our life the best. This rhythm happens all around us in plants, animals, and even fungi. 

Advantages to following your circadian rhythms are:

  • Regulated core body temperature 
  • Regulated brain wave activity
  • Improved hormonal balance
  • Improved cellular regeneration 

So, I can confidently write that our internal rhythm is crucial to your overall health.

When our circadian rhythm is disrupted we lose the timing of crucial internal cellular and metabolic events. It could even affect antioxidant levels making our ability to fight cancer weaker. 

Part of the circadian rhythm is the light–dark cycle. It has been shown that animals placed in total darkness and without any external stimulus, enters a state that moderate ultradian rhythms such as metabolic, hormonal, CNS electrical, or neurotransmitter rhythms. See, every operation in the body is reliant on the circadian rhythm working properly. 

You’re probably asking, what does this have to do with you?

Many people are trying to sleep using prescription, over-the-counter medication, or supplements. None of these are long-term solutions and will create more imbalance in your body. One thing we teach our patients are alternatives such as meditation instead of something like melatonin.

So if you want to learn how to experience amazing deep sleep keep reading.

Quality hours

Unfortunately 6 hours is just not enough, especially for women. “Oh, yeah right doctor – I can’t sleep that long?” Well how important is your health? If your health and sanity are important you, consider prioritizing finding a way to snooze an extra hour and make the time to rest. Some people need more sleep than others depending on numerous factors. Now the environment and circumstances for quality sleep are important.

Total blackout

Any lights in your room or an outside street light shining through your window will totally disrupt your circadian rhythm and the ability to activate other crucial rhythms. Completely remove all lights in your bedroom and invest in some blackout blinds.

Not on a full stomach

Stuffing your face right before you sleep prevents you from having a restful sleep. Although it may be satisfying to fall asleep on a full tummy, your body then has to spend “sleeping” hours digesting food creating a disruption in the natural rhythms of the body.

Zero tech

Artificial light such as those from a cell-phone, television, iPad, or computer stimulates brain activity. When we are powering down our bodies and getting ready for bed, we truly should power down all technology. Sleeping next to your phone, iPad, even a powered on computer is enough to distract from your natural rythmns. Have you heard of blue lights? These lights will fake your brain that is still daylight, therefore disrupting your circadian rhythm from producing the right hormones for sleep.

If you have ever suffered with sleeping issues why don’t you try making small changes. They will make a massive difference in your ability to sleep.

You will spend a third of your life sleeping, maybe it’s time to improve it with these simple steps. 

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