By: Gleason Center Editors, Dr. Daniel Gleason DC
This New Year, we hope you'll commit to better sleep! Because quality sleep is vital to a healthy mind and a healthy body. In our January newsletter, Dr. Gleason outlines what a good night's rest looks like and how to get it. Read on to find out just how amazing it feels to wake up ready to conquer your day!
Sleep is that familiar yet mysterious state of being that we all experience, some more effectively than others. Sleep is required for all living things. Humans spend more time in the deep, creative REM sleep than any other animal. We humans are different than all other primates who sleep in trees. Sleeping on the ground (hopefully in bed) allows us a much deeper and more restful sleep experience. Those who study sleep and anthropology, suggest that when humans discovered fire it allowed us to sleep on the ground as fire kept predators away and the smoke helped keep insects from attacking us. This allowed us access to the power of creative sleep, which in turn led to our increased ability to manipulate our environment, use tools, and progress to become the dominant species.
Westerners on average do not get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation costs the US economy $411 billion annually in accidents and lost productivity. Polls show 63 percent of people do not get enough sleep to be healthy, 69 percent struggle with frequent sleep problems, and 22 percent are so sleepy during the day it affects their quality of life. Getting less than 6 hours of sleep in any 24-hour period leaves you cognitively impaired.
Lack of quality sleep has been found to significantly contribute to:
Healthy sleep consists of five stages that you cycle through 4-5 times per night. Each cycle lasts 1.5 to 2 hours.
THE FIVE STAGES OF SLEEP
Light Sleep (Stages 1 & 2)
First your biological processes slow down and your brain begins the editing process deciding which memories to store and which to discard. Your brain deletes unnecessary information like where you parked your car yesterday.
Deep Sleep (Stages 3 & 4)
Here you enter into a coma-like state when cleansing and detoxification processes in your brain take place. Brain cells actually shrink by about 60 percent during this phase. This creates more space in-between the cells, giving your cerebrospinal fluid more space to flush out the debris.
Rapid Eye Movement (Stage 5)
REM sleep is where dreaming takes place. Here your brain is as active as it is during wakefulness, but your body is paralyzed, which prevents you from acting out your dreams. During REM sleep you are able to integrate what you experienced that day into your previous conscious and unconsciousness. This is where much creative realization takes place.
For those who struggle with quantity and quality of sleep, sleep hygiene is essential. First create a placid place to sleep that is quiet and very dark. Blackout curtains are essential and any light sources must be extinguished. For three hours before you retire you must avoid using TVs, computers, or cell phones that emit blue light. This color light mimics the sun and your brain thinks that the sun is still up. There are filters and apps available that screen out blue light.
If your partner snores get him/her Breath Right nasal strips, have them get a sleep study or, because sleep is so incredibly important, resort to having them sleep in another room. If sleep is a problem for you, avoid sleeping with your pets. Experiment with the right room temperature, blankets, nightclothes, and pillows to optimize your sleep experience.
Sleep studies can be very helpful. They often lead to the prescription of a CPAP machine which can be life saving. Up to 50% of those who get CPAPs however do not use them for long due to irritation or failure to solve the sleep problem.
One reason many people wake in the night is that their blood sugar is dropping due to pre-diabetes and other blood sugar handling conditions. This common condition is due to eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), which includes eating way too many sugars and starches, eating too often, and not eating enough quality fats and protein. Caffeine and alcohol have profound effects on quality and quantity of sleep. Even decaf and chocolate can be too much stimulation for some. There are many supplements that can help with blood sugar control when used in conjunction with the right diet.
Nutrient deficiencies are often at the root of sleep problems. Having the wrong intestinal bacteria can disrupt sleep. Hormone imbalances are a common contributing factor to insomnia. Ideally you get blood and urine testing for nutrient imbalances, stool testing for gut health and urine or saliva tests for hormone levels. This will allow for a much more targeted approach.
For those who can’t do testing, it’s safe to try the supplements listed below (everyone responds differently):
One of the most common causes of sleep disorder is magnesium deficiency. Other common signs of low Mg include cramps, palpitations, high blood pressure, constipation, and anxiety. Magnesium supplements taken at bedtime, as well as topical magnesium and Epsom salts baths, have helped many of our patients.
No discussion of sleep problems is complete without some comments on sleep medications. Like all meds, the US is the major consumer of sleeping pills. There are problems with chronic use of benzodiazepines like Xanax as they carry significant risk of addiction. Other sleep aids, like Ambien, also lead to dependence and significant risk of memory loss. We suggest that you research the pros and cons of these as well as having frank conversations with your doctors before starting to take them and with continued regular use.
If you like this post, you might also enjoy our: December Newsletter
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