We spend one third of our lives sleeping. Some of us try to shortcut this as we believe we have more important ways to spend our time and some of us shortchange ourselves because we are so over committed that we simply grab time to sleep for survival only. Here I think of persons who are caretaking an ill child or a mother who has Alzheimer’s. They have no time for themselves and certainly a full night’s refreshing sleep is a rare thing as often nights are spent with no deep sleep (REM) possible as being alert instantly is important.
But sleep is a critical need for our bodies. Even though we may think it is a luxury; even though we may think it is not important to our lives; it is critical to our health in multiple ways and certainly if we expect to live our lives in relative health, quality, regular sleep is essential. It is not a waste of time.
Think about your sleep:
Did you know that:
This during sleep, housekeeping only happens during your sleep cycles. During your natural sleep cycles the nerve cells (neurons) communicate with each other and direct the removal of toxins and accumulated wastes from the previous day. Think of this like a special cleaning crew arriving as you sleep to clean out the debris from the huge complex network that lives within your skull. During this sleep time, this crew – which is far more complex than this analogy suggests far – thoroughly cleans all the debris. And if tis not done, problems begin …. And none of this housekeeping can happen during short naps or frequently interrupted sleep cycles!
But there cannot be much housekeeping to do, so why do we regularly require six to eight hours of sleep each night?
Our brains are exceptionally complex and every cell creates waste products each day and every cell requires a supply of nutrients each day. I could liken this to your car requiring a complete oil change every time you drive it a mere ten miles in order to keep working well. And if we neglect the maintenance on a car we can replace it – but now we are dealing with our available only once in our lifetimes brain!
Are you aware of the extent of this organ that occupies a mere 2% of your body but uses 25% of the energy produced? Although it weighs in at approximately three pounds, this complex supercomputer is directing and controlling all your body’s functions 24/7 non-stop every day you are alive. For the most part, it quietly goes about its job of managing the beating of your heart, your breathing, your digestion, the turning of the food you consume into operational energy, your hormones, and so very much more. Your brain deserves your respect and care!
Most of us pay more attention to our cars than to caring about our brains!
Although your brain is about 75% water, it is truly remarkable and immense. It consists of 100 billion neurons (100,000,000,000) each one having between 1,000 and 10,000 synapses (connections – more than 1,000,000,000,000,000) reaching out to send chemical information to other neurons and to the central nervous system.
To make sure these neurons have the nutrients coming to them and all their wastes and invasive toxins taken away, inside this small space in your skull there are 100,000 miles of vessels!
Now can you begin to realize that that it is your responsibility to always give this complex master “computer” its much needed few hours to keep itself clean and in top operational order? Shortchanging this organ, not respecting its needs will and does cause it to break down. So make it your priority from today onwards to give your brain the sleep time it needs and to make healthy eating choices thereby supporting your current and future brain health!
Sleep involves the action of most areas of the brain but most of all many messages come via a portion of your brain known as the hypothalamus. This small area of the brain responds to light. And due to the light information it receives daily it matches your circadian rhythm to the light and dark normal cycles. The brain stem, sometimes known as the reptilian brain, controls the transitions between sleep and wake cycles. The brain stem works with the hypothalamus to produce a very important neurotransmitter you can appreciate. This critical neurotransmitter is known as GABA, or gamma aminobutyric acid. GABA has been called the “brain boosting anxiety busting power-horse”. GABA needs to be present to connect the messaging between the brain and the nervous system. GABA calms anxiety, lowers inflammation, and stimulates the human growth hormone (needed for repairs) – and, as an additional benefit, GABA reduces the risk of heart disease and kicks up weight loss as well!!!! Sleep is essential so GABA can form and do its work!
Another important working area of the brain during sleep is the thalamus. Its work allows you to block out the external world and relax into restful sleep. The pineal gland is also hard at work while you sleep – It receives signals from the SCN (a small complex area the size of a pea on the hypothalamus) and, among the other things it does, it also controls the hormone melatonin…. Of course, many other parts of the brain are hard at work when and while you sleep. However, when you consider even these few mentioned things, you begin to realize that sleep is essential to your overall well-being – and hence to preventing Alzheimer’s from developing.
Your brain goes through and repeats several cycles during your nightly slumber. Each cycle is critical to the brain accomplishing its housekeeping. You can do several things to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the work done while you sleep. The first one is to fast for three hours before going to bed. (That is no snackingJ) During this time, you can enjoy things that do not require digesting such as sipping on herbal teas, enjoying water, or even drinking a non-caffeine green tea. Secondly, you should consider blocking forms of light that mimic daylight as this type of light delays the release of the hormone melatonin. To accomplish blocking this light you can do change the light bulbs to ones that block what is called “blue light” or, easier still, might be to purchase and use glasses called “blue blockers”. Wearing these glasses for a couple of hours before going to sleep helps ensure your body’s circadian rhythm is not being disrupted so melatonin can be released to help you fall asleep and to keep you restfully sleeping. Thirdly you can keep your sleep environment relaxing, often dark, without distractions.
Some people need to wear ear plugs to block out sounds that disturb them. Some people need to wear an eye-mask so they are not disturbed by the light from some items in their bedrooms. (An alarm control might be one such thing that has a lit area.) Some people need to have a soothing natural sound playing in the background to help them relax and sleep. Some need to have a small nightlight in their washroom so they do not need to turn on bright lights if they awaken to use the washroom during the night. Not being exposed to bright lights does often allow one to fall easily back to sleep.
You may want to turn off the WiFi and other electronics completely so the EMF transmissions are not disturbing you. There are even more ways to calm your slumber environment. Grounding your bed properly might be one. Having a warm comforter to pull up if you feel chilly might be far more beneficial than turning up the temperature in the room. You will find the ways that best help you relax and enjoy a brain enhancing and restful refreshing sleep.
Upon awakening, do get out of bed with joy in your heart and then hydrate your body with a thirst quenching eight ounces of water. Room temperature water with a bit of fresh lemon squeezed into it is often the beverage of choice. And then ideally upon awakening, go get some daylight. You might, weather permitting, go outside and just take in a few deep breaths of air while sipping your water. You might take a stroll on the grass in bare feet. You might stand in a window and allow your eyes to take in the morning light. And if none of these are possible, then while you sit at breakfast you might put on a special daylight light (easily available online) so you give the right messages to your body to reset your circadian rhythm.
In summary, while you sleep your brain cleans and repairs, catalogues the previous day’s experiences, primes your memory, triggers the release of hormones that regulate your energy, mood, and mental acuity and does much more. Realize that sleep is not a luxury.
Sleep is necessary for optimal functioning.
After a couple of weeks of following these routines, you will feel more energetic and positive.