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"Sleep", The Miracle Drug

by in Sleep January 24, 2008

Long-term health depends on the regeneration that occurs during deep sleep. Growth hormone, or the “anti-aging” hormone, is secreted during sleep, which stimulates tissue regeneration, liver cleansing, muscle building, break down of fat stores and normalization of blood sugar. During sleep free radicals are scavenged in the brain, minimizing its aging. Many health problems are aggravated by inadequate sleep. Sleep gives us renewed vitality, a more positive outlook on life and energy with which we can become our full potential.
SYMPTOMS OF INADEQUATE SLEEP
You could experience drowsiness, fatigue, decreased concentration, impaired memory, reduced stress tolerance, mood changes, irritability, muscle tension, or increased health problems such as infections.
IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF YOUR SLEEP
1. Maintain consistent sleep and wake times. Do not push yourself to stay up past the initial signs of sleepiness. This can create epinephrine production, causing more difficulty getting to sleep later. It is good to have a “getting ready for bed” routine to relax and prepare your body for sleep. Avoid taking naps if you have trouble sleeping at night.
2. Reserve the bed for sleep and sex only. Do not read, watch TV, eat, or worry in bed. Solve daily dilemmas outside of the bedroom. If you find that you’ve been lying awake in bed for 15-20 minutes, get out of bed. Do something mundane until you feel sleepy, and then go back to bed. Repeat this as often as needed.
3. Your sleeping environment should be quiet, cool and comfortable. The room should be clutter-free. Reduce the amount of ambient light as much as possible. Electronic devices such as clocks, stereos, TVs and computers generate electromagnetic fields that can disturb sleep for some people. Experiment with moving these into another room or using EMF shields. Feng Shui, the Chinese art of placement, can be valuable in creating an optimal sleeping environment.
4. Exercise regularly. Exercising during the day or early evening decreases the time it takes to get to sleep and increases the amount of deep sleep obtained. Most people do better avoiding exercise late in the evening.
5. Exposure to sunlight early in the morning and late in the afternoon or evening encourages a strong circadian rhythm. The hormone melatonin, which helps create a sleep state in the body, is suppressed in light and secreted in darkness.
6. If you have problems with waking during the early hours of the morning, have a small protein snack just before bed to ensure consistent blood sugar levels throughout the night. Consistently get exposure to sunlight as late in the day as possible.
7. Improving overall health will improve the quality of your sleep. Work towards improving or eliminating health problems. Treatment modalities such as massage, acupuncture or cranial sacral will help to relax the body. Effective stress management is essential.
THINGS THAT RELAX THE BODY AND PREPARE IT FOR SLEEP
• Warm baths, possibly adding Epsom salts or lavender oil
• Meditating for 5-30 minutes
• Breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation (various recordings are available) or any other means of inducing the “relaxation response”. Daily practice brings greater results.
• Special acoustic recordings that increase specific brain wave patterns for relaxation and sleep
• Botanicals treatments and aromatherapy using herbs and their essential oils (examples include chamomile, valerian, vervain (verbena), hops, lavender, passionflower, avena (oat straw), lemon balm and scutellaria (skull cap). Consult your physician for dosages and recommendations.
• Calcium and magnesium supplementation. Consult your physician for dosages and recommendations.

THINGS THAT INTERFERE WITH SLEEP

• Although alcohol may make you fall asleep, the sleep obtained after drinking is fragmented and light.
• The stimulating effects of caffeine may last up to 10 hours in some people. Avoid it in the afternoon if getting to sleep is a problem. Caffeine is present in coffee, green tea, black tea, chocolate and some medications (pain relievers, decongestants, thermogenic weight loss products, energy supplements, etc.)
• The stimulating effects of nicotine (first- or second-hand smoke) can last several hours.
• Sleeping pills, aside from being highly addictive and full of side effects, decrease the amount of time spent in deep sleep and only increase light sleep.
• B-vitamin supplements can increase energy that keeps some people awake, if taken before bed. Take B-vitamins earlier in the day.
• Do not go to bed with a very full stomach. Large quantities of protein are stimulating to the body as digestion occurs. It’s best to finish eating at least three hours before going to bed.
Resources
1. Dement MD PhD, William. The Promise of Sleep. 1999. Dell Publishing. New York, NY.
2. Jacobs PhD, Gregg. Say Goodnight to Insomnia. 1998. Henry Holt and Company. New York, NY.
3. Ross DC, Herbert, Brenner Lac, Keri and Goldberg, Burton. Sleep Disorders. Tiburon, CA. 2000.

8 Comments
  1. Erin Happycamper March 31, 2008 at 4:06 am Reply

    Awesome write as usual, but I have a question for you Doc….
    Does EVERYBODY need at least 8-10 hours of sleep that has been pushed in most of us since we were kids? I actually feel more awake, alert, and perky on 5 hours of sleep a night. My Grandpa is the same way. Could this be hereditary? I’ve noticed if I get a “full” 8 hours I just want to crawl back under the covers and sleep the rest of my day away. Everybody’s a little different, right?

  2. Erin I think good health is all about figuring out your personal recipe for success. There is a big difference between missing sleep and knowing that it is affecting you and sleeping five or six hours a night solid and feeling great. Eight hours of sleep is simply an average and scientific studies have shown that not everyone needs eight hours of sleep. I think the most important thing is that people have a consistent schedule to establish a healthy “circadian rhythm”
    Wow I think you are lucky that you don’t need that much sleep!
    *jealous*

  3. I am really enjoying your website. The more I dive into my issues the more I think sleep has a lot to do with it. What are your recommendations for someone not getting a good restful night sleep? I drink cafein in the am only, I have completely cut out my alcohol, I do not smoke, I bought a new bed and I am trying to use my light box in the am but things aren’t any better.Do you have any suggestions?

  4. Jodi- Thanks so much for the compliment and leaving a comment! That is very encouraging for me. Wow you are doing a lot of really great things already and should be proud of yourself…sometimes these things take a little bit of time to get worked out so be patient while your body establishes a new “circadian rhythm”.
    Now I treat “not being able to fall asleep” and “not being able to stay asleep” as two separate entities. I am currently working on an article titled “The best bedtime snacks for insomniacs” which helps people to stay asleep. One of my favorites is three tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds mixed with applesauce.
    Falling asleep can be as simple as doing a “Neutral Salt Bath” right before bed. Add cups of epsom salts to a body temperature bath and soak for 15 minutes. Keep the bathroom dimly lit and don’t listen to music or read (a hot bath is stimulating as is a cold bath, but neutral is very calming). Rinse off and head straight to bed.
    Ultimately the body and mind both need to be worn out for a good nights sleep, be sure to exercise them both during the day and not engage in heavy exercise after dinner time as that can keep you up!
    Let me know if you have any other questions… 😀

  5. Jodi- one more thing…that was supposed to say “two cups” of epsom salts and check out the blog titled “What is your One thing” for my lavender foot massage spiel.

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  7. Greetings to all readers and thanks, Doc for an interesting article. People seldom give thought to sleep situations as we just think that once in bed it does not matter for soon we will be knocked out getting our Zz-zzz’s. For many it is not so.
    I noticed you mentioned the mood of the room. I have just finished reading Peter Walsh’s book “It’s All Too Much” about hoarders. Who would think that storing too many things or the wrong things in a bedroom would affect our sleep. You have just backed up his theory.
    Going to bed should be a routine which I sadly have stopped doing. As you mention putting on the brakes for alert time means a slow winding down time. I like your suggestions. I intend to implement this suggestion immediately to ensure better sleep.
    I know you can’t mention all ideas for sleep quality but I think it good to mention too that sleep disorders will deprive people of good sleep no matter what they have done before going to sleep. If one lives and sleeps alone we do not know that we have symptoms of sleep disorders. I have just included on my blog information about a little known disorder known as sleep-eating disorder. I recommend this information to all your readers. As a professional I would like to hear your opinion.
    http://pandapicks.successblognet.com/category/senior-lifestyle/
    Mary
    Mary aka pandapicks Hofstetter’s last blog post..Scientists Discover How Cranberries Prevent Bladder Infections

  8. I would like your opinion of a new study I found today as reported on Lifestyle on line medical magazine.
    http://www.lifescript.com/Health/News/Reuters/2008/12/24/Rare%20sleep%20disorder%20may%20be%20a%20harbinger%20of%20dementia.aspx?utm_campaign=2009-01-03&utm_source=healthy-advantage&utm_medium=email&utm_content=todays-headlines_Rare%20sleep%20disorder%20m&sc_date=20090103T170000&FromNL=1
    I find that people are desperate to find preventions for neurological issues affecting memory so this might just be another stab in the dark. You make mention of this in your article when you mention that good sleep affects memory and reasoning. I experienced this as my husband had sleep apnea and his memory was affected. His mind was clearer when we had treatment for the sleep disorder.
    Look forward to your opinion.
    Mary aka pandapicks Hofstetter’s last blog post..Scientists Discover How Cranberries Prevent Bladder Infections

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