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SLEEP

Our bodies are designed to rise with the sun and go down with the sun. With the advent of technology we no longer live in harmony with this daily cycle. We stay up late to catch up on bills, finish office work at home, watch late-night television or maybe it is the only time we have to ourselves. For those who work the graveyard shift or partake in the late night lifestyle the effects of disturbed sleep patterns can be even more dramatic. At the turn of the century, adults averaged 9-10 hours of sleep per night. Today, that average is below seven.

Many of our chemical reactions are rhythmic in nature and are interdependent. They are oriented to daily, monthly and seasonal movement. Since sleep is part of our natural daily rhythm, any changes to our sleep patterns or alterations to our normal biochemical functions due to our lifestyle habits can have a negative influence on one another. Over an extended period of time this may compromise ones health.

In the mid-1990’s, an estimated $16 billion dollars a year were spent on sleep disorders and by the year 2010, 79 million Americans are expected to suffer from some form of sleep dysfunction. Currently one out of every four adults struggle with sleep problems with twice as many women having this difficulty as compared to men.

FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE SLEEP

Stress: Elevated cortisol at night will make falling asleep difficult
Late night eating: This places an undue burden on the liver. The liver does most of its detoxification at night, especially between the hours of 1-3 am. If you find
yourself consistently waking up during this time period, it indicates a liver dysfunction.

Hypoglycemia: During sleep, the body burns 60 % of its stored sugars. If you are waking up several times a night, it may be an indication of a hypoglycemic reaction and an inability to manage blood sugar levels properly.

Nightmares: If this is a consistent pattern it may be indicative of psychological influences, parasites or digestive pathogen or high levels of dopamine. If the dreams are vivid and weird, but do not resemble nightmares, it is probably poor liver detoxification.

Artificial lighting: If we continue to expose ourselves to intense light long after the sun goes down, our bodies can be tricked into believing it is still day light and the normal chemical changes that transpire with the shift from daylight to nighttime may be delayed or altered i.e. Melatonin production is based on exposure to light and dark cycles. Increased light suppresses melatonin synthesis. This prevents the body from relaxing enough to allow sleep to occur.
Another possible affect of increased exposure to lighting is change in food
choices. The body perceives increased light possibly as a summer or spring day.

Instinctively, we consume increased amounts of carbohydrates in preparation for eventual hibernation or food scarcity that accompanies winter. This leads to an increased cortisol response. Over time this can lead to numerous other complications involved with blood sugar dysregualtion, and obesity.

Exercise after 7pm: This can increase cortisol levels as seen with stress:

Caveat: If melatonin helps you sleep, it is indicative of an adrenal stress problem. High cortisol suppresses melatonin production.

BENEFITS OF SLEEP

Immune system enhancement: During sleep, certain white blood cells (WBC) enter the spleen to be conditioned to perform their function. When day approaches they are released into the blood to fulfill their function. During that same time, other WBC enter the spleen for their rejuvenation and are released at night to complete their job. This is known as immune trafficking.

Tissue building and repair: During sleep, a chemical called Growth Hormone (GH) is released in a pulsatile rhythm. This occurs during the first half of the sleep cycle and it functions to support healthy tissue growth and repair.

Emotional revitalization: During the second half of the sleep cycle emotional rejuvenation takes place. If the second half of REM sleep is not completed, it can lead to depression, anxiety etc. Studies have shown that learning and retention are enhanced in animals when hibernation is not disturbed.

Melatonin: This is increased in healthy sleep cycles. It acts a powerful anti-oxidant, increases WBC function and helps produce NK cells. NK cells destroy tumor cells as they form. Melatonin also has a strong impact on hormonal function and reproductive capacity.

Allowing our bodies to become more in synch with natural light an dark cycles helps balance hormone, neurotransmitter i.e. serotonin, dopamine etc. and insulin production.

Some experts say that every hour of sleep prior to midnight is the equivalent of two hours afterwards. Most agree 10 pm is the best time to go to sleep.

When sleep is not forthcoming or is interrupted, these functions are compromised. Over an extended period of time, this will have a detrimental effect on one’s well-being.

Even brief periods of sleep deprivation have been linked to changes in hormone production, blood sugar regulation problems and emotional health.