o you ever feel like your sleep is under attack? Mind is racing, too much caffeine, kids having nightmares, pets encroaching on your space, partner snoring? We all KNOW sleep is important but most of us accept lack of sleep as a casualty of the world we live in. But do you know WHY it’s important? Do you really know what lack of sleep is doing to your brain and body?
Here are two EXTREMELY important reasons to figure out how to up your quality and quantity of sleep:
#1: People who sleep poorly or do not get enough sleep have higher levels of inflammation; a risk factor for not only heart disease and stroke but the cause for almost all disease.
“Individuals who reported six or fewer hours of sleep had higher levels of three inflammatory markers: fibrinogen, IL-6 and C-reactive protein. In particular, average C-reactive protein levels were about 25 percent higher (2 milligrams per liter compared to 1.6) in people who reported fewer than six hours of sleep, compared to those reporting between six and nine hours.” [i]
In other words, since inflammation is the root cause of most systemic illness, the lack of sleep is breeding the environment to let illness take over.
Look at the list of diseases which have a correlation to inflammation: Allergies (food, animal, seasonal), Alzheimer’s, Anemia, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Asthma, Autism, Arthritis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Celiac, Crohn’s Disease, Congestive heart failure, Eczema, Fibromyalgia, Fibrosis, Gall bladder disease, GERD, Guillain-Barre, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Heart attack, Kidney failure, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Neuropathy, Pancreatitis, Psoriasis, Polymyalgia rheumatic Rheumatoid arthritis, Scleroderma, Stroke, Surgical complications. [ii]
#2: While the brain sleeps, it clears out harmful toxins, a process that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, researchers say. [iii]
Every organ has two major needs – a continuous supply of nutrients and the clearance of waste. Whereas the body has a series of lymphatic ducts to clear waste, the brain uses another methodology; one that requires sleep.
Cerebrospinal fluid or CSF basically works like a dishwasher, it fills the space which surrounds the brain and clears the waste into the blood. But this only works in a sleeping brain. During sleep the brain cells shrinks, allowing more fluid to flush through clearing waste. Here’s where it really gets interesting!
“So if sleep, then, is part of the brain’s solution to the problem of waste clearance, then this may dramatically change how we think about the relationship between sleep, amyloid-beta, and Alzheimer’s disease. A series of recent clinical studies suggest that among patients who haven’t yet developed Alzheimer’s disease, worsening sleep quality and sleep duration are associated with a greater amount of amyloid-beta building up in the brain, . . . they do suggest that the failure of the brain to keep its house clean by clearing away waste like amyloid-beta may contribute to the development of conditions like Alzheimer’s.” [iv]
Thankfully there is help. There are new powerful herbal remedies on the market which address both sleep health and brain health together. Improving the quantity and quality of your sleep along with actively reversing the damage already done can prove to be the answer we’ve been hoping for.
I urge you to watch this TED Talk. You won’t ever take a good night’s sleep for granted again!
Here are 13 Tips for a better night’s sleep from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s “Your Guide to Healthy Sleep”
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
- Exercise is great, but not too late in the day. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes on most days but not later than 2–3 hours before your bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Coffee, colas, certain teas, and chocolate contain the stimulant caffeine, and its effects can take as long as 8 hours to wear off fully.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. Having a “nightcap” or alcoholic beverage before sleep may help you relax, but heavy use robs you of deep sleep and REM sleep.
- Avoid large meals and beverages late at night. A light snack is okay, but a large meal can cause indigestion that interferes with sleep.
- If possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep. Some commonly prescribed heart, blood pressure, or asthma medications, as well as some over-the-counter and herbal remedies for coughs, colds, or allergies, can disrupt sleep patterns.
- Don’t take naps after 3 p.m. Naps can help make up for lost sleep, but late afternoon naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
- Relax before bed. A relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to music, should be part of your bedtime ritual.
- Take a hot bath before bed. The drop in body temperature after getting out of the bath may help you feel sleepy, and the bath can help you relax and slow down so you’re more ready to sleep.
- Have a good sleeping environment. Get rid of anything in your bedroom that might distract you from sleep, such as noises, bright lights, an uncomfortable bed, or warm temperatures.
- Have the right sunlight exposure. Sleep experts recommend that, if you have problems falling asleep, you should get an hour of exposure to morning sunlight and turn down the lights before bedtime.
- Don’t lie in bed awake. If you find yourself still awake after staying in bed for more than 20 minutes or if you are starting to feel anxious or worried, get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy.
- See [ME] if you continue to have trouble sleeping. If you consistently find it difficult to fall or stay asleep and/ or feel tired or not well rested during the day despite spending enough time in bed at night, you may have a sleep disorder.