Monday, June 15, 2009

Resting in Health

Ever have one of those days where things seem a little off? Feeling a little stressed, tired, hungry (even though you've had your usual diet), even feel fatigued.... problem could be that you are not getting enough rest. Many of us are so busy trying to cram as much as possible into the days, the days just are not long enough!!
Our bodies require a certain amount of quality rest. True restorative sleep. According to William C. Dement, MD., PhD the brain keeps track your sleep. It keeps an exact account of how much sleep it is owed, this is called a "sleep debt." If the debts accumulates to much it can effect all aspects of your health from energy, to mood, to cognition, to even major health problems like immune function, hypertension and cardiovascular problems.
It is great to be all fired up, desiring to accomplish things. However, the human body does require adequate amounts of sleep. When we sleep, our immune systems go to work. There are important molecules in our blood that are only active when we are sleeping. Healing functions happen we are sleeping. Tissue repair occurs during sleep, as does toxin removal, chemical homeostasis or balance, and even the bodies ability to protect itself from cancer. A critical killer of cancer cells called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) increases tenfold while we sleep. "Investigators found, for example, that those who simply stayed up until 3am, experienced a 30% reduction in the number of natural killer cells and less activity in the natural killer cells still present." (Stein, Rob. "Scientists Finding Out What Losing Sleep Does to The Body". 10/9/05 The Washington Post)
Other studies have found that lack of proper sleep can also make us fat! "During the second half of the 20th century, the average duration of sleep declined from eight or nine hours of sleep to five to seven hours of sleep per night. This shortened sleep pattern has been concurrent with the doubling of the incidence of obesity.' (Light Bearers Ministry, 'Rest Sleepy Heads') This lack of sleep also has been implicated in other lifestyle related illnesses such as colon cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Lack of proper sleep disrupts hormones ( messengers), and other proteins. This decrease effects the "messenger"hormone leptin, which signals fullness, and tells the brain that there is a shortage of food, even if there isn't. In studies, some volunteers consumed up to 1,000 calories more per day after sleep restriction. Another "messenger" hormone, ghrelin, which is responsible for stimulating hunger, is elevated when sleep is reduced.
Elevated cortisol, the fight or flight hormone, is also associated with lack of proper sleep. Before sleep the body winds down, cortisol is reduced to insure a restful sleep. Cortisol is reduced. Sleep deprived individuals do not experience this reduction in cortisol. 'Elevations of evening cortisol levels... are likely to promote the development of insulin resistance, a risk factor for obesity and diabetes." (Leproult R, Copinschi G, Buxton O. "Sleep" 1997) This also allows the body to stay in a flight or fight mode, risking elevated blood pressure, and increasing levels of inflammation. This increases the risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Alexander N. Vgntzas of Pennsylvania State University indicated that, "based on our findings, we believe that if you lose sleep that your body needs, then you produce these inflammatory markers that on a chronic basis can create low-grade inflammation and predispose you to cardiovascular events and even a shorter lifespan.
Snoring can be a problem when it comes to deep restorative sleep. While we may laugh and joke about snoring, it is no laughing matter. Snoring can be the indication of breathing problems. Interrupted breathing, loud gasps for air during sleep can be the signs for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is very dangerous, as it prevents deep sleep. Many individuals that suffer from sleep apnea are also overweight, have high blood pressure and are at risk for cardiovascular problems. Emotional factors also play a role in sleep apnea.
Spiritual, emotional and physical rest are requirements for all of us. When one of these components gets imbalanced, it affects the others. As complicated beings, we were created with a particular rhythm. The rhythm is a cycle of life that must be observed in order to maintain optimum health on all levels. It is suggested that 16 hours of wakefulness promotes 8 hours of sleep. Even a nap of more than a half an hour can disturb this very specific rhythm. Eating before bed can discourage the release of melatonin, which plays a critical role in stress reduction, and immune function by restoring levels of t-cells. Even a small amount of light during sleep disrupts melatonin secretion. The rhythm of life is very delicately balanced.
So how do you stay balanced? How do you get adequate rest in a world that never stops? We need to learn to wind down. If we live in a state of panic, which is perpetuated by breaking this perfect rhythm, we can go into a downward cycle. Stress plays into lack of sleep, and lack of sleep plays into stress. What are the options?
*Consistent physical exercise, with adequate rest cycles built in, can increase amounts of deep sleep. However, no exercise that makes you sweat before bed. Try yoga!
*Freedom from chemical use. In food, in drink, in air quality.... they all play a factor in stresses in the body. Read the labels on your food, be selective about what you put in your body. Chronic stress is the cause of inflammation and disease.
*Getting 15-20 minutes of sunlight per day, and sleeping in complete darkness.
*Avoiding television, computers and cell phones (radio waves), also all bright lights before bed.
*Not eating before bed.
*Laughter, it's good for the body, mind and soul. DEEP laughter!!!
*Sleeping on a quality bed.
*Create a ritual. Prayer, meditation, deep breathing techniques are very healthful.
*Create a space that is healthy and sleep centered for sleeping in.
*Medication can also hinder a complete nights sleep. Ask your physician!
*No alcohol 3 hours prior to sleeping.
*Doing for others, creating a sense of satisfaction.
These are all recommendations from several sources on the topic of how to relax and breathe and sleep. We were created to follow a cycle, when it is broken we suffer the consequences. We also have a weekly cycle. It is important to take a "sabbath", sabbatical, or rest on one day of the week. It is an opportunity to lay aside our daily activities and nurture our emotional and spiritual side, hence creating a more rounded, contented, appreciative approach to the other days of work. It has been said that for six days we can labor, but on the seventh day we should rest. We have lost this very critical rest for our total well being in the pursuit of wealth, and survival. Might I suggest a rest is long overdo?!

No comments:

Post a Comment