THE NATURAL HISTORY OF SLEEP
It is already proven that naps enhance performance, energy, learning, memory and alertness. And yet, in our culture it has become taboo to take naps as an adult. “A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.” via National Sleep Foundation
If we observe the natural world, our animal counterparts and the Long-Living cultures, we see how biologically normal it is to take naps. Our bodies are designed to sleep twice in a 24-hour period. Circadian Rhythm, when in balance, creates a flow that keeps our bodies asleep for 8 hours at night and a possible quick nap in the afternoon, if you can plan it.
Research shows that your gut microbiome has its own daily rhythms that are firmly intertwined with your body’s circadian rhythms. And, changes in either one (whether from diet, travel, or lack of sleep) can affect the other.
The circadian rhythm is the suprachiasmatic nucleus (in our brain) that receives information from environmental cues and communicates the timing information to the peripheral clocks in every cell, every tissue and every organ through the endocrine and autonomic nervous system. Desynchronization of these rhythms and disease is now pervasive in our society, given exposure to light at night and disruptive sleep schedules.* MD Prescriptives
OUR SLEEP HABITS HAVE CHANGED
We not only skip naps when our bodies are telling us we may need it, and we have also, collectively as a society, decreased our average night time sleep length. We are on average, getting 6.8 hours of sleep every night. Experts typically recommend seven to nine hours sleep for adults. Currently, 59% of U.S. adults meet that standard, but in 1942, 84% did. JEFFREY M. JONES via Gallup
SOME FACTORS THAT DISRUPT NATURAL SLEEP CYCLES INCLUDE:
Without quality rest, we deplete the hormone and nutrient stores in our bodies.
- night time exposure to “blue-light” from computers and cell phones
- exposure to excessive light in the evening
- excess water intake after 7 PM
- pets, children, restless partner
- Habits such as staying in the “work mode” until late
- too little natural light during the daytime
Our bodies do not get the optimal time to restore and this creates a viscous cycle for depletion. Caffeine does not help in the long run, because it robs the kidneys of energy/chi. Instead of our bodies releasing needed energy overtime throughout the day, we force more of it to be released too early, causing the crash after caffeine intake.
Some hormones needed for quality sleep include:
THE IMPORTANCE OF HORMONES IN OUR SLEEP CYCLES
Magnesium for calming the nervous system. We first need to calm stress in order to experience deep rest. To promote the production of energy (ATP) and to effectively promote eradication of the most difficult expressions of stress.
Melatonin aids in proper balanced command over our internal body clock. Melatonin plays an important role to both induce good restful sleep as well as to awaken us in a timely manner in good spirits. Darkness stimulates the release of melatonin and light suppresses its activity.
Pregnenolone is the starting material in the production of testosterone, progesterone, cortisol, estrogen and other hormones. Given lab results, if your adrenals need support, along with Pregnenolone, other musts for your health include: reducing physical and mental stressors, optimizing all hormones including thyroid, assessing nutrient status and detoxifying with 100 ounces of mineralized water. Balance creates peace and in peace, we rest well.
DHEA helps to balance out stress since it assists many of our body’s natural steroids to do their job of maintaining stress. Highly stressed individuals usually show low levels of DHEA. Remember, when you reduce your stress, you are then most able to experience deep rest!
My solution has come recently in adapting some lifestyle changes.
- Turning off the TV: At night, screen time can hinder the natural production of melatonin causing a jet-lag- like symptoms. Instead, I try to keep my room as dark as possible when sleeping.
- Natural remedies: Lavender essential oil is calming and has been shown to encourage a better night sleep in some people. I put a few drops of lavender in a spray bottle with filtered water to mist my pillow at night.
- Lite Snack: Studies have shown that the best sleep-inducing foods include a combination of protein and carbohydrates. Dr. Shelby Harris, director of the behavioral sleep medicine program at Montefiore Medical Center suggests a light snack like half a banana with a scoop of peanut butter.
- Maintain a Tranquil Environment: Your bedroom should feel tranquil and relaxing. A messy space of piled laundry and random clutter will create a more stressful environment that might lead to further sleep problems. Keeping the bedroom space organized and clean will help you feel calm at night.
- Temperature Control: Don’t let your bedroom get too hot or too cold. It has been found that our sleep cycles are disrupted at temperatures below 54 F and above 72 F.
- Regulate The Body’s Circadian Rhythms: Setting a daily routine for sleep and awake hours can help your internal biological clock remain stable. The body will function optimally during the day, while allowing time for the body to regenerate at night.
- Take a Daily Probiotic: By replenishing the good bacteria that lives in your digestive tract the micro-biome continues working around the clock to regulate sleep-inducing hormones and neurotransmitters. Also, by maintaining friendly flora in the gut, invaders and pathogens can be kept away. Often times a build up of bad bacteria leads to dysbiosis, inflammation and pain, all of which can be symptoms to insomnia.
TIME TO EXPERIENCE DEEP REST
If this all begins to feel weighty by the time you get to the end of reading, that’s understandable because our health is important and yet it sometimes feels like the knowledge to be well is a vast ocean of where we are lost. But don’t let this information overwhelm you. Start with a few simple changes in your home environment, leading you towards living a more thriving & joyful life!