The Importance of Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important factors in maintaining optimal health.
Today we live in a fast paced, high stress environment that allows us to have something to do 24 hours of the day. We live in a world full of artificial light so it makes it easy for us to take for granted the natural sleep/wake cycles that Mother Nature intended us to follow. This natural cycle is called your circadian rhythm.
Through our younger years, or drinking years, we figure we are young and we can sleep when we are dead. We stay up later than we should, and figure we can make it up by sleeping until the crack of four pm on the weekend. Now a few hours later here and there is fine and, yes we could make that up on a Saturday or Sunday, possibly in the form of a nap on the couch with Simpsons on. But we tend to accumulate many hours of sleep debt in a week. We stay up too late and get up too early. The typical person needs between six and eight hours a sleep a night, but many of us push the lower end of the limit.
As the sun rises your body experiences more stress through light our cortisol levels also will continue to rise and they will peak around 9am. They continue to stay high up until around 12 and begin to drop in the afternoon and continue to do so until after the sun goes down. So as the day goes on our stress hormones decrease. Cortisol levels drop so that it can allow for the release of melatonin and increase levels of growth and repair hormones.
Going to sleep
From sunset onwards are bodies are designed to wind down and our bodies will increase the production of growth and repair hormones. At around 10pm we start our sleep and at this stage our body then begins its physical repair. This is a very important phase especially for those that have been doing any kind of physical exercise throughout the day.
The disruption of our sleep patterns consequently disrupts our anabolic/ catabolic processes. Between the times of 10:00 pm and 2:00 am the body goes through a process of physical repair. Between roughly 2:00 am and 6:00 am the body will go through a process of psychological repair. A disrupted sleep pattern will cause the Cortisol (red line) to elevate and affect the regenerative process. So it is imperative that we get to bed around 10:00 to 11:00 pm and up between 6:00 to 7:00 am.
Disrupted sleep patterns affect many of the body’s processes.
The act of having a bowel movement is a Parasympathetic act. But if our Cortisol is elevated and we are in Sympathetic drive our bowl movements are disrupted. We should be having movements on a regular consistent schedule. If that schedule is off… how is your sleep? We also know that an increase in Cortisol affect short-term memory. So we stay up late and wonder why we are so forgetful in the morning. The increased Cortisol will also drive our adrenal system deeper in to exhaustion and corresponding HPA axis deregulation.
How do you combat this?
Get 8-9 hours sleep per night.
Get to bed by 10:30pm each night.
Sleep in a comfortable bed.
Make your sleep and wake times the same each day. (Even on weekends)
Avoid exposure to bright lights.
Avoid TV and reading before bed.
Keep the bedroom at a comfortable temperature.
Move the clock out of sight.
Limit drug use.
Drink plenty of water.
Need to urinate?
Try using relaxing music.
Take a hot bath or shower.
Keep your work out of the bedroom.
Make your room completely dark.
When light hits the eyes, even a little bit, the brain registers it as sunlight and you will wake. Do what ever you have to so as to make your room pitch black. If you can’t do that then wear something over eyes such as a sleep mask or dark t-shirt.