Along with air, water, and food, sleep is essential for survival. While everyone needs a minimal amount of sleep to stay alive, experts often disagree on how much sleep is necessary for optimal health. There are also many different opinions on the variables related to sleep quality, such as how and when to sleep. I believe what really matters is getting the kind of sleep we need to greet each day with a smile and function at our greatest capacity.
Sleep issues are often at the root of problems between couples, within families, and at workplaces. Sleep affects judgment, reaction time, metabolism, and emotions. Establishing good sleep habits is essential for restoring and maintaining our health.
Do you remember wanting to sleep in but there was so much commotion that you lost those precious moments? How about when your kids became teenagers and stayed in bed half the day? Do you know someone who works the night shift or always works overtime and never gets enough sleep? How about the opposite scenario in which someone may have plenty of time, yet hardly sleeps? Sleep is a valuable commodity that many don’t have the luxury of enjoying.
Most people seem to thrive on eight hours of sleep but individual circumstances influence how much sleep they may actually obtain. One’s age, health, work, activity levels, and emotions affect the amount of sleep a person requires as well as their quality of sleep.
How much sleep do you need? To calculate this, take a day in which you use an average amount of energy, don’t set an alarm, and record how many hours you sleep. Do this multiple times and calculate the average.
Questions have been raised as to whether we can bank sleep or catch up on lost sleep. Many experts say neither scenario is possible but I disagree. The trouble with sleep for some people, including myself, is that there’s too much to do. I’d prefer not to sleep at all when there’re so many necessary and interesting things to do. When I’m in a creative mode, my mantra is that I’ll sleep when they throw dirt on me. This may sound odd but I don’t want to lose momentum by sleeping. However, I admit that after many late hours at the office, I look forward to catching up on sleep over the weekend. There’s nothing better than waking up from deep REM sleep with the luxury of going back for more…
After about 48 hours of nonstop work, humans hit a point of being less productive and need sleep. Reaching this point in time when the body needs sleep is a problem the military must deal with. When the military is in the middle of a heated ongoing conflict, coffee isn’t the best answer. But as in both love and war, there’re no easy answers. If you’re a soldier, a bus driver on the night shift, or anyone who needs to stay awake for unusually long hours, drugs can keep you awake but bring their own set of problems, both physically and mentally.
During sleep, the body does repairs that can’t be done efficiently while we’re awake. Science has recently found this to be true to a greater degree than ever imagined. One of the most fascinating mysteries of the brain that was discovered fairly recently is how it clears its own metabolic waste.
Metabolic waste is like exhaust from a car. Anything that uses fuel creates waste products that must be removed so they don’t contaminate the rest of the system. In the human body, we have a lymphatic system which has six times the fluid volume of our blood system. The lymphatic and blood systems drain away waste products from the body. The brain does not have an active lymphatic system yet burns a great deal of fuel each day.
Where does the metabolic waste from the brain go? In the last few years, MRI sleep studies showed that when we go into deep stage REM sleep, lymphatic pathways open up to drain toxic waste out of the brain. This was a monumental find that explained what had previously appeared to be inexplicable. This finding can also explain why different people need different amounts of sleep.
The time it takes us to get into a dream state determines how much sleep we need. It’s like reverse refueling at a NASCAR race in which the race car is refueled as fast as possible. In sleep, we unload waste when we reach REM sleep. After this, we can get back into high mental function. The more metabolic waste in the brain, the lower the level of our functioning.
One of the most popular reasons for getting enough sleep is that it can be helpful with weight loss. Sleeping allows the body to burn down cortisol levels so that fat can be burned for fuel. (Just ask a bear what happens during hibernation.)
Sleeping on our back can lead to reduced compression of our spinal segments which can help us feel more relaxed. This is another benefit of taking time to sleep and “unwind.”
One common scenario for the inability to fall asleep is low liver energy. Many of my patients have found that taking a quarter teaspoon of raw honey before bed is helpful. There are so many different reasons for sleep problems that most people could use some help in figuring it out. There’s nothing better than sleeping on a problem and coming up with a solution; but if you have problems sleeping, it’s somewhat of a Catch 22. So let us help!
Come to our workshop on March 28th to learn about successful sleep protocols used by many of our patients. These protocols typically include healthy whole foods combined with high-quality nutritional supplements, herbal and/or homeopathic remedies, PEMF, detoxification programs, and (environmentally verified) tart cherry juice as a natural source of melatonin. The chiropractic adjustment is also a great way to calm the nervous system and help prepare your body for sleep.