The hidden secrets of Sleep.

Have you noticed that you’ve been running around chasing your tail all day only to collapse into bed at night for what seems to be the shortest sleep ever and then repeating that pattern day after day month after month?

I’ve certainly seen this among my practice members (especially parents) and it concerns me.

I’m concerned because its happening in epidemic proportions. And we already know that lack of sleep can lead to:

• Cognitive dysfunction

• Depression

• Stress

• Type II diabetes

• Weight gain

But there’s heaps more to it than that.

The two questions we need to ask is why does this happen? And what else can it be causing?

In general terms the why is related to the mystery that is sleep. Sleep is a normal and essential physiological function and just like other physiological functions (like drinking water) when it doesn’t occur in sufficient amounts it will trigger adaptation, in other words, the symptoms of lack of sleep are the body’s way of dealing with a chronic lack of sleep as it tries to survive.

There has been a lot of focus in healthcare on nutrition and exercise, which is great as I can see our community moving away from poor fitness and processed foods. In fact today McDonalds has announced it will move to decrease its presence in shopping centres as the landlords and the community don’t believe its a good look to have such a poor quality food offering in their food courts, instead opting for more drive through options.

People are looking to regain their health and they’re discovering the benefits of harnessing the natural way in which the human body heals, from the inside to the outside.

We are learning more and more about the role of the gut and immunity and mental health and physical health and energy etc. what an exciting time, there have been bus shelter posters warning us against the excessive and unnecessary use of antibiotics and there is a fermenting food workshop happening regularly in Manly. Our local butcher holds information nights to educate their customers on the importance of eating healthy, sustainable meat and there are thousands of people exercising outdoors, in CrossFit boxes, at yoga, pilates, dance, bjj etc. every day. Its unreal.

But I feel we aren’t fully benefiting from this sustained effort and further to that I’m concerned we’re heading towards adrenal fatigue and burnout because we’re not getting sleep right.

To answer the second question:

In recent times we discovered that sleep allows for the clearance of metabolites from the brain, in other word, when we sleep there is a process taking place in our brain to flush out the built of toxins. Some of these toxins are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Humans like all other animals have evolved over the millennia with the rhythm of day and night. When the sun rises certain reactions take place in our body to enable us to get going after our night’s sleep. When the sun sets, another set of reactions take place to help us to go to sleep. It’s the change in light that is the trigger for our circadian rhythm (or sleep/wake cycle).

Not only have we evolved with the constant rhythm of day and night, we have also developed with the ebb and flow of the seasons. In winter we have shorter days and longer nights and in summer it’s the other way around.

It has been suggested by author T.S.Wiley in he book Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival that sleep should happen within 2 hours of sunset and 10-15 minutes of your head hitting the pillow and it should end as the light begins to build in the eastern sky.

As with any of the natural laws that govern our physiology, when we cheat the system we pay the price.

So when humans started to introduce electric light beyond sunset (the light bulb) we started to cheat the system. All of a sudden (in evolutionary terms it’s been a blink of the eye) we can now have relative daylight 24/7.

We’ve effectively crammed two days into one. We’ve now got access to a day day and a night day.

Sounds great but what is the cost?

What happens when you underwater a pot plant or deprive it of sunlight or soil?

With the correct amount of sunlight, water and soil the plant is likely to flourish. Each one of those three elements are essential to the plant’s survival. A deficiency in any of them over time will lead to certain disease and eventually death.

Just like the pot plant you have certain requirements to flourish too.

Just like action (exercise, work etc) and fuel (food and oxygen) sleep is an essential  requirement for health. In fact I believe it is a foundation of your Triangle of Life™

Inadequate sleep over time will certainly lead to a lack of recovery, vulnerability to disease and illness and may impact on the quality and quantity of your life.

That’s why I’ve put together a simple guide to better sleep. It’s based on reintroducing a natural circadian rhythm and is available to all of our clients at Village Chiropractic in Manly. It’s not a set of rules that have to be adhered to but more of a guide for you to follow where possible given that we are living in the 21st century.

In order for us to recover and regenerate from our day we need to sleep. During sleep our body has a chance to repair damage and reset our stress levels.

Without the correct amount or quality of sleep we are essentially running ourselves into the ground.

So how do we get enough sleep and how can we make sure that the time we do spend sleeping is actually leading to regeneration and repair?

As with the pot plant previously described not only are there requirements for health it’s also true that more of one essential component does not make up for a lack of another. 

At Village Chiropractic we have been working with a particularly good piece of technology that helps us to determine if you’re getting the right amount and quality of sleep. If this interests you please let us know that you’d like to find out more.