Every now and again I have the opportunity to attend a seminar or in this case, a webinar. Sometimes the subject is of personal interest, but regardless, most of the time I am blown away by the science and in this case by what seem like a mundane aspect of life - sleep.
If it´s not an issue for you, you might simply not take it all that seriously. If it is, it can haunt you all day long and for much of the night, too. Alessandro Ferretti, the speaker and a nutritional therapist, has had personal sleep issues. He presents his personal insight into the problem with the scientific research behind it. As I know this is an issue for many of you, I am summarizing the talk here.
Why do we sleep? I had never considered the fact that sleep is dangerous- or it was for our ancestors. Coming under attack, dying from exposure to the elements, etc., were very real threats. Sleep must therefore be crucial for our survival or we would somehow have managed to avoid it.
You might think that sleep simply allows you to replenish your energy levels, but it does much more than that.
· Brain cell and nerve connections built during the day through new experiences are strengthened and unimportant ones destroyed
· The brain has an opportunity to be cleared of waste and amyloid plaque (something that is a factor in alzheimer´s, for example).
· Without restful sleep, your risk of obesity, diabetes, stroke, cognitive impairment, osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease increases.
· Just one week of insufficient sleep has an effect on the regulation of your genes.
What is considered restful sleep and how much do we really need?
· 3 full cycles of sleep which includes 4 stages from transitory wakefulness to light sleep (N1), light sleep and dreaming (N2), deep sleep which is regenerative (N3) and REM when the brain is awake but the body is asleep.
· 3 cycles usually take 6-8 hours
· You can go for one day without 3 full cycles. However, just two days of disruption inhibits the positive benefits of deep, restful sleep.
3 cycles of deep sleep (in comparison to light sleep and REM) are needed in order to:
· allow the reorganisation of memory
· improve learning capacity
· manage cortisol levels during the day
· reduce sympathetic nervous system activity
· prevent unhealthy changes in the immune system
What are the greatest factors affecting whether or not we sleep properly?
· Exposure to daylight and then reduction in the evening (justgetflux.com for some tips)
· Amount of melatonin, a free-radical scavenger, your body is producing
· Stressors produced by environmental stimulus (TV, internet, social media, poor lighting, constant overload of input)
· Genetic predisposition
· Room temperature
· Quality of mattress, bedding, etc.
· Air quality
· Daily exercise (not too close to bedtime)
· Emptying your mind of things to do either through meditation, writing a list and letting it go until the new day
· Caffeine, which is a sleep disrupter and alcohol, which reduces REM sleep
· Eating hard to digest foods within 4 hours of bedtime
· Proper nutrition to prevent glucose dips in the night
· System Imbalance which is disrupting your cortisol levels and causing a vicious cycle: high cortisol – poor sleep – higher cortisol.
There are many things we can do naturally to assist in getting the sleep that ultimately we all want and clearly need. If you need more information, I would be happy to help. Wishing you some sweet dreams and very deep sleep.