Saturday, March 19, 2011

Stay Healthy by Getting Enough Sleep

If you consider yourself a normal, healthy adult and have noticed in the last few years you are always getting sick there may be a connection between poor sleep and your health. Working long hours, eating a poor diet, trying to keep up with family activities and not exercising can cause you to become sleep deprived and lower your immune system. Strangely enough, even if you are healthy, eat well and exercise, sleep deprivation can still lead to health problems. Stay healthy by getting enough sleep can greatly affect how your body fights off infection. We know that when we are sick we tend to sleep easy because our body needs increased NREM to get healthy again. According to researchers the reduced activity of NREM sleep provides the opportunity for many brain cells to repair themselves. During NREM sleep, the lower metabolic rate and lower core temperature that occurs allows our body to deal with the free radical damage done during our waking cycle.

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Sleep is absolutely essential for our body to maintain and repair its neurological, endocrine, immune, musculoskeletal and digestive systems. Melatonin a hormone we produce in the pineal gland that increases after the sun goes down and during the night, in a normal circadian rhythm, which will increase our immune cytokine function to ward off infection. That is why you will get sick after a few nights on limited sleep. Lack of sleep also will affect our memory and mental clarity, diminish our physical performance, cause irritability, lower our immune function and reduce our stress tolerance. Studies have shown that adults with less than six hours of sleep can develop low-grade chronic inflammation, worsen insulin resistance, increase the risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as psychiatric disorders like depression and panic attacks.

Getting enough sleep is a much of a priority in your life as eating right and exercising to maintain good health. Structuring your everyday life to include good sleep habits will help you get the right amount of sleep you need each and every night to ward off infection.

Melatonin the hormone that controls our sleep wake cycle and prepares our body and mind to calm down and get ready for sleep can be disrupted if we have too much artificial light at night. Blue light emitted from electronics can also suppress melatonin production. Experts advise to avoid light exposure close to bedtime by shutting down your computer, iPod, video games and television. Use blinds or blackout curtains to deter outside light from coming into your bedroom window. If you can’t control the light you may consider using an eye mask/pillow. See: Sleep Easy Hotel Tips –L.E.N.T. for more information about how to sleep easier at a hotel.

Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full by eating a light dinner. If you need a snack before bed or have a tendency to be hypoglycemic stick to foods that are full of tryptophan like; a slice of turkey, a handful of nuts, a bowl of oat cereal or a warm glass of milk.

Change your sleep schedule by going to bed earlier. When you fall asleep you go through a 90 minute sleep cycle of NREM sleep followed by REM. The earlier part of the night the majority of the cycles are stages NREM 3 and 4 with very little REM. In the second half of the night the balance changes to more REM sleep and a lighter form of non-REM sleep (stage 2).What’s important about this is that the NREM deep stages 3 and 4 is where our body regenerates and repairs tissue and engages in other restorative processes. If we don’t get enough deep sleep, we can’t rejuvenate and heal.

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Can’t go to bed earlier because you have too much energy at night? This is a sign of a disrupted circadian rhythm in which your cortisol levels are too high at night instead of in the morning. Stress from day to day living causes elevation of cortisol at night because you can’t unwind. Low cortisol levels in the morning causes drowsiness which in turn we will drink caffeine to get going and keep going. An intake of caffeine which can be found in coffee, tea, cola, cocoa, chocolate and many other sources like some medications, can perpetuate the pattern because it stays in our system throughout the day. It increases cortisol which can put fat into and around the abdominal organs. (This is why many people gain weight from disrupted sleep/wake cycles)

To a nerve cell, caffeine looks like adenosine. Caffeine therefore binds to the adenosine receptor in the brain. However, it doesn't slow down the cell's activity like adenosine would. So the cell cannot "see" adenosine anymore because caffeine is taking up all the receptors adenosine binds to. So instead of slowing down because of the adenosine level, the cells speed up. You can see that caffeine also causes the brain's blood vessels to constrict, because it blocks adenosine's ability to open them up. This effect is why some headache medicines like Anacin contain caffeine - if you have a vascular headache, the caffeine will close down the blood vessels and relieve it.

Adenosine reception is important to sleep, and especially to deep sleep. The half-life (of how long the caffeine stays in your body) is about 6 hours. That means that if you consume a big cup of coffee with 200 mg of caffeine in it at 3:00 PM, then by 9:00 PM about 100 mg of that caffeine is still in your system. You may be able to fall asleep, but your body probably will miss out on the benefits of deep sleep. That deficit adds up fast. The next day you feel worse, so you need caffeine as soon as you get out of bed. The cycle continues day after day.

Going to bed earlier and limiting caffeine in the morning only can correct cortisol and melatonin rhythm dysregualation. Melatonin can also be taken as a supplement. Your doctor can determine if you have a melatonin deficiency, as older folks will produce less naturally. Note: taking a supplemental hormone can disrupt our body’s natural production and create a dependency even though a melatonin supplement is not addictive. Another deficiency that will affect our ability to fall asleep is magnesium. Your doctor can also determine if this is a cause of your sleeplessness. If you take a magnesium supplement the chelated forms are a better choice. See more information on Magnesium and Sleep. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE TAKING ANY SUPPLEMENTS, they can interfere with other medical conditions and medications.

The content provided in Stay Healthy by Getting Enough Sleep is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional. When purchasing a supplement on line it is recommended that you do not solely rely on the information presented. The information and statements regarding their products have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or health condition. Therefore, they (the online distributor) and asleepeasy.com assumes no liability for inaccuracies or misstatements made about the products.

 
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