Sleep – it’s more than just closing your eyes.

November 30, 2011
The House of Healing
If you did not have a good sleep last night; join the queue.  Probably one third of Adelaide didn’t either.  In fact a lack of sleep is becoming a serious problem for many of us as we work longer hours with increasing pressure in our daily lives.
One of the most important building blocks of vitality resides in the healing power of sleep, an amazing life-sustaining system where natural therapies can make immediate and dramatic changes to your well-being.  Sleep achieves the deepest levels of metabolic calm, allowing your body to re-align everything from basic chemistry through to your thoughts and emotions.  It rejuvenates your body chemistry for renewed energy; recharges your immune system and heals your body and helps process, sort and store everything you’ve learnt, felt or experienced during the day.
There are a multitude of health issues brought about by a lack of good quality sleep.  Whilst we count the “zzz’s” our immune system regenerates as does our hormones and endocrine system.  Sleep also helps us lose weight, as a deep sleep regulates our growth hormone, a potent fat-burner which helps build new, strong, healthy skin and muscle tissue.  So, poor sleep leads to early aging, memory loss, impaired brain function and low libido.
And it gets worse as an estimated one in every 6 fatal accidents is due to sleep deprivation.  Up to 80% of mental health problems can be caused by or severely worsened through lack of sleep and one third of the population snores.  It is estimated more than 50% of us suffer insomnia at some time in our lives.
Imagine having a credit card and every hour of sleep you miss is added to it.  This is called a sleep debt and sadly most people think they can continue functioning okay on minimal sleep and it won’t seriously affect their health.  Ten years down the track the balance on that card is starting to look scary and we haven’t even added the interest yet.
We also need to be aware of the importance of early bed times as the most valuable rest is before midnight.  And it is far better to get up at the same time every morning and take a nap later in the day then snooze until noon on the weekends.  Sleep also stimulates growth, proper brain development, memory and alertness and is therefore very important for children.  It should take 10 to 15 minutes to fall asleep.  If you are asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow or taking 20 minutes or more to fall asleep you have a sleep issue.
There are 4 stages of sleep and each has certain requirements to succeed.
1.     Initiating Sleep requires melatonin, progesterone, prolactin, GABA and Adenosine.
2.      Maintaining Sleep requires GABA, Adenosine, and Melatonin.
3.     Quality of Sleep is assisted by no carbohydrates ie pasta or large protein meals after 5pm 
4.     Waking refreshed in the morning is the responsibility of dopamine and serotonin.
So as you can see it is not just a matter of climbing into bed and closing your eyes. There is a whole army actively working behind the scenes to assist you.  Also required is a comfortable space with no laptops or televisions plugged in.  Definitely no mobile phones either as these are connected to satellites which in turn send electro magnetic radiation to the hypothalamus.  This gland within the brain is responsible for sleep, emotional activity and hormones via the pituitary gland.  I think a great slogan would be, “Guard your Hypothalamus – the keeper of your dreams”.
There are other important issues too.  Never go to sleep angry or upset with someone. Whilst you lie wide awake plotting their demise or thinking of a hundred different ways the situation could have been avoided, I can guarantee they will be enjoying a refreshing sleep.  It is also important to be grateful.  Think of five things that have happened during the day that made you happy.  And if it was “one of those days”, at least be glad of a warm bed to curl up in.  As Winston Churchill said – “Everyone has his day and some days last longer than others”.  So whatever your day, remember the best thing you can do now is have an early night.
Deborah Rugari

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