Updated: Jan 4, 2021
It is so important that we start putting sleep at the top of our wellness strategies alongside nutrition, movement, mindfulness and community. Without sleep, nothing else functions as it should... Seriously!
Let's start with a brief breakdown about what actually happens when we sleep?
We need to cycle through Non-REM and REM
There are 4 stages to Non-REM 1-4 which take us deeper into sleep. The deeper we sleep, the more restorative to our body and brain where we rebuild cells, clear away toxic byproducts of the previous day and massive cardiac deceleration happens which is basically a reset for our heart. In addition, we restock the armoury of our immune system... If we get just 5 hours of sleep a night we are 400% more likely to catch a cold the following day than is you sleep 8 hours or more... that's insane! After we move from light Non-REM, to the deeper stages of REM we then experience a short REM cycle.
REM sleep is for dreaming. It stands for Rapid Eye Movement and during this time there are parts of the body that have very high activity yet other parts of the brain are "switched off." In addition, their is a safety mechanism that plays out where our body is completely paralyzed during the dream state so we can "dream safely" and not actually act out of dreams.
After REM, we cycle back into Non-REM and the cycle continues.
We need to cycle through this every single night with a minimum of 8 hours sleep for an adult for optimal functioning of our physical, mental and emotional bodies...
We dive into the importance of sleep below...
The information below are notes Marni took while reading the book, "Why We Sleep" by Dr. Matthew Walker. We highly suggest this book if you want to dive deeper into this topic with us... it's fantastic!!
A part of our brain called the Amygdala is our center of strong impulsive emotions. The reason why we usually think and respond rationally in our decision making is because the pre-frontol cortex which makes high level top down decisions keeps our emotional brain in check. When under slept, the pre-frontal cortex unleashes the emotional brain meaning the amygdala is about 50% more reactive and emotionally unstable. This acts like a pendulum... we not only become more negative in our thought pattern and trigger emotions like anger but we are also more likely to have reward-seeking and sensation seeking behaviours. The emotional distance between negative emotions and these pleasure seeking emotions are vastly larger when under slept.
Hello emotional rollercoaster!
Physical Reaction Time:
A troubling example of this is our reaction time behind the wheel. Many people will say that they can function just fine with 5 hours of sleep and they don't notice any changes. However according to Dr. Matthew Walker (world renowned sleep expert and author of "Why we sleep") whens studying a group of people who were driving after only 16 hours of no sleep... which means if you woke up at 7am and then went out that evening and drove home at 11pm... you were actually more impaired than if you drove home drunk.
That is bonkers!!
Learning and Memory Retention:
The brain is about 40% deficient in laying down new memory traces when it is under slept. 40% is the difference between acing and failing a test. We need sleep to hit the save button and on those new memories. A pianist came to Dr. Walker and shared his struggles with learning a new song. He would work for hours and hours on perfecting the piece - because "practice makes perfect right?" - but he would often go to bed frustrated with his progress. It was only when he woke up the next morning and sat down in front of the piano that he could play the piece perfectly. This is because practice does NOT make perfect. Practice with a good nights sleep makes perfect.
This brings new importance to the common saying "sleep on it!"
The Chronic Effect: Alzheimer's disease.
There is a cleansing system that kicks into high gear when sleeping, this is the Glymphatic system. Essentially, it washes away all the toxic byproducts from the day including Amyloid deposits (a toxin protein) that accumulates in the brains of those suffering from Alzheimers disease. The Glymphatic system is like a reset button for the brain.
Without sufficient sleep, these toxic plaques build up attacking and degrading parts of the brain which include where we experience deep sleep. The loss of deep sleep due to this degradation then lessens our ability to remove them from the brain at night.
More amyloid, less deep sleep; less deep sleep, more amyloid, and so on.
Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, both of whom were vocal about how little sleep they needed, both went on to develop the disease; it is, moreover, a myth that older adults need less sleep.
Men who sleep 5 hours a night have significantly smaller testicles. This has shown to produce a sperm count 29% lower than those who regularly get a full and restful night’s sleep. Walker states that men who slept 4-5 hours a night had levels of testosterone that were equivalent to a man 10 years his senior. Women's reproductive health is also greatly compromised as hormone regulation is jeopardized.
Adults aged 45 years or older who sleep less than six hours a night are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in their lifetime, as compared with those sleeping seven or eight hours a night. If heart disease is in your family, you will want to prioritize sleep! Scientists can study the effect of just ONE hour of loss of sleep worldwide... Daylights savings time!
There is a 25% increase in heart attacks the day after we turn our clocks forward. Think this is just a random fluke? Think again, we can see the positive effect when we turn our clocks back, there is a 21% reduction of heart attacks the day after when we gain an hour of sleep in the fall.
A lack of sleep appears to hijack the body’s effective control of blood sugar. We become less responsive to insulin. Inadequate sleep decreases levels of the satiety-signalling hormone, leptin, and increases levels of the hunger-signalling hormone, ghrelin. “I’m not going to say that the obesity crisis is caused by the sleep-loss epidemic alone,” says Walker. “It’s not. However, processed food and sedentary lifestyles do not adequately explain its rise. Something is missing. It’s now clear that sleep is that third ingredient.”
Doing everything to lose weight and still getting no where? Mitigating stress and getting more sleep should be your #1 priority.
We can help... Here are some of our suggestions to enhance your zzzz's.
1. Stop drinking Coffee 14 hours before bed...
What!? 14 hours!? Yes, sadly caffeine has a half life of 6 hours. Which means if you have your last coffee at noon, you still have half of that coffee sloshing around your brain by 6pm... by midnight you still have a quarter of that coffee coursing through your veins!
Something we are asking ourselves is, are we self medicating our sleep deprivation with caffeine?
For those who say they are unaffected by caffeine, Dr. Walker would say, nice try... Sleep measurements show that caffeine creates a 20% reduction in deep sleep.
2. Fat at bedtime
Fat before bed gives you a steady energy source that prevents hunger and blood sugar swings in the middle of the night. This can then cause a cortisol spike which wakes you up wondering wtf am I doing awake at 2am? MCT oil, specifically Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil is converted into ketones giving your brain fuel while you sleep and it also helps you burn body fat while you sleep.
While we sleep the brain uses a lot of energy, the sugar stored in the liver (glycogen) is a really efficient fuel source for the brain to tap into at night. If you are restricting your carbohydrates or on a ketogenic diet, having a little bit of sugar in the form of raw honey before bed can help your brain function better at night, giving you a deeper sleep.
We suggest a quality honey like Drizzle which you can find at Two Pharmacy.
We have talked extensively about how important magnesium is when it comes to sleep, which is why it is one of our recommended supplements in all out programs. Magnesium maintains healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. Studies have also shown deficient magnesium levels are linked to insomnia. Since magnesium isn’t produced inside the body, it’s critical we add foods to our diet that provide it. Some foods that are good sources of magnesium, are bananas, spinach, and avocados.
Unfortunately due to mass production, food doesn't always provide adequate amounts of nutrients which is why we add magnesium to our supplement regime.
Check out our in-store display at Two Pharmacy to see our recommended products.
5. Reduce Inflammation
We hear it every time someone does the 21 Day Simply Awaken Reset..."My sleep has improved!"
Sleep, immune function, and inflammation share a common regulator.
Our sleep is regulated by circadian rhythms, which drive hormones and other physiological changes that cause us to move back and forth along a continuum of sleep and wakefulness throughout the 24-hour day. When circadian rhythms are out of sync, so is sleep. Circadian rhythms also regulate our immune system, and with it, our levels of inflammation. When circadian rhythms are disrupted, so is normal immune function and an increase in chronic inflammation. It works both ways, when we reduce inflammation in the body with the 21 Day Reset, our immune function improves and we get better sleep.
6. Set a bedtime alarm and you just may not need your morning alarm!
When our alarm goes off in the morning and we are hitting the snooze button over and over, that is a big red flag that we are not done sleeping!
Believe it or not, we can train ourselves to wake up naturally without an alarm IF we prioritize going to bed at a decent hour to get 8 hours of sleep. Why would we stop something that was not yet complete especially something as important as sleep. We know! It's hard to pull yourself away from socializing, working, prepping for the next day, spending time with your family or watching your favourite TV show, we are right there with you! This gets especially hard when we typically have longer commutes, longer days at the office and jam packed schedules. However, if we don't prioritize sleep like we prioritize getting in a meal or going to the gym, everything else suffers.
Going to bed at the same time and waking at the same time every day reinforces the healthy circadian rhythms that govern both our sleep and our immune function, including inflammation.
We suggest setting two alarms in the evening and have them on repeat.
It is beneficial to maintain a fairly consistent sleep schedule.
Alarm 1: 1.5 hours before you would like to be asleep
Turn off your devices/TV and dim the lights in your home.
Start getting ready for sleep: gentle stretch/talk with your partner face to face/meditate/wash your face
Alarm 2: .5 hours before you would like to be asleep
Get your butt into bed!
Read, breathe, cuddle, zzzz
In addition, we suggest meditating before bed to calm down the nervous system and prepare the mind and body for sleep. This is a potent sleep aid.
If you would like some meditation guidance check out our Dive Deep program which has over 30 meditations of all types and durations to experiment with.
Sleep has the power to reboot our brain, improve immunity and help us to live longer, healthier lives... and it's 100% free! There is no shame in prioritizing sleep, in setting a bedtime alarm, using an eye mask, turning off your phone in the evening and being in bed by 9pm. Make sleep a priority and enjoy the bliss of a deeply restorative reboot you GET TO ENJOY every single night.