Basic Health Habit No.1: Sleep Part One

Renew Your Relationship With Sleep  

Sleep Research
The Sleep Cycle 
and Obstacles to a Good Night's Rest

  • Brain metabolic cleaning increases during sleep. Natural sleep is associated with a 60% increase in the interstitial space (the fluid-filled area between tissue cells that takes up about 20 percent of the brain’s total volume and is mainly dedicated to physically removing the cells’ daily waste), resulting in a striking increase in convective exchange of cerebrospinal fluid with interstitial fluid, and is reduced when awake or stressed, caused by the production of more noreadrenaline, which increases the size of glia cells, decreasing glymphatic system (the brain equivalent of the lymphatic system) fluid flow. How Sleep Clears the Brain
  • All tissue growth and repair increases and takes place during the alpha - delta - theta brain wave; deep, non-REM phases of sleep. 
  • Proper sleep is required for melatonin production, a powerful antioxidant, and important for circadian rhythm, learning, memory, fertility, immune, and nervous system health and healthy aging. 
  • Brain events called sharp wave ripples are responsible for consolidating memory, and take place during the deepest levels of sleep. The ripples also transfer learned information from the hippocampus to the neocortex of the brain, where long-term memories are stored. 
  • Sleep after motor learning promotes the formation of postsynaptic dendritic spines on a subset of branches of individual layer V pyramidal neurons. New spines are formed on different sets of dendritic branches in response to different learning tasks and are protected from being eliminated when multiple tasks are learned. Neurons activated during learning of a motor task are reactivated during subsequent non–rapid eye movement sleep, and disrupting this neuronal reactivation prevents branch-specific spine formation. These findings indicate that sleep has a key role in promoting learning-dependent synapse formation and maintenance on selected dendritic branches, which contribute to memory storage. Sleep promotes branch-specific formation of dendritic spines after learning
  • In sleep deprivation and sleep quality studies, blood concentrations of brain molecules neuron-specific enolase (NSE) and S100 calcium binding protein B (S-100B) increased to levels seen in brain damage, and a buildup of beta-amyloid protein, a hallmark of Alzheimers disease, were observed. 
  • Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin and elevations in ghrelin. The CNS neuropeptide, ghrelin - the hunger hormone, stimulates hunger, while leptin signals satiety to the brain and suppresses appetite. 
  • Sleep deprivation, sleep disordered breathing, and circadian misalignment cause metabolic dysregulation through myriad pathways involving sympathetic overstimulation, hormonal imbalance, and inflammation.
  • Metabolic dysregulation after just one night of sleep deprivation leads to a 40% increase in insulin resistant glucose intolerance.
  • Research has linked short term sleep deprivation with a propensity to load up on bigger portions, a preference for high calorie, high carb foods, and a greater likelihood of choosing unhealthy foods when grocery shopping.
  • Your body works hard to eliminate oxygen free radicals that cause premature aging and if you are sleep deprived,  unhealthy aging is accelerated. 
  • Sleep deprivation, and poor sleep quality are directly linked to an increase of accidents, and mortality from all causes, depression, and disease.
  • One week of insufficient sleep alters gene expression in human blood cells, reduces the amplitude of circadian rhythms in gene expression, and intensifies the effects of subsequent acute total sleep loss on gene expression. The affected genes are involved in chromatin remodeling, regulation of gene expression, and immune and stress responses. The data imply molecular mechanisms mediating the effects of sleep loss on health and highlight the interrelationships between sleep homeostasis, circadian rhythmicity, and metabolism. Effects of insufficient sleep on circadian rhythmicity and expression amplitude of the human blood transcriptome
  • All areas of health are affected by sleep: the resilience of health; basic homeostasis and circadian rhythm; metabolism, emotional stability; inflammatory conditions throughout the body; systemic function (immune, digestive, circulatory, nervous, endocrine, et al.); memory and cognition; muscle function and health; disease processes,  gene expression, and beauty.
  • Disruption of circadian rhythm lowers white blood cell count, crippling immune system function.

Sleeping Patterns Shape the Neural Structures of the Brain
A recent study by researchers in Germany has suggested that night owls have a decreased amount of white matter in their brains compared to people who go to bed early. White matter is insulated and transmits nerve signals around the brain. In this study three classes of chronotypes were analysed; early (EC), intermediate (IC) and late (LC). Chronotype simply refers to the body clock of an individual, the time physical functions or change occur (eg; eating, body temperature or this case sleeping).

ECs wake up early and go to bed early where as LCs go to bed late and sleep into the day. There are many factors that are believed to contribute to the sleep chronotype of an individual. Young adults with high testosterone levels (mainly males) are more likely to go to bed late where as those with low testosterone levels (mainly females) are more likely to go to be earlier. This preference also varies with age, young people tend to sleep in where as elderly people wake up earlier.

Why is this important?
Well it has been shown that depressed individuals exhibit abnormal white matter levels in their brains, specifically in the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACC) and the corpus callosum. The study showed a correlation between chronotype and white matter composition in the left ACC corpus callosum.LCs were found to have decreased amounts of white matter in these regions compared to ECs and ICs. It is thought that the decreased white matter due to their lifestyle choices puts them at a higher risk of depression amongst other bipolar disorders.

Canadian Sleep Statistics

  • Sleep disorders affect 40% of adult Canadians. 
  • Sleep apnea: 858,900 (3%) Canadian adults diagnosed with sleep apnea, an additional 26% (1 in 4 Canadians) have symptoms and risk factors. Sleep apnea is associated with serious health conditions that include: hypertension, ischemic heart disease, irregular heart beat, heart failure, cerebrovascular disease, depression, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Canada is the third most sleep deprived country, after the UK and Ireland. 
  • The majority (74 %) of Canadians claim to sleep less than seven hours a night. 
  • Canadians believe their sleep is falling short of ideal, both in terms of quality and quantity, with many (67 per cent) wishing they could get better quality sleep and more than half (59 %) not getting as much sleep as they would like every night.
  • One in five (20 %) have used prescription medications and one quarter (26 %) have used over-the-counter medications to obtain or improve sleep.

Sleep is a Basic Health Habit.

French Proverb

Dedicate yourself to establishing a dependable sleep routine. Adult sleep habits are an accumulation of decades of neglected Basic Health Habits, with effects compounded by unhealthy habits. Get outside for a walk and breath deeply in nature. Then you will sleep well. Calibrations of your Basic Health Habits will help to make it easy and enjoyable.

Knowledge and understanding of the value of sleep, identifying your issues, and discovering what will help you, is the key. Ask yourself: Do you wake refreshed? Do you have a clear picture of your sleep habits? Do you value your sleep? If you have answered no to these questions, it is time to renew your relationship to sleep and to establish new habits. The formula varies for each of us.

The Sleep Cycle

There are 5 sleep stages:

1. Interim between consciousness and sleep, Beta brainwaves, 5- 15 minutes, 5% of sleep

2. Heart rate slows, Theta brainwaves, 35-45% of sleep                                                                
 Stages 1-2 are non REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, 40-50% of sleep
3. Delta brain waves; deep dreamless sleep, tissue repair, 12% of sleep

4. Body temperature, blood pressure decrease, blood flow is redirected to muscles restoring physical energy, immune system and hormones are active, Delta brainwaves, 90 minutes, 12% of sleep                  
Stages 3-4 are deep non REM sleep

5. REM sleep: Increase in eye movement, heart rate, breathing, body temperature and blood pressure. The mind is active; dreams are vivid. Alpha brainwaves, 25% of sleep

Most people experience three to five intervals of REM sleep per night, and brainwaves during this period speed up to awake levels. If you ever watch a person or a dog experiencing REM sleep, you will see their eyes flickering back and forth rapidly. In many dogs and some people, arms, legs and facial muscles will twitch during REM sleep. Periods of sleep other than REM sleep are known as NREM (non-REM) sleep. REM sleep is when you dream. Both REM and NREM sleep to get a good night's sleep. A normal person will spend about 25 percent of the night in REM sleep, and the rest in NREM. A REM session -- a dream -- lasts five to 30 minutes. Medicine can hamper your ability to get a good night's sleep. Many medicines, including most sleeping medicines, change the quality of sleep and the REM component of it.

Normally we should have 3-5 cycles of stages 1-5 during our sleep every night. You must have NREM and REM stages for a restful sleep. All stages are vital to good health.

Obstacles to a Good Night's Rest
  • Physical, mental, or emotional discomfort
  • Artificial lights after dusk
  • Poor sleep habits as a child
  • An adulthood history of poor sleep habits
  • Poor state of health - neglect of the Basic Health Habits
  • Chronic Dehydration (fluid + electrolyte imbalance) - melatonin production (the sleep hormone) requires hydration 
  • Shift work
  • Stimulants: immoderate use of coffee, sugar, alcohol
  • Medications and surgery
  • Drugs
  • Smoking 
  • Immoderate use of sleep medication changes the quality of sleep and REM stage 
  • Processed foods
  • Too much liquid before bed
  • Spicy food before bed 
  • Poor sleep hygiene
  • Lack of knowledge and understanding of the value of sleep
  • Research findings indicate that the signals from mobile phones affect deep non REM sleep and that it takes longer to reach stage 3 and that the amount of stage 4 is reduced
  • Disease
  • Extreme family, financial, and work responsibilities
  • Television or computer in bedroom 
  • Abnormal amounts of stress and poor coping skills
  • Lack of love for oneself and value of health
  • Living in an hostile, aggressive environment
  • Living in a society that does not understand the value of sleep
  • A large meal before bed that contains protein which takes the longest to digest and requires more energy, taking away from the important cleansing, rejuvenating and healing processes that happen during sleep
  • Unhealthy aging
  • Unhealthy menopause
  • Sleep disorders such as Sleep Apnea, Restless leg syndrome, Insomnia, Bruxism: grinding of teeth, Narcolepsy, Hypopnea: abnormally shallow breathing, Sleep walking, or Somniphobia: a dread of sleep 

Part Two: A Sleep Hygiene Questionnaire

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