So, sleep is important. We all know that, but I suspect that many of you don’t actually know just how vitally important it is to your health and wellbeing. I’ve been doing a lot of research into sleep of late, and I’ve taken great interest in the work of Professor Matthew Walker, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at University of California, Berkeley, and Founder and Director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science. He has recently published his extensive research into the importance of sleep and has appeared on various popular podcasts discussing the topic.
I’ve always valued good quality sleep and work with many of my clients to improve the length and quality of their sleep. Many people are actually unaware of the damage that poor sleep can have on their health and wellbeing, and often seem to disregard its significance.
I’d encourage you all to seriously evaluate and consider how well you actually do sleep, and do a little research of your own to learn about the dangers of poor sleeping patterns. Just as a bit of an ‘eye-opener’ (pun intended), here are some startling facts that Professor Walkers research has discovered;
- We require 7-9 hrs of good quality sleep per night, with 7 hrs the absolute minimum.
- Studies of millions of people show one clear thing – the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.
- Lack of sleep is a major predictor of “all cause mortality”, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, and suicide.
- Hard science shows that deep sleep is critical to clearing metabolic toxins out of the brain.
- Appetite, weight, food consumption are all regulated by sleep – lack of sleep makes you eat 300-550 more calories per day, and makes you eat more high sugar and high carb foods.
- Sleep also has a profound impact on the immune system – one night of 4 hrs sleep will drop natural killer cells (body’s cancer fighting cells) by 70%.
- Sleeping 5 hrs a night makes you 200-300% more likely to catch a cold than someone who sleeps 8 hrs.
- Deep sleep is one of the best blood pressure regulators.
- Deep sleep regulates insulin levels and blood glucose levels.
- For Men, sleep boosts testosterone and lack of sleep drops testosterone levels to that of a man 10 years older.
- Studies of populations that experience daylight savings time show a 24% increase in heart attacks when 1 hour sleep is lost at the start of daylight savings, and a 21% decrease in heart attacks when 1 hour of sleep is gained at the end of daylight savings.
These are all very confronting findings and most of us are certainly unaware of the potential serious impacts poor sleep can have on our health and longevity.
There are many reasons why we don’t achieve enough good quality sleep, and our modern lifestyles, diet and environment have a lot to do with this. Some reasons include;
- Simply staying up too late, and not designing our sleep time to achieve the 7+ hours required per night.
- High stress levels which leave the nervous system overloaded, making it hard for us to ‘switch off’ at bedtime, or waking up throughout the night.
- Eating too late in the evening which switches on the digestive functions of the body at a time when our system should be winding down.
- Spending too much time on ‘screens’ in the evening which interferes with our system’s circadian rhythm and inhibits the easy initiation of sleep at bedtime.
Good sleep behaviours can be achieved by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, keeping cool in bed (your body’s core temp needs to drop by 2-3 degrees for you to fall asleep), making your bedroom as dark as possible, staying off screens at least 1 hour before bed, only be in bed to sleep (no reading or watching TV), and reducing alcohol and caffeine as both adversely affect sleep patterns.
For many people achieving quality sleep is still a challenge, even when they implement all the good sleep habits mentioned above. In this circumstance, the nervous system requires some therapeutic attention and the body’s natural sleep rhythm (circadian rhythm) need to be reset. Fortunately, acupuncture and Chinese medicine therapies can help greatly in achieving this change, enabling a person to get off to sleep more easily, to stay asleep for longer, to get back to sleep more quickly if they wake during the night, and to achieve deeper, more rejuvenating sleep cycles.
Remember, there is no sleep bank – you cannot accumulate sleep ‘credit’ or ‘catch up’ on lost hours of sleep, so quality sleep is required every night.
Travis is available at Mornington Chinese Medicine Tuesday’s 10:00am to 6:30pm, Wednesday 2pm-8pm, Monday’s and Thursday’s 9am-2pm.
138 Tanti Avenue, Mornington, VIC
03 5973 6886