How much better do you feel after you've had a good nights sleep? A solid 8 hours, going to bed at a reasonable time and waking up without even needing your alarm. Not dreading the day because you feel ready for action.
Signs that you aren't getting good quality sleep could be:
Tired in the middle of the day
Wake up feeling like you could go straight back to bed
Not being able to function without Caffeine
Lack of Energy
Brain Fog - unable to think clearly
Sleep is THE most important thing that you do. You will find that we are the only animal that practically does it's level best to avoid sleep - dosing up on caffeine, adrenaline, artificial light and whatever else it takes to stay awake.
We seem to feel that there is always more to do, a never ending supply of information, memes, gifs and comments that we must supply to the world.
Are these just the matrix trying to grab our attention away from what we really should be doing?
Much like in "the Matrix" humans are essentially batteries - sleep, movement, exercise, water, magnetism, food, light are things that keep our batteries charged, full of energy and ready to go. If we lack in any of these areas then illness, lethargy and disease could be around the corner.
The problem is is that lacking of sleep is rarely seen as a problem until it REALLY becomes a problem. Not only is it not seen as a problem but you almost have bragging rights about how LITTLE sleep that they have.
Sleep is important for many reasons - here are the 3 that I think are most important.
When we sleep it is the only chance that your Brain has to clean itself. All of the cellular debris (waste) that builds up throughout the day can only be flushed out when we sleep.
As with all cells of our body, sometimes they die (autophagy) this is actually a good thing. We don't want old decrepit cells doing the work. It's like asking your great granddad to climb a ladder and replace the roof. He might be able to do it but it's going to take a much longer time than if your cousin (who's a roofer, aged 21) and his team come along and do it.
If you lack sleep, those poor connections in the Brain remain, the cellular debris that built up from the day before hasn't been cleaned away. Over time these weak connections and debris build up. You can then lack concentration, become more forgetful, lose coordination, balance etc.
The lymphatic system - our internal sewerage system - picks up that debris and moves it back towards the blood supply so that our kidneys can then pick it up and flush it out. If you aren't getting enough sleep, you aren't giving your body enough chance to do the cleaning. Cellular debris builds up leading to a slower functioning thought process. Things that once seemed easy now become more difficult, small challenges become giant mountains to get over because you haven't slept well in weeks/months/years. (Anxiety, stress, OCD, depression) - on a side note, tight muscles and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to blockages of the lymphatic system.
All of our glands are controlled from the Brain, via the hypothalamus. If you have poor sleep then your glandular function will be affected.
Let's think about this one for a little while - The Pancreas is a gland, responsible for many things but we predominantly know it as a Insulin producer to keep blood sugar levels within "normal" ranges. With poor sleep and a poorly functioning glandular system there is an increased risk of developing Diabetes. A tired Brain and body leads to a tired system that functions slowly. (Diabetes, Inflammatory conditions, autoimmune conditions)
Other glands: thyroid (Metabolism), adrenal glands (stress hormones), thymus (immunity)
Stress. Coming back to hormones here, adrenaline is no doubt a hormone you've heard of and it's close relative Cortisol - think of a corticosteroid injection - this is a massive boost to cortisol directly to an area to reduce inflammation. Both cortisol and adrenaline are stress response hormones, cortisol works closely with Insulin to maintain HIGH blood sugar. If we find ourselves in a dangerous situation, we need a big shot of cortisol and sugar straight into the blood stream immediately to survive, fight or flight. The release of these hormones sets up a chain reaction in your body to narrow blood vessels, increasing blood pressure so that blood can reach our extremities (legs and arms) so that we can run/fight quickly with great strength and speed.
It should be reserved only for emergency situations where the hormones are "used up" However, in the modern world, we find ourselves in stressful situations regularly with no outlet, it's unlikely you find yourself in a life or death situation regularly. These stress hormones in your body regularly increase the amounts of these hormones, unable to use them in the way that they were intended, they float around in our system wreaking havoc, disturbing sleep, making us wired, ready for a fight that is never going to happen and can contribute to elevated blood sugar levels. (anger, frustration, high and low moods) - common tight areas - hips, knees and calves.
You never ever wake up specifically to eat and if you do, something is wrong!
There's good reason for this.
Your guts need a chance to recover, repair and rest, the same as your brain does. Ideally we would have 12 - 16 hours between dinner and breakfast. You might think that that is a long time, but if you sleep for 8 hours then you're only awake for 4 of those fasting hours.
We have been trained by marketing departments of every food company and government health department that we need 3 meals per day with 1 or 2 snacks inbetween to maintain energy balance and never to go more than 4 or 5 hours without eating. (to keep blood sugar levels balanced)
Even the Terminator took time to fix his arm
Your body can't work non-stop, for your whole life, without taking a break from time to time. Your guts NEED this daily fasting so that they can recover sufficiently to deal with the deluge that you're going to give them tomorrow.
The guts also produce many of our hormones
90% of serotonin is produced by the gut - which in turn is converted to melatonin, which is released when it gets dark for sleep.
low serotonin = low melatonin = poor sleep
If the guts are not functioning well, sleep is affected. When sleep is affected we tend to crave sugar and very regular meals creating a viscous circle leading to weight gain, potentially diabetes and obesity due to the poor choices you are more likely to make.
The Ketogenic Diet and Intermittent fasting.
We've already touched upon Intermittent Fasting (IF) by only eating in an 8 - 12 hour window during the day and having a 12 - 16 hour fast by eating your dinner early in the evening.
That is all that is required for the basics of IF.
I'm not going to harp on about ketosis and ketogenic diets - I approve but not my area of expertise currently. Further reading from sources that I trust
However, many proponents of Ketogenic diets report massive gains in cognitive function, improved body function, reduction/elimination of brain fog, clarity, focus and drive. Your body can PRODUCE calories in the form of ketone bodies (ketones) - this is achieved with a very low carbohydrate diet - approximately 30 grams per day, a general drop of calories (roughly 30% off of your BMR) and eating a fat based diet.
As with anything, you need to train for it - you wouldn't go and run a marathon with zero training. You need to start by gradually reducing the carbohydrate intake over the course of a few weeks to prevent any unwanted effects - i.e. severe tiredness, cramps, dodgy guts, cravings etc
Look at the humble caveman - do you think he had access to food 3 times per day, pop to a fridge grab a yoghurt or salad on a whim? Nope, chances are the caveman woke up after having dinner by firelight (which i'll come onto later) and then either had a small amount left over or had to then get up and forage for something to eat. Even then, there was no guarantee that he'd find something. This is how we EVOLVED. A long break from food, regularly is a great thing for not only sleep but for your gut health.
What controls it all?
In a word - LIGHT and more specifically, SUNLIGHT
Circadian Rhythm and the Supracharismatic Nucleus
Long words describing your inner body clock and how your body understands what time of day it is.
Circadian Rhythm, something that everyone has but it might be off kilter.
Tired in the day and wired at night. Struggle to get to sleep at a reasonable hour and feel like you're waking up 3 hours too early. This is a poorly functioning circadian rhythm. Some people are naturally night owls and others are naturally early birds but most people sit somewhere in the middle. Night owls feel great going to bed late and waking up late. Early birds like an early night and a early wake up and the folks in the middle are somewhere in-between.
All of them though require 6-8 hours of good quality, undisturbed sleep to be fuly functioning.
The Supracharismatic Nucleus (SCN) is what controls our circadian rhythm. It's main input from the world is light - but unfortunately, any light.
Let's take this back to a time before electricity, about 200 years ago. The only light we had apart from the sun was from some sort of fire. Whether it was a gas lamp or an actual fire (candle, fireplace) that was all we had.
What time do you think people went to bed?
Do you think many people had insomnia 200+ years ago?
Let's take this a step further. Where do we spend most of our days?
Inside surrounded by laptops, TV's, mobile phones, radios, wifi (yes radio and wifi are light too!!)
All of these light signals - even the ones you can't see effect your natural rhythms because your SCN is signaled by light.
The Sun comes up in the morning and goes down in the evening, but lets think about how that happens.
The Earth rotates once per day. As the Sun "rises" the Earth (more specifically the bit that you are on) is moving towards the Sun and vice versa in the evening.
An "interesting" thing about that is that the wavelength of light changes as we move towards it or away.
When you move toward an object, the wavelength of light decreases this makes the light that you are seeing appear more BLUE.
In the evening, where you are in the world, is rotating away from the Sun. Light appears to be more RED, as the wavelength increases.
This is called the Doppler effect, named after the Scientist who discovered that the Universe is generally expanding away from each other by using the wavelength of light from distant galaxies looks more RED because it is moving away from us.
Ever wondered how you nearly always know where a police car or ambulance is coming from despite not being able to see it? The same effect happens with sound!
Blue light is a signal to our body clock that it is morning time.
If you are looking at screens late into the evening without taking necessary precautions (Blue light blocking glasses - see link below) All of the chemicals in our brain that prepare us for sleep are essentially switched off for around 4 hours.
To summarise this: If you look at a screen close to bedtime then the melatonin that your body should produce, that helps you sleep, doesn't kick in again for another 4 hours.
Example: Go to bed at 10pm, check your phone before trying to sleep, it will be 2am before your body is in the right state for good quality sleep. If you have to get up at 6am, that means you will only get 4 hours of good quality sleep (if you're lucky)
This is our natural rhythm - you aren't an owl, you evolved to live in the daylight and sleep at night.
Back to our caveman - he got up in the morning, rain or shine, he had to do something, gather food, hunt, travel, make clothing, fetch water etc. He didn't have sunglasses, sunblock and perhaps not even that many clothes. He got natural light into his eyes and onto his skin ALL OF THE TIME.
This is what we have evolved from.
We now, cover up, wear sunglasses, suncream and fill our lives with unnatural light, we practically avoid being outside at all costs.
What made your sleep bad in the first place?
It could be any of the things that I have mentioned above, it might even be something else that I've missed. However if you're suffering there are things that you can do to fix it. You don't need to do all of them at once, that might be too hard to build a routine, change one or two of them, make them a habit first and then add the next one, and the next until you can sleep fantastically.
What can you do about it?
Set a wake-up time first, work backwards from there. If you want 8 hours sleep and you need to wake up at 6am generally, then you need to be ASLEEP by 10pm. This means that you need to start your bedtime routine (brushing teeth, getting clothes ready for the next day, finish the washing up etc) before that. For me, it takes about 10 minutes to actually fall asleep once I've gotton into bed and maybe read a bit of a book, I know I need to be in bed by 9:30 so I need to be thinking about those final chores at 9pm.
Turn off TV 60 minutes before sleep time.
Laptops, phones, tablets etc should be totally off - stop using them at least 2 hours before sleep time.
Turn off your wifi - if you aren't using your phone, tablet or watching Netflix you can turn this off at the same time as the TV - 60 minutes before bed
Turn lights in your house down and use "Redder" bulbs rather than bright white.
If you can't do these things - or don't want to give them up - you can buy some products that will help negate those effects.
Blue Blocking glasses so that you can watch TV, check emails, facebook later into the evening
EMF protection devices for your body and electronic devices to prevent the harmful effects of nnEMF
Eat Breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up
Eat Dinner 4 hours before going to bed.
Give your guts a chance to rest
One more thing
Spend as much time outside in a natural environment as possible - aim for at least 30 minutes per day outside without any eyewear on (as long as that's safe to do)
By improving your sleep, you are maximising your chances of recovery. Without good quality sleep you are leaving your body open to increased risk of injury, disease and ill health.
By taking on just some of the measures above on how to improve the quality of sleep you can rest safe in the knowledge that you have drastically improved the standard of your health and you may also feel a whole load better too.
Any questions? Let me know - get in touch