Sleep: The cool side of the pillow (Part 1)

Did you just open your eyes to the horrible realization that everyone in the meeting just heard you snore? Was it because earlier the barista accidentally gave you a triple breve instead of your usual quad? (You likely made her nervous because she couldn’t tell if you were the slow- or fast-moving type of zombie…) Oh snap, did you just lecture your child’s bus driver about his 30-second schedule deviation?

These are all signs… Signs that you may be SLEEP DEPRIVED. You’ve read all of the studies. They’ve been telling us for decades that most of us don’t get enough quality sleep to be at our best or even to just be healthy. We all have different reasons for our sleep shortcomings, e.g. chronic stress, crazy work schedules, too many night-owl friends for our own good, and/or medications that suppress certain sleep states, etc… Our symptoms in response to our sleep issues range as widely as our personalities.

Please Can I Get Some Sleep To Go With That?

You’ve likely read a number of articles with titles like “7 Steps to Better Sleep” or “How to Sleep Like A Baby”… Who wants to sleep like a baby anyway? Waking up screaming every couple of hours with a fully loaded diaper? Personally I’d rather sleep like I’m in a coma or dead. But not the undead, just dead.

Unfortunately, if we don’t get enough sleep, this roller coaster of life picks up speed toward the end of the line. Sleep has a profound effect on our general health, even if our sleep is only affected for a short period of time. Short term sleep restriction results in a number of abnormal physiologic changes, including diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, activation of the sympathetic nervous system (activation of your ‘fight or flight’ response), cardiovascular disease, and increased inflammation. A 2010 meta-analysis, including 1,382,999 participants from 8 different countries, showed that anything less than 7-hours of quality sleep a night increased the risk of death (all causes) by 12% And guess what? That myth that you can make up for your lack of sack time over the weekend – totally busted!

Sure, your body needs sleep… but your brain needs it more!

Researchers seem to continuously make new discoveries concerning the brain. There has been more recent interest in how sleep affects the brain, possibly due to the fact that Americans are getting less and less sleep year over year. Or, maybe somebody finally read my letter regarding the dramatic and overly obvious increase in zombie-centric media?

We’ve known for some time that sleep affects the formation and maintenance of pathways in your brain that deal with concentration, response time, and that let you learn and create new memories. More recently (2013), a research team, lead by Professor Maiken Nedergaard from the University of Rochester Medical Center, made a huge breakthrough in sleep research. They discovered that the brain has it’s own system of cleansing itself of waste protein build-up they call the “glymphatic” system, because of its similarities and connections to the body’s lymphatic system. This is important because a number of neurological disorders – including Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – are characterized by an accumulation of proteins in the brain. Prof Nedergaard and her team discovered a phenomenon they called “CSF pulsation”. The brain, which gets a disproportionate amount of the body’s blood supply pumps more fluid than the kidneys and actually throbs like a beating heart. It “facilitates the clearance of interstitial waste products from neuronal metabolism”… AND most, if not all, of this fascinating cleansing process happens while you sleep.

That’s right, if you don’t spend enough time sleeping and letting your “glymphatic” system scrub your mind of all of the gunk built up in it, you might be left with… dirty thoughts… I apologize, I couldn’t resist. But seriously, dementia is nothing to joke about. It is the leading cause of death for women in the UK and unlike cancer mortality, which is falling, deaths related to dementias are steadily rising. There is no cure or treatments currently in existence that have affected this rising death rate. I know, again with the death thing.

Now, go get some sleep. If that’s easier said than done, come back next week for Part 2 – The Keys to Sleep Are In The Brain, where I will show you how to flip that sleep switch on with our Sleep Entrainment Protocol…

Next Post: Part 2 – The Keys to Sleep Are In The Brain