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What Makes Us more Vulnerable to Illness- Part2 Sleep

 

 [The Foolish Couple are founders of the Foco Academy, nutrition specialists and success coaches. We focus on teaching Jack Canfield’s Success Principles and applying the principles to the 3 areas of life that money can’t buy, that is, Health, Time, and Love Relationship.]

 

Hi Everyone – I’m Andy and I’m Sandra.  Welcome to our second session in our 4-part series of addressing ‘What Makes Us More Vulnerable to Illness’.  Last time we looked at what we eat, and discussed how to optimize the foods we choose in our diet to help us achieve optimal wellness.  Today we are looking at sleep.  And through decades of studying it, researchers claim that getting sufficient rest is a critical piece of the long-life puzzle, and in playing a pivotal role in people getting ill.

 

First, let’s have some fun with numbers…

How about two hundred and twenty-five thousand?  Well, that’s the number of hours that the average person sleeps in their lifetime.  That’s a quarter of a million hours – and in essence, it works out that we all spend approximately one third of our lives sleeping.  This means we spend more than 25 years of our lives sleeping. 

So, how about 70 million?  Well, that’s the approximate number of Americans that suffer from sleep disorders.  These disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and narcolepsy.

And for one last number…how about 41 billion?  That’s a pretty large number.  And that’s the dollar amount that Americans spend on sleeping aids.  And the irony and misfortune of that is that it is estimated that 30% of people are sleep deprived, and receive inadequate sleep on an ongoing basis, despite their best efforts to have sound sleeps.

 

Those are some fairly astounding numbers Andy.  And especially to know that many people continue to suffer from sleep deprivation throughout their lives.  To think about this in the context of does it really matter if we do not get a good night of rest, let’s look at this a bit more closely.  So, does it really matter if we do not get a good night of rest?  Well, should that happen occasionally, then the answer is no.  Not really.  But even with one night of interrupted sleep, in addition to having low energy the following day, research has shown a few of the impacts - that you may also experience greater sensitivity to pain, have impaired concentration and memory function, may have the desire to eat impulsively, have increased irritability, and decreased eye-hand coordination. 

In fact, the CDC claim that staying awake for at least 24 hours is similar to having a blood alcohol level of .1…and in the US, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level of .08 – which means that this lack of sleep translates into the equivalent to being too “drunk’ to drive legally.  So it really shows the level of impairment that can result from not sleeping.

 

And let’s extend this out a little because an ongoing lack of sleep – so not just one or two nights – but chronic sleep deprivation where sleeping difficulties extend over a longer period of time is closely associated with the development of serious diseases and premature death. 

These conditions include high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke, obesity, diabetes, depression, lower fertility rates and an overall weakened immune system.  And with a weakened immune system, it means your body is less able to fight off infections and viruses, has a more difficult time to deal with illnesses and injuries, and this can become a very large problem.  Interestingly, a recent study in mice showed that sleep deprivation caused death faster than starvation.  It has been cited that while sleep won’t cure cancer, some state that it may improve the odds of recovery.  So, overall, we need to acknowledge its power – the power of sleep. 

 

Well, that certainly seems like a very strong argument to sleep.  Some interesting studies have raised some alarming findings when they looked at sleep in the context of people who work night shifts or rotating shifts. Researchers concluded that women working night shifts had a 19% increased risk of developing cancer compared with women who did not work at night.  And while this in itself is alarming, it was found that it was even more harmful to have rotating shifts, rather than always working night shifts.  In this case, those on rotating shifts for more than 5 years were up to 11% more like to die early compared to those who never worked those shifts.  In fact, for those working more than 15 years on rotating night shifts, they had a 38% high risk of dying from heart disease than those who worked only during the day.  And from the study, those who worked rotating shifts for the longest period of time were far heavier, had higher blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol in comparison to their day-working counterparts. 

 

As we can see from this, there are very concerning findings that result from not sleeping, so this leads us to a very relevant question as to what happens when we do sleep. Why is sleep so important?

 

One can break this down by looking at specific parts of our body.  For instance,

For our skin, when we sleep, cells create growth factors to repair damage and maintain elasticity, so our skin is in better condition.

For our pancreas, without sleep, we become less able to break down sugar from our diet.  This can lead to blood sugar dysregulation and other blood sugar complications.

For our muscles, there is recovery from injuries like muscle tears

For our brain, the cells shrink, which helps remove debris.

 

These examples are all necessary functions that the body must carry out.  One thing that must be noted is that the body is adaptable.  This means that a person’s body and brain can grow accustomed to operating without adequate sleep.  And while this may not produce any noticeable issues in the short term, it is unavoidable that ongoing chronic lack of sleep impacts a person’s metabolism and heart function, thereby increasing the risk for the many conditions we discussed earlier that are linked to chronic poor sleep.  Obesity and heart disease can certainly be the result of this.  And for people trying to lose weight, if they do not realign their sleeping habits to something more optimal, then it may become particularly difficult to lose weight.  This really underscores the fact that the body needs to be in balance – and the good news is that the pieces of the ‘balance’ puzzle are known; we talk about food and lifestyle factors, and this is what it is all about.  And it’s not about doing everything right 100 percent; it’s about incorporating the pieces – making the changes or adding or removing things from your life, to start to make a difference.  

 That’s a really important point Andy – because anything and everything can start to make a difference. 

When talking about sleep, and all the things that can go wrong when we don’t get adequate sleep, we need to think about what ‘adequate’ really means. For most adults, it is well accepted that they should aim for between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night.  And what we do know as well, is that the amount of sleep that a human requires from birth to old age changes.  Children and teenagers require more sleep, and usually do not seem, on the whole, to have difficulty sleeping.  It is interesting to note, however, that a person’s ability to sleep decreases with age, especially when thinking of seniors.  This has often been misinterpreted - this inability to sleep soundly or to be able to sleep for extended periods of time - as being an indicator that older adults do not need as much sleep.  But researchers indicate that this is not likely accurate.

 

So, when someone does have difficulty sleeping, especially for prolonged periods of time, it’s important they look into incorporating ways that may help them.  These fall into a few different categories:

The first deals with the bedroom itself:

make it cool (between 60-75 F and 15-23 C)

and dark (to get melatonin)

and ensure it has a comfortable and clean mattress and bedding

And, what may be difficult for some people, is to turn off all electronics in the room

 Another category of helping you to sleep successfully includes things to do during the day:

Get on a schedule – your waking and sleeping time should not deviate throughout the week

Experience both daylight and darkness (to reset your body’s circadian rhythm as light can influence your body’s internal clock)

Eat healthy fats versus carbs when you have your last meal of the day

Exercise during the day (as it boosts the production of serotonin in the brain and decreases the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone)

 

And while there are things to do during the day, there are also things not to do during the day:

Like, do not nap,

And don’t eat before bed; and if you do, ensure that you had your last meal at least 4 hours before sleeping

And as well, you should limit your intake of caffeine and sugary beverages, especially for several hours before going to bed

 

And finally, there are things to do before or in bed:

There are many techniques that can help bring about relaxations and a reduction in stress, some of these include practicing mind and body calming techniques like: deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, journaling, reading a book or magazine, aromatherapy, listening to relaxing music, and yoga.  You can also drink a soothing beverage, and visualize something that makes you happy.  And once in bed, do not look at your clock; this can only increase anxiety if you are having difficulty sleeping.

 

I think that is a great list.  Having a sleepless night is difficult, and it is helpful to know that there are things that we can incorporate into our life to try to make falling asleep – and staying asleep, as successful as possible.

 

As we always say, your body can only perform to the standards of what you give it to function.  Sleep is and can no longer considered a luxury – and we’re certainly aware of what not having sleep can do, so we really need to reframe sleep as being a necessity.  A necessity for both our health and life. 

 

So, let’s look at our Top 5 Sleep Takeaways from today to help make your body less vulnerable to illness - these are:

1 – Schedule it into your routine: sleep and wake up at roughly the same time each day, whether on a week day or weekend

2 – Optimal sleep amounts vary by age, with children and teenagers requiring more sleep than adults; and while there is some variation in terms of what adults need, most agree that between 7 and 8 hours a night is necessary   

3 – Think of setting the stage for successful sleep:  ideally, the bedroom should be cool and dark with minimal noise (or white noise), with little chance of interruption

4 – Think of getting yourself ready for bed: outside of whatever rituals you may have like showering or brushing your teeth, prepare your mind and body by being as relaxed and stress-free as possible    

5 – Sleep is a necessity; it isn’t just a time to give your body and brain a break; it is a critical biological function that restores and replenishes important body systems.

 

We are so happy that you chose to be with us today.  And as always, we are always excited to hear from you.  Please let us know if you have any questions about today’s session.  And let us know what’s on your mind – what topics would you like us to talk about?  Thank you so much for being here!

 

I’m Sandra and I’m Andy.  See you next Friday!!

 Until next time, love what you live, and live what you love. 

We can help you. We have created a 7-part mini-series on boosting your immune system. It is our gift to you for a limited time only. So if you want to change direction, and work on your health, follow the link here and register. You will get instant access to this 7-part series, free of charge and full of valuable information. We even throw in some bonuses for you. 

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