Few things are as misunderstood as sleep. Some new studies have helped us understand it better and I wanted to share some of the more recent findings.
For physical, mental, and emotional health, there is nothing better than deep reparative sleep. Here is the problem; all sleep medications are in the sedative hypnotic family, this does not put you in a healthy reparative delta wave sleep, but a hypnotic state that actually prevents you from going into deep sleep. Though sleep medications might seem helpful, long term they have been proven to show a highly increased risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s. Some people think melatonin is a helpful sleep aid. Melatonin has nothing to do with the mechanisms of healthy sleep, but is a crucial factor in the timing of sleep. As soon as your body perceives it is getting dark outside you start producing melatonin. As the days are getting shorter, and it gets dark earlier and earlier, you will notice a tendency to want to go to sleep earlier, this is due to melatonin.
Melatonin can be incredibly helpful in helping you adjust to a time change when traveling or if you work evenings in a well lit office to help your body think it’s night time. The real factor and issue with sleep is adenosine. The second you wake up your body starts producing adenosine. During the day as your adenosine builds up you will get more and more tired, until finally you have enough adenosine in your system to require sleep. So why doesn’t everybody feel sleepy? Why do more than 70% of Americans need to rely on some sort of sleep aid every night? It comes down to the second highest commodity traded in the world. The highest traded substance is petroleum. Any guesses as to what reigns in at number 2??? Yep, it’s caffeine.
In its variety of forms, coffee, tea, soda, caffeine is distributed more widely than anything else. Any guesses what caffeine does?? The mechanism of caffeine is to block the build up of adenosine. So the more caffeine you imbibe, the slower the adenosine builds up, the less tired you are when it’s time to sleep, the more likely you are to take a sleeping aid to go to sleep, the less likely you are to get a good restful sleep, the more tired you are when you wake up, the more likely you are to have caffeine in the morning to help you get started etc. etc. So what are we to do?
Sleep is crucial to our health and happiness, if you find yourself unable to sleep without a sleep aid here are some helpful tips so you can lower your risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s and increase your healthy restorative, reparative sleep and be happier. The first and most helpful thing you can do is minimize or curb entirely your caffeine intake. The second thing is to find a way to go outside when it starts getting dark, go for a walk in the evenings, or open your windows and turn off most of your electric lights in your home when it’s dark outside so your body can start generating melatonin faster. Hopefully this will help some of you felt more rested and healthy.