Applied Health Journal
Topics of Health and Natural Healing
Experience tells me that you are most likely sleep deprived! How can I say that? - Because most of the people who come to see me are sleep deprived, and it is the cause of a great many of the various illnesses that people have.
We are a society that lives at far too fast a pace. Sleep seems to be the first thing that many of us are willing to compromise, and yet, it is so crucial to good health. We think that if we sleep less, we can get more done - but, how long can that work and at what cost?
I have been using a test, called the Adrenal Stress Index, which measures the levels of cortisol (an adrenal hormone) in a person's body, at different times of the day. One of the main things that cortisol does is draw proteins and fats out of the cells and into the bloodstream. Then, the liver can take those fats and proteins, and turn them into sugar for energy.
The normal pattern is for cortisol levels to be the highest in the morning, so you feel charged up and ready for the day. Also, and this is very important, cortisol levels should be the lowest at midnight, so the proteins and fats can go into the cells of your body for repair and rebuilding. This activity is absolutely essential to your health.
If cortisol levels do not decrease at night, your health will suffer and you will become ill. You rebuild every part of your body at night when you are asleep. Your skin, bones, mucous membranes of your lungs, sinuses, and intestinal tract - all of the few trillion cells in your body - repair themselves at night.
What is the main reason that cortisol levels do not decrease at night? Stress! When you go to bed in a stressed state, the cortisol levels will remain high, because your body is set up to release cortisol under stressful conditions. Thus, proteins and fats are not available as building materials for the cells of your body.
The wear and tear of life accumulates over time, and then you find you do not feel so good. You do not have the energy and endurance you used to have. You might be saying to yourself, "I'm just getting old"; when you really need to be saying to yourself, "I'm not getting enough good sleep".
So how do you get enough good sleep? First, make sure that you are getting enough 'hours' of sleep. Some people can get by on less, but it is best to assume that you need at least eight hours of sleep each night. Get that much for a month, or so, and see how you feel. You may eventually find that a little less is OK, but start with a good eight hours.
Some exercise, a couple of hours before bed, helps reinforce the natural release of melatonin that occurs at night (melatonin decreases cortisol levels) and deepens the restfulness of your sleep. The exercise needs to be nothing more than a brisk walk for twenty minutes.
Melatonin release decreases when you are exposed to bright light at night. Darkness triggers the release of melatonin and sets you up for normal sleep rhythm. Decrease the light around the house at night by using dimmer switches, lower wattage bulbs, and even candles. Reading lights are OK, if the light is focused on what you are reading.
Exposure to radiation, as from microwaves and televisions, upsets the normal release of melatonin. Being near electrical fields (as in plug in radios, clocks, and electric blankets) also limits release of melatonin.
Last, try to get to bed by 10PM. This is the normal time to see the melatonin levels rise and the cortisol levels go down. If you consistently stay up much past that time, you will upset the normal hormonal rhythms and your body ends up not knowing when to sleep.
Many people take melatonin to help them sleep, but I recommend not taking it, unless you have been tested for needing it. The doses that melatonin usually comes in (1 to 3 mg) is far above what your body normally releases. Prolonged use has been tied to testicular atrophy in men.
Instead, look for supplements that do not contain melatonine, such as those that can be found at your local naturopathic or holistic practitioner's office. Neuroplex (made by Standard Process Laboratories) is one such supplement that has no melatonin in it, but does contain amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and glandular extracts that enhance the normal release of your body's own melatonin.
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Copyright © 1999 Applied Health Solutions, Inc., Scottsdale, Arizona
All rights reserved. www.appliedhealth.com 480.998.0992
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