Research suggests most adults optimally need about eight hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep can increase your risk for stress, weight gain and chronic diseases. Every cell in our body follows a biological clocks that regulates everything from metabolism to repair. It's called a circadian rhythm and it's linked to the 24 hour cycle of day and night. Modern day living with it's stress and external factors, such as blue light, puts quality sleep at risk.
What sleep does for your health
- Sleep promotes cellular regeneration cleansing.
- Sleep affects both mental and physical health. It’s vital for your well-being.
- When you’re tired, you can’t function at your best.
- Sleep affects growth hormones, stress our ,.
- Sleep releases hormones that help repair cells and control the use of energy.
- Without good sleep you are more likely to have chronic diseases.
- Without good sleep you will look older.
Adults need 8 hours of sleep per night. Babies sleep 16 hours a day. Young children need at least 10 hours of sleep, teenagers need at least 9 hours.
Easy steps to sleep well - with no medications
- Total darkness at bedtime.
- Expose yourself to light in the morning and throughout the day.
- Avoid eating 2-3 hours before sleep.
- Hydrate, especially after alcohol.
- Go to the bathroom just before sleep.
- Shower, cold if possible.
- Have a routine.
- Change your bedroom lighting, avoid LED.
- Don't look at a phone screen or TV screen before you sleep.
- Use blue light filters on your phone or computer screen after mid-evening.
- Keep your bedroom cool.
- Wake up at the same time each day. Get sunlight immediately. Don't snooze.
- Take 3g of glycine before bedtime.
- Take taurine before bedtime.
- Eat tryptophan containing foods before bed (walnuts, St. John’s wort, sunflower seeds, almonds, shrimp & milk)
- Take ashwagandha before bedtime.
- Take GABA before your evening meal.
- Lose weight (obese people are prone to sleep apnea).
- Take vitamin B1 (deficiency can cause sleep apnea).
- Take Valerian root (improved sleep for a cheap supplement).
- Drink Chamomile tea which is a natural remedy for insomnia.
- Invest in a good mattress and pillow.
- Invest in quality bedding such as high quality duvets (goose down).
- Make the bed when you get up.
- Make your bedroom an orderly place, clean and tidy.
- Consider a high quality sleeping eye mask.
- Read or listen to relaxing music before bedtime.
- Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, and massage.
- Avoid caffeine 6 hours before sleep.
- Avoid stress.
- Reading is generally good, but if it involves a bright light then avoid.
- Turn off mobile phones and wifi. Use a wind up alarm clock.
- Try regular fasting, sleeping in a fasted state is great for autophagy and you will awake feeling sharp.
Melatonin and the pineal gland
Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxy tryptamine) is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. The pineal gland produces the melatonin which is derived from serotonin. It modulates sleep patterns in both circadian and seasonal cycles.
Melatonin is made from serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is derived from the amino acid tryptophan. Synthesis and secretion of melatonin is affected by light exposure to the eyes.
Taurine and sleep
Taurine 1000-2000mg daily before sleep. Taurine, like melatonin, increases in the body in response to prolonged periods of being awake. It can activate GABA receptors in the thalamus, a region of the brain known to regulate sleep. Taurine is involved in the creation of melatonin in the pineal gland. The pineal glands convert tryptophan to N-acetylserotonin and melatonin. Taurine increases the rate of production of these compounds 40- and 25-fold respectively by stimulating the activity of N-acetyltransferase.
Lighting and electronic devices
The human eye contains photosensitive cells in its retina, with connections directly to the pituitary gland in the brain. Stimulation of these important cells comes from sunlight, in particular, the blue unseen spectrum. Photosensitive cells in the eye also directly affect the brain’s hypothalamus region, which controls our biological clock. This influences our circadian rhythm, not just important for jet lag but for normal sleep patterns, hormone regulation, increased reaction time and behaviour. Most cells in the body have an important cyclic pattern when working optimally
The sun was once the major source of lighting, and people spent their evenings in relative darkness. The cellular rods in our eyes, that work in low light, outnumber the cones by 10:1. But with modern day living, our evenings are illuminated with smart phones, LED screens and artificial lights. At night, light throws out our biological clock. Research shows that disruptions to the circadian rhythm contributes to cancer, diabetes, fatigue, heart disease and obesity.
Blue wavelengths are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost mental performance. But the blue rays are disruptive at night. Computer screens, phones and LED lights at night give us all excessive exposure to blue light. Even low light can interfere with a person's circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. Blue light at night adds to sleep disorders, depression and health problems.
- Use low red lights for night lights.
- Block every trace of light in your bedroom whilst you sleep. Cover the alarm clock screen. Don't leave any standby lights or charging lights on.
- Avoid looking at bright screens beginning before bedtime.
- Wear blue-blocking reading glasses or install an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.
- Most modern phones have a night-light setting. If your phone doesn't then you can install an app (just google blue light phone app).
- Download a pc application that changes your screens light at night (eg sunset screen).
- Those curly compact fluorescent lightbulbs and LED lights are much more energy efficient than the old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs we grew up with. But they also tend to produce more blue light. You can source bulbs that give off a warmer, less blue, light.
- Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day, which will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight.
Wind down routines
Optimise your circadian rhythm and reap the benefits of autophagy.
- In the hour before bed try and go technology free.
- Set an alarm for the hour before you go to bed.
- Organise your clothes and necessities for the coming day.
- Brush your teeth.
- Take a cool shower
- Lower the lights
- Do some simple stretches
- Listen to some relaxing music.
- Cool the room down to 20C
- Cut out all the light.
Autophagy, sleep and repair mode
Autophagy refers to an ordered digestion of cellular components. This is a normal cellular process that is key in preventing diseases such as cancer, loss of brain function, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and infections. Researchers believe that autophagy is a survival mechanism that has anti-aging benefits. The body cleverly uses waste produced inside cells to create new building materials that aid in repair and regeneration. The body also has a process of programmed cell death called apoptosis which is the death of a damaged or superfluous cell.
While you sleep, your body goes into repair mode. Most functions either turn off or slow down in preparation for the next day. Recent studies show that the brains hippocampus has a distinct rhythm of autophagy that can be altered by fragmented sleep. Your sleep patterns can hold over the body's normal physiology as well as disease processes. You have upwards of 40 trillion cells in your body and each day. 50 billion cells are replaced daily. Some of these cells might not be perfect and these need removing. Human body cells are also constantly becoming damaged as a normal part of metabolic processes. As we age and deal with free radical damage, our cells become more and more damaged.
- Autophagy only kicks in when our glycogen stores (stored sugar in the liver and muscles) start to deplete. This is why eating a huge carb packed meal before bedtime is very bad.
- Lifespan is significantly reduced with the introduction of sleep disruption which leads to an increase in oxidative stress exposure.
- Patients with Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's suffer disease progression as a result of alterations in the DNA methylation of clock genes as well as medicines that screw up circadian rhythm.
- Tumor growth also can occur with the loss of a maintained circadian rhythm and lead to an increased risk for carcinoma, breast cancer and metastatic colorectal cancer.
- The circadian clock system regulates of the critical pathways of autophagy to boost cell survival during injury and block tumor cell growth.
Our body clock receives daily cues from external environmental sources such as daylight and darkness to drive circadian rhythm. Ultimately, the circadian rhythm controls behaviour, physiology and cellular biochemical transmission. There is a protein called mTOR that oversees multiple processes in the body such as cellular metabolism, bone formation, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, dementia and cancer. In addition, mTOR has a significant role in the modulation of autophagy induction and there is a close association between autophagy and mTOR.
People with insomnia have trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep. Most of us have occasional insomnia, particularly at times of stress. But chronic insomnia will cause constant daytime problems such as exhaustion, irritability, lack of motivation, low libido and difficulty concentrating.
Therapies include relaxation and deep-breathing techniques. However, doctors are often too keen to prescribe medicines that have serious side-effects (Temazepam, ambien, valium, rohypnol). Don't take medicines for sleep, you will need more and more, plus you will not be solving the underlying problems.
People with sleep apnea have a loud snore. People with a apnea don't get enough oxygen and your brain triggers you to open your windpipe with a snore. As oxygen levels go down, the body releases the stress hormone cortisol.
Human growth hormone and sleep
Sleep means repair. Human growth hormone (HGH) is a protein produced by the pituitary gland in the brain. HGH is very active in growing child and it helps them to get taller and grow. But in adults, HGH is released during sleep, and its release is part of the critical repair function of sleep.
hormones are chemical messengers, travelling in your bloodstream to tissues or organs. They are involved in many different bodily processes, including metabolism, growth and development, reproduction, sexual function and mood.Sleep and exercise trigger the release of human growth hormone. But 75% of HGH is released during sleep.
- The amount of body fat you carry is directly related to your HGH production.
- An increase in insulin can lower HGH production. Avoid refined carbs and added sugars.
- Eating close to bedtime will spike insulin and reduce HGH secretion.
- Exercise is one of the most effective way to raise your HGH levels.