The modern world is a hostile sleep environment. Caffeine, considered by many to be the most popular drug in the world, is consumed en-masse in soft drinks, coffee, tea and chocolate. Blue light from communication technologies like smart phones and computer screens can trick our brains out of normal waking/sleeping rhythms. And our bad habits of midnight snacking can contribute to far more problems than just heartburn and indigestion.
The deck is stacked against sleep, but we can’t function healthily without it-just ask any bleary-eyed insomniac between alternating doses of Ambien and double-shot lattés.
So just how important is sleep to human health? More important than you think.
1. Sleep helps to “defrag” your brain
A recent publication by Stanford neuroscientists puts forth the argument that sleep helps to restructure the brain and cull extraneous synapses in the process, acting in much the same way as a computer’s “defragmentation” program. Why is this important? Our brains, while conscious, are relentlessly creating memories. This process is called “long-term potentiation,” and essentially is the bolstering of synapses between nerves. If this is a constant process, problems might arise resulting from a glut of synapses. Sleep cuts this excess.
2. Deep sleep naturally produces melatonin, a potent antioxidant
The essential amino acid L-tryptophan is the “base” for two very powerful neurotransmitters, melatonin and serotonin, which “transition” into each other. In the darkness of night, the body converts serotonin into melatonin, a powerful four-stage antioxidant. It scavenges free radicals and reduces oxidative stress, destroying harmful agents that can lead to chronic conditions like anxiety, Restless Leg Syndrome, and even cancer. But beware: according to Secrets of Champions™ founder Dr. George Carlo, if you hit the hay with a stomach full of undigested food, energy that would have gone into the production of melatonin-as most of the melatonin the body produces is made in your gut-is instead spent on digestion, which may eventually lead to that motley crew of problems we previously discussed.
3. There’s a chemical reason why you feel terrible after a poor night’s sleep
When the sun rises, the melatonin you produced during sleep transitions back into serotonin, a neurotransmitter best known as one of your “happy chemicals.” Serotonin boosts your energy and alertness levels throughout the day. And here’s the thing: the amount of serotonin you have access to during the day is directly proportional to the amount of melatonin your body produced during the previous night’s sleep. So you can see how a few nights of poor sleep may eventually catch up to you, negatively affecting your energy and performance.
4. Your smartphone is throwing off your sleep
A recent publication has stipulated that exposure to the blue light of various electronic devices-smart phones, computer screens, and televisions-interferes with the body’s production of melatonin. Produced in the pineal gland in addition to the GI tract, melatonin requires near-darkness in order for the body to produce it. As we discussed, melatonin is a crucial weapon in your body’s arsenal. Dr. Carlo of Secrets of Champions™ recommends a four-hour “step-down” between using electronics, food ingestion, and sleep.
5. There’s a deep sleep “sweet spot”
The optimal temperature for “deep sleep” is 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the temperature that will regulate your basal metabolic rate to its maximum efficiency. And it should be noted that it is the basal metabolism that is involved in your body’s repair and recovery efforts. Having trouble falling asleep? Adjust the thermostat accordingly-your body will thank you!