NIGHTS REJUVENATION - THE SEVEN PILLARS OF BRAIN HEALTH
Sleep for the immune system
How are you sleeping now? Many people struggle with getting a good nights rest at the best of times. Now with added stresses from financial pressure, job losses, the uncertainty of the economy, and the fear propagated by the media people are unknowingly damaging their immune system and their brain by not getting proper sleep.
Studies show the benefits to the immune system of proper sleep. A recent study(1) from Germany shows an up-regulation of immune cells known as T cells. T cells fight intracellular pathogens like virus-infected cells and cancer cells.
For people who get poor sleep, stress hormones may inhibit the ability of T cells to function as effectively.
“Stress hormones dip while the body is asleep. High levels of these substances might decrease the efficiency of T cell immune response to kill pathogens,” Dimitrov said.
Poor sleep can increase inflammation, blood pressure, insulin resistance, cortisol, weight gain, and cardiovascular disease, as well as decrease blood sugar regulation.
What causes sleep disruption?
Many factors can cause disrupted sleep, noise and light pollution, stress and anxiety, poor diet, lack of or too much exercise, snoring or living with someone who snores and sleep-apnea to name just a few.
Many people are turning to alcohol to deal with their fears and emotions. Unfortunately, this has a damaging effect on the quality of sleep. Yes, you may be unconscious after having a few, but the alcohol will inhibit your ability to get into a deep and restorative sleep. Poor sleep hygiene can also interfere with sleep. The blue light from LEDs, TV, phone, and computer screens directly affect your circadian rhythm, tricking your brain into day mode. This does affect your sleep cycles and can have a compounding effect over time that is very damaging to your immune system and your brain.
Improving your sleep hygiene
Pay attention to your sleep environment:
1. Consistency matters. Train your body to sleep well by going to bed and getting up around the same time each day (even on weekends).
2. Your bed should be comfortable. The room should be sufficiently dark and quiet. Some people use eye masks to block light. Some use white noise filters or earplugs when there is noise in or near the bedroom.
3. The temperature of your bedroom should be cool. A cool room with warm blankets is optimal for a good night’s sleep.
4. Reserve your bed for sleep (and sex). Avoid television, reading, or work activities while in bed.
5. Avoid (or limit) naps. You need to be tired at bedtime. If you need a daytime nap, do this before 3 PM and for less than one hour.
6. Avoid stimulants (coffee, cola, chocolate, and cigarettes) for four to six hours before going to bed.
7. Limit alcohol intake for four to six hours before going to bed. Alcohol disrupts REM and slow-wave sleep, which are important for memory and immune function.
8. Avoid electronic devices with LED screens for at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light that comes from these screens interferes with the brain’s natural sleep rhythms and may trick your brain into thinking that it is daytime.
9. Use rituals. Some people enjoy a hot bath one to two hours before sleep. Others use stretching or mindfulness practices in preparation for sleep.
10. If you do wake during the night, don’t remain in bed struggling to fall back to sleep. Get up and do something that may increase sleepiness (like reading) for about 20 minutes, and then return to bed and try to initiate sleep.
In addition to good sleep hygiene, several supplements have shown efficacy for improving sleep. I have used Melatonin, Magnesium, 5-HTP, L-theanine, GABA, and CBD at different times and in combination to me help sleep with great effect. I have used Quicksilver Scientific’s CBD Sleep formula. It is the most effective formula I have tried and highly recommend it. In addition to the sleep formula, they produce the most efficacious liposomal and nano-emulsions products on the market.
There are also natural teas such as Chamomile and Sleepy-time blends with valerian that can be very effective.
I manage my stress with a combination of high-intensity exercise and daily mindfulness and meditation practice. For years, I neglected these crucial practices in my life. I was content just doing my work, rushing from job to family commitments to kids sports, etc. I ended up overweight, stressed out, and unhappy with myself. Exercise allows me to effectively burn off mental and emotional stress. Mindfulness and Meditation give me a perspective of gratitude and the ability to calm my thoughts and gain insight into what is causing my stress.
Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker, PHD