Sleep “The Revitalizer”

By Dr. Robert Goldman and Dr. Ronald Klatz,

HB TreatmentsSleep is one of the most basic and universal activities in which we all engage. Sleep is a necessary and integral state that permits mental and physical restoration. Adequate restful sleep, like diet and exercise, is critical to good health. Insufficient restful sleep can result in mental and physical health problems. Yet, getting to sleep, staying asleep, and waking refreshed can be highly elusive to most of us some of the time, and to many of us all of the time.

More than 70 million people suffer from sleep deprivation caused by poor or interrupted sleep and about 50 million suffer negative health effects as a result

Making sure you get enough sleep each night appears to have a wide range of benefits. Clinical trial results suggest that a good night’s sleep can give the immune system a boost and reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and type II diabetes. There is also evidence to suggest that getting adequate amounts of good quality sleep may increase longevity!

A study conducted by Japanese researchers involving men aged 40 to 79 uncovered an important connection between sleep and heart attacks. They found that men who worked 61 hours or more a week in the year preceding the heart attack were twice as likely to have a heart attack as men who worked forty hours or less. Meanwhile, research revealed a link between heart disease and sleep. Their results showed that compared with women who slept for eight hours each night, women who slept less than five hours a night had an 82 percent greater risk of heart disease, those who slept six hours a night had a 30 percent increased risk, and those who slept nine hours or longer had a 57 percent increased risk.

Research published in 2001 found that people who slept for less than six hours each night were more likely to gain weight, and were therefore at higher risk of type II diabetes. Also reported in 2001 was that healthy men and women (23-42) who got less than six and a half hours of sleep a night for eight consecutive night displayed far lower insulin sensitivity than those who slept seven to eight hours a night. Studies suggest that chronic sleep shortage in healthy adults impairs the ability of insulin to function properly, thereby creating a risk for future onset of diabetes. Early studies in 2003 link sleep to diabetes risk. Too much sleep (nine or more hours each night) were 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with type II diabetes than people sleeping between six and eight hours each night.

Sleep deprivation appears to have a profound deleterious effect upon the immune system. This is supported by Moldofsky, who found that sleep deprivation, reduces both the production and activity of immune cells. Disrupted sleep was also found to increase levels of cortisol (the hormone responsible for our stress response).

The human brain is just as active during sleep as it is during wakefulness. It must maintain the temperature of the body, as well as breathing and circulatory functions. The active state of the brain during sleep is what enables us to wake from a snooze in a noisy public place when our name is called.

Sleep Loss and Aging:
University of Chicago researchers report that four hours of sleep for several consecutive nights causes blood sugar (glucose) to spike much higher after breakfast, versus levels after receiving nine hours of sleep. To compound this problem, the rate at which glucose cleared the blood stream was 40 percent slower in the sleep- deprived state. This sluggish sugar metabolism causes physiological signs of aging, most likely as a result of elevations in the stress hormone cortisol present with lack of sleep.

Additionally, it has been established that the human immune system takes advantage of the period of sleep to promote its infection-fighting actions. Sleep-deprived rats are shown to be more susceptible to viruses and bacteria of an otherwise innocuous nature.

Dr. Robert Stickgold at Harvard Medical School has discovered a new link between sleep and memory. Dr. Stickgold reports on experiments demonstrating that performance of a newly acquired skill does not improve until the person has had more than six, and preferably eight, hours of sleep. The research supports a new hypothesis that memory formation is a function of the two stages of sleep during which the brain undergoes physical and chemical changes that produces or strengthens memory traces. Without adequate sleep, skills-as well as new factual information –may not be properly encoded into memory.

In October 2001, the United Kingdom Sleep Council called on the country’s employers to create flexible-hour workdays, so that employees could take midday naps. The Council’s global Internet survey indicated that the Mediterranean siesta - a snooze taken during the middle of the day - could help to promote employee productivity in the afternoon.

Another study carried out in 2001 found that people who slept for fewer than six hours each night were more likely to gain weight and were therefore at higher risk of type II diabetes. When you are asleep, your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is in control and your nervous system is being rejuvenated. Many important immune system processes occur as you sleep, which is why “getting a lot of rest” is prescribed as a treatment for so many illnesses.

New research suggest that seniors who find it difficult to get to sleep and those who get little sleep are more likely to die sooner than those who get to sleep well. People between the ages of 59 and 91 years old who were apparently healthy but who spent more than 30 minutes each night trying to get to sleep were more than twice as likely to die within the next 13 years. Sleep problems may serve as a “subtle indicator” that apparently healthy people may have undetected problems that could affect their health in the future.

Given their apparent simplicity, bed rest and deep sleep are perhaps the two most underestimated therapeutic interventions that deliver the greatest benefit for the time spent.
How much sleep do you need? The general rule of thumb has been 8 hours per night. However, research published in 2002 found that people who slept for 8 hours were 12% more likely to die within the study’s time span of six years; those who slept 6-7 hours a night lived longer. Furthermore, results of another study, also published in 2002, found that 14 percent of people who said they slept for more than 8 hours a night had a history of stroke, compared to less than 6% of those who slept for just 6 hours. Together these findings suggest that 6-7 hours may be the optimum amount of sleep for adults.

A person’s need for sleep does not decline with age. Researchers have demonstrated that sleep needs remain constant throughout adulthood. A number of factors commonly associated with aging may interrupt, delay, or shorten sleep. As we age, nighttime sleep is likely to be disturbed for a number of reasons:

  • Lifestyle changes.
  • Decreased secretion of Melatonin.
  • Changes in body temperature cycle.
  • Decrease in exposure to natural light.
  • Dietary changes.
  • Decreased mental stimulation during daytime aches and pains.
  • Disease and/or medications to treat them hot flashes in menopausal women.
  • Psychological changes or conditions including depression and anxiety.
  • Frequent waking at night to go to the bathroom.
  • Stress or bereavement.

In today’s 24/7, stimulus-overloaded, stress-filled society, many of us need to make a deliberate effort to achieve the best sleep we ca get. An anti-aging approach to sleep is one that supplements with a regimen that aims to boost daytime hormone levels, the changing gentle evening trends of which promote the ability to fall and stay asleep. Consider selecting a product containing nutrients for which scientific evidence suggests sleep promotion, such as the following sleep-assistive nutrients:

  • Melatonin.
  • Jujube extract.
  • Passionflower.
  • Mucuna pruens extract.
  • Valerian root extract.
  • Lemon balm extract.
  • Hops extract.
  • Chamomile flower extract.
  • Magnesium.

Revitalize while you sleep
A frequent overseas traveler, Dr. Bob Goldman has devised a practical, tried and true program that often helps him and others to boost the quality of sleep. These are some of the highlights:

Practice good sleep hygiene:Where you sleep directly impacts how well you sleep. Create a sleeping environment that is comfortable in temperature, absent of distracting lighting and sounds, and serene.
Don’t become over stimulated: television emits full-spectrum lighting and electromagnetic fields that can cause wakefulness and/or agitation.
If you have allergies to airborne agents, remove plants and humidifiers (both can be sources of mold), don’t let pets into your bedroom, and encase your mattress, box spring, blankets, and pillows in allergy barrier covers.

  1. Eat for sleep: Starchy food like breads, pastas, potatoes, and dairy products help promote sleep. They prompt your brain to generate the sleep-inducing neurochemical serotonin.
  2. Herbs help: For some people, a modest dose orally ingested of valerian root, kava kava, chamomile, or a few drops of lavender oil inhaled, speeds the trip to dreamland.
  3. Avoid certain medications: Check with your physician to verify whether any prescription and/or over the counter products you take may cause you difficulty in falling asleep. Blood pressure medicines, decongestants, nicotine, caffeine, diet pills, and some cold/cough remedies are frequent culprits.
  4. Lower your body temperature: you reach sleep once your body temperature dips. A warm bath or shower before bedtime makes it easier for your body to cool down and the time to reach dreamland shorter.
  5. Take two: Try taking two baby aspirins (non-caffeinated) at bedtime.
  6. Power nap: Just 20 minutes of restful slumber during a hectic day not only rejuvenates your thinking, but also can make it easier for you to sleep at night.