Ask Dr. Denton: Why Do I Have the Winter Blues? How Much Sleep Do I Need?
We need beautiful sleeping for beautiful living.
Here it is, simplified. Seven hours of sleep for adults is healthy. Less than 6 -7 hours is unhealthy. In order to get this extra 5lbs - Ok maybe 20 lbs off of me - I have got to start with sleep.... simple, consistent, rejuvenating, refreshing, healing sleep.
Some express exasperation over not being able to sleep. Even more express their concern over that winter weight gain! They may all be connected.
There are many causes for those worn out feelings. We just came off the most celebrated part of the year: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Stress, anxiety, overeating, too much alcohol, cold medication, and that hot chocolate, hot tea, or hot totty before bed. Yep, they all lead to sleep deprivation. The body's response is stress hormone release and BINGO - you have a nice little waist line building up.
Let me make this perfectly clear - we need REM sleep. No, no not the old rock band called REM; I mean Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. There are two types of sleep. Non Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (NREM) is the first stages of sleep and it represents a build up to the deep REM sleep which we all need. During NREM sleep, people will have possible leg movement, sleep walking, and even night terrors. Wow, get me out of there!!
In REM we dream, our bodies relax, and true, healing rest is achieved. Without this, our bodies can't recharge and once again that old nasty stress hormone called cortisol is released. You know that inner tube waist I am working on? Thank you Cortisol!
So why do we sleep? The circadian clock or rhythms is often mentioned when sleep is concerned. Simply put the circadian clock is our own internal timing device that our body uses. This clock can be modified by the foods we eat and the life we choose.
Typically, during the day our body builds up a natural enzyme, a fancy name for a sleeping pill. This enzyme, adenosine, builds to a peak level typically at night. The higher the level the more sleepy we get. Our body uses this and its natural clock, remember the circadian clock, to say to the brain release melatonin and decrease the bodies core temperature. Our response is Sleep.
The bottom line is we need to keep our circadian clock normal so our bodies get enough REM sleep. To achieve this, a normal routine of going to bed and getting up is ideal. Our adult bodies require 6 to 7 hours a night to be at our peak performance the next day. Only a few of us have a genetic variation that allows us to sleep less than 6 hour and stay healthy. (P.S. sorry moms if you have one of these little genetic wizards in your brood.)
REM sleep usually occurs somewhere in the last 2 to 3 hours. Adolescents require even more sleep 8.5 to 9.25 hours. (see, research of Carskadon et. Al., 1980). Children and infants can require 12 to 14 hours of sleep during early brain development years.
REMEMBER, the amount of restful sleep is meaningless if you don't have a routine pattern so that your inner clock can work. 7 hours of sleep one night starting at 10 pm and then the next night at 3 am is not going to give you restful sleep. The inner clock is established by those old hormones after a week of routine. We're simply not wrist watches that can just be reset. Now having said that, there are a few things we can do to make our bodies recover our inner clock more efficiently.
After a trip overseas - or with this Great Nation's coast to coast travel - the body's circadian clock can be off by 4 - 6 to even 12 hours. This is what we call jet lag. Jet lag occurs in part because our natural clock is off. Our bodies are trying to reset our inner clock.
Some physicians recommend taking oral melatonin, 2-3 hour prior to your normal sleep time in an attempt to quickly reestablish the normal circadian clock. Ideally take a slow release form and go with the lowest dosage 3 mg or less. Recent studies indicate that doses less than 1 mg are sufficient. Don't use melatonin beyond 2 weeks.
Professor Francesco Cappuccio from the University of the Warwick Medical School has presented work which is very interesting. In 2007 Professor Francesco Cappuccio reflected on his research findings stating, "Short sleep has been shown to be a risk factor for weight gain, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes sometimes leading to mortality."
This makes sense when we look at diet and sleep deprivation. Our bodies crave carbohydrates when we are sleep deprived. We are basically looking for fast energy to keep the engine running. Poor fuel is better than no fuel. This leads to obesity, diabetes... and loss of our vitality.
Two separate animal studies have shown clearly that lack of sleep in a 24 hour period leads to decreased immune function and poor wound healing. This makes complete sense when you consider that the 1st stage of wound healing ...
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