Sleep: Top Priority For Your Health

What is the most productive action you can take for your health?

What is the most productive action you can take for your health? Most people would probably not answer “sleep more”. We have grown to think of time spent “just sleeping” as unproductive time, but in actuality, scientists have discovered that our brains are just as busy at night, if not busier, than they are during the day. So what are our brains and bodies so busy doing while we are “resting”?

What is the most productive action you can take for your health?

When you power down from the day, your body actually goes to “work” by repairing and regenerating overnight. By getting the right quantity and more importantly, the right quality of sleep, you empower your body to promote physical healing, mental acuity, and even improve your psychological health by allowing the brain to attend to other areas of the body that might need some help. Proper sleep might just be the most holistic thing you can do for your overall health and wellness.


Rest and regeneration for better overall health:

During sleep, your body goes to work repairing the “armor” that protects your body every day—your immune system. In your brain there are immune cells called microglia that are known for fighting infections, repairing damage and reorganizing the connection between nerve cells. A recent study found that microglia are primarily active during sleep. In addition, the body also produces white blood cells at a higher rate during sleep, boosting the body’s immune system and making it better equipped to fight viruses and bacteria.

In the deeper stages of sleep, your brain signals your body to lower your blood pressure, slow down your breathing and relax your muscles. Your brain then floods your body with growth hormones and works on tissue growth, blood vessel repair and muscle development. At the same time, the brain is also better able to regulate “stress hormones” like cortisol.

Improving your sleep will also go a long way to improving your brain health. During sleep, your body goes into detox mode. When you sleep, your brain increases the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid flushes out the harmful waste proteins that build up in the brain cells. (1) Getting rid of these and other toxins may even help decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Let’s appreciate how truly amazing it is that all of these critical functions are being re-balanced and repaired during a time we normally associate with “nothing happening over here” Your body is the most advanced “machine” ever created. All you have to do is set yourself up for success by making small changes to improve your quality and quantity of sleep. Not always easy to do in today’s world, but the return on investment is priceless.


How much sleep do you really get?

So now you know just how important sleep is to feeling great and performing better on a daily basis. But one obstacle we may face is our own perception of how much sleep we need and whether we are even close to getting the right amount of shut eye each night. This is because human beings are really terrible at estimating how much sleep they actually get. Most of us either overestimate or underestimate our hours of sleep, scientists say. (3) Those who get the least amount of sleep overestimate their time sleeping the most! Even if we have an accurate picture of how much sleep we need, the next obstacle is making sure that the hours of sleep we’re getting are of good quality, and consistency over time.


Quality Control: How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Not only is it important to get enough hours of sleep, it also matters how much time you spend in what is referred to as “deep sleep” also known as “delta sleep” or “slow-wave sleep”. It is during deep sleep, that glucose metabolism increases and the pituitary gland secretes human growth hormones and other hormones that restore energy, regenerate cells, increase blood supply to the muscles, promote growth and repair of bones and tissues and strengthen your immune system.

Most adults need 7-9 hours of solid sleep a night. If you are not hitting this mark there are some simple things you can do to improve the quantity and quality of your sleep:

  • Have a consistent bedtime schedule, going to sleep and waking at the same time each day.
  • Limit clutter, noise, and light in the bedroom.
  • Exercise, but not right before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine nicotine and alcohol late in the day.
  • Keep your bedroom a comfortable, slightly cool temperature.
  • Get your brain prepped by starting the relaxation process at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Try putting away the phone and picking up an old book; or closing your eyes and listening to some music.
  • Limit blue light from electronics before bed.

Want to know if you’re getting the right quantity and quality of sleep to feel your best every day? Let our Genesis coaches give you a complimentary coaching session to assess your sleep habits, and make recommendations on how you can improve this critical area of your life…starting tonight!


The Caveman had it Right: Our body’s Internal Clock

The Caveman Had it Right: Our Body’s Internal Clock

Modern man, in the grand scheme of evolution, is but a blip on the radar, yet for some reason we think we can outsmart millions of years of human development without any consequences. Just as the sun balances the moon and day balances night, so must we live in balance with these rhythms in order to really achieve optimal health. Here is where I believe the caveman had it right.

Before mankind was motivated by deadlines and enslaved by technology 24/7, the caveman worked during daylight hours and slept when it was dark outside. This simple concept is now what’s known as the Circadian rhythm, or the body’s daily cycle. Just as earth would be greatly impacted if the sun never set, or if it was always night, when we as humans are disconnected from the earth’s natural patterns, we disrupt and confuse our bodies on a deeply physiological level. While this schedule might sound archaic and out of touch with the demands of modern life, following the caveman’s lead could actually lead you to your best life

Circadian rhythm disruption impacts sleep, hunger, and energy. Dr. Satchin Panda is a leading scientist in Circadian studies. For years, he has examined how molecules, genes, and cells keep the body on the same circadian clock. He discovered that, “a section of the hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) lies at the center of the body’s master clock and gets input directly from light sensors in the eyes, keeping the rest of the body on schedule.” Dr. Panda has drawn a connection between how these light sensors pick up on the blue light found in mobile devices, and the impact it has on our sleep. Simply put, when our bodies sense light, albeit artificial, it is sending a message to your brain that it’s not yet time to rest.

Dr. Panda also found links between disruption of our Circadian rhythms and weight gain, inflammation, and cancer. Ultimately, Panda’s research concludes that unbalanced circadian rhythms have lasting effects on health and specifically sleep.

So, can looking back to “caveman days” actually propel us forward to a better way of living? The great news is yes! You have the power to reset your internal body clock. First, we must look at our behavior and how we define “productivity.” Many “productive” people get tons of work done at night; we respond to emails, catch up on marketing strategies, surf social media, and obsess over our calendars. But what many don’t realize is that this very practice of “productivity” reaps negative rewards. The junk light, or dirty electricity, that is expelled through phones, laptops, or tablets is your body’s primary enemy when it comes to circadian rhythm regulation, nighttime metabolic functioning, and healthy sleep. You see, the body has two specific operating systems: AM functions and PM functions. When it is light outside, your body has a checklist of things to do that differ from its nighttime checklist. If we allow ourselves to be surrounded by light, even when the sun has gone down, our PM mode will be disrupted and health and vitality are negatively impacted.

The good news is that you can reset your circadian rhythms with a few simple alterations to your daily routine. I think of it as wake up, get up, power down, wind down:

1) Wake up, Get up: Follow the patterns of natural light; when the sun rises, so do you. Intentionally expose your eyes to the natural light as a way of alerting your body that it’s time to wake up.
2) Power Down, Wind Down: While not everyone will be able to go to sleep at sundown, start winding down by eliminating those external “messages” in your environment that tell your body it’s still daytime. For example, eliminate artificial “junk light” by powering down the television, computers, cell phones, harsh lights, and other electronic stimuli. Avoid eating late at night which revs your body up rather that winding it down. Create new habits by finding relaxing activities such as listening to music, jotting down some daily reflections, or meditating.

You’ll sleep better at night and feel better during the day. Pretty simple, right? The caveman would agree, but then again he had it right all along.