Wake Up! The Truth About Sleep… It’s Not Overrated! (Part 1)

By Jon P. Frieda, VP Marketing
and Sales for Neels Pharmacy

As we move from spring into the summer months, the days are longer, the temperatures are warmer, and many of us stay up later in the evening. No doubt, these seasons are more expansive than the fall and winter months that are conversely more contractive. But as a wise old scholar of Chinese medicine once said to me, “How we got to where we are today is a direct reflection of where we have been.” In other words, how we are in this season is a reflection of what we did or did not do in the previous season. With this in mind, it is important to maintain a healthy sleep/wake cycle all year round. If you are interested, read on.

In many ways, sleep is no different than diet and exercise. If you have a poor diet and a lethargic lifestyle, then you should have no problem identifying the risk factors to your health that will increase your likelihood of experiencing weight gain and developing heart disease, several types of cancer, low energy, loss of muscle, brain fog, irritability, and more. The same goes for sleep. In fact, diet, exercise, and sleep are all independent and interdependent upon one another in that all three enable the body to stay healthy by helping it to produce energy and repair itself. So, let’s explore this relationship from the sleep perspective in more intimate detail.

Believe it or not, poor sleep hygiene over a short period of time can increase stress and promote inflammation, and have a significant influence over a prolonged period of time on disease states like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and stroke. Along with proper diet, and regular exercise, sleep helps to keep your heart healthy. Statistically, did you know that heart attacks and strokes are more common during the early morning hours? This fact may be explained by the way that sleep interacts with the blood vessels of the body. Poor sleep, even over a short period of time, has been linked with increased blood pressure and cholesterol, which are primary risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Sleep can help to prevent cancer. At some point you may have heard of the dietary supplement melatonin being recommended as a sleep aid. Known as “the hormone of darkness”, light exposure reduces your body’s level of melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy and is thought to protect the body against cancer. Melatonin is a primary regulator of the immune system and a powerful anti-oxidant. Anti-oxidants are pro-immune system, anti-aging and anti-cancer. Melatonin has been clinically shown to inhibit cancer cell growth, and can directly reduce the survival of many different types of tumor cells.

Sleep can help to reduce stress. When your body is sleep deprived, it puts increased stress on your nervous system, cardiovascular system, endocrine system and immune system. But is it stress that is causing you to get poor sleep, or is it poor sleep that is causing you to become more stressed? The answer to both of these questions is yes. When the body becomes stressed, the body’s functions go into a state of high alert which causes an increase in blood pressure, a primary risk factor for heart attack and stroke, and a release of the stress hormones cortisol, growth hormone, and norepinephrine from the endocrine system. Unfortunately, stress hormones trigger the “fight or flight” response, which increases the heart rate and keeps the body in an elevated state of alertness, ultimately affecting sleep patterns. And so, not getting good sleep can stress the body, and putting the body under increased levels of stress can affect sleep.

Not surprisingly, a good night sleep makes you feel more alert the next day. Sleep allows you to be more active and engaged in your day, and narrows the gap between mental perception and reality. When you wake up feeling refreshed, you will have more energy to burn as sleep is the time during which your body undergoes the restorative processes and “recharges your battery”. Figuratively speaking, your car may have a full tank of gas, but with a dead battery it will not run. The same goes for your body. You may eat sufficiently throughout the day, but without proper sleep, your food will not be properly digested, and you will consistently have low energy throughout the day.

Sleep is absolutely essential for the body’s health and wellbeing, and yet millions of Americans do not get sufficient sleep or suffer from insomnia or chronic lack of sleep. For example, statistics indicate that approximately forty million Americans suffer from over seventy different types of sleep disorders, and that about sixty percent of adults report having sleep problems two nights a week or more. In addition, approximately sixty-nine percent of children experience sleep problems or disruption two nights a week or more. Most of these problems are related to stress and emotions, and often go undiagnosed and untreated. Therefore, in the following July article, we will expand on the importance of sleep by focusing on sleep techniques, and methods of promoting relaxation and stress reduction in preparation for a good night sleep. Sleep well my friends!

Look for Part 2 of “The Truth About Sleep” in the July edition of The Healthy Planet magazine. You can contact Neels Pharmacy at 314-849-3123 or visit them at #8 Crestwood Executive Center, Crestwood MO 63126.