We have covered off several ways how food and beverage consumption affect the physiological stress our body experiences. (Missed these tips, follow these links to read: Blog Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3).
Today, we are going to talk about repair as a means to reduce stress on the body. Repairing the body happens when we aren’t using it. Pulling all-nighters, means that your body missed its repair cycle that day, pulling several all-nighters means there is ample damage accumulating, having a lifetime of shortened, light sleep cycles puts you on a rollercoaster of ill repair and illness.
Stress #6: Interrupted Sleep.
We know that for some patients it seems impossible that sleeping through the night would ever happen again – with kids, pets and those hot flashes that surge in the night, it seems like a good 2 – 3 hours in a row is the best one can achieve. As much as this seems impossible, it is really important to try and get into that deep restful REM sleep whenever possible. During REM sleep our body is able to turn off the release of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine (mobilizes the brain and body for action ), serotonin (feelings of well-being and happiness) and histamine (immune response) allowing our receptor system to rest and gain full sensitivity. This restful period allows the body to be restore sensitivity upon waking for mood regulation. Sleep also is beneficial for consolidating and improving memory recall. It is no wonder when women transition through menopause and wake up during the night that their memory is more challenged.
Interrupted sleep doesn’t allow the body to transition through the various stages of sleep, which often means critical activities planned through the night such as hormone regulation and memory consolidation already discussed above, or cell repair get missed in the night. Studies done on sleep deprivation and animals show that in just a few weeks of sleep loss the animal loses its immune function, which results in death.
If you wake up constantly throughout the night, not only do you miss critical periods of healing, but the stress from deprivation impacts the body in many ways from its ability to heal to its ability to function the next day. (Note: watch for future blogs on keys to finding good sleep hygiene)
Stress #7: Too Little Sleep.
The other end of interrupted sleep is too little sleep. Some patients come in getting just a few hours at best. This is often an extreme case of burning the candle at both ends. Humans require 6 – 8 hours of sleep per night to stay healthy. With even 1 – 2 hours less sleep per night, an individual will see impact in their daily functioning. All impacts to your functioning produce unwanted (and unneeded) stress on the body.
I had a colleague that consistently got too little sleep. He would fall asleep in moments of the day when he should be awake, sometimes this happened in the middle of a meeting that he was running! These brief moments of sleep that occur when you are normally awake are referred to as microsleep. Microsleep cannot be controlled, and often the person that is consumed by it doesn’t even know it has just happened. Microsleep through a lecture is one thing; microsleep while driving is a different story. Studies show that being drowsy and driving impacts your ability to react and make good decision as much as having too much too drink and stepping behind the wheel. I don’t know about you, but I hope my pilot or subway driver has had enough sleep each night – and so should you.
Stress #8: Too Much Screen Time/Electromagnetic Frequencies
Our world is now wireless – everything from television signals to the sleep tracker we wear to bed functions using wireless signals that bounce around our room. All that activity that happens constantly between devices and the router can create signals that may feel undetected by you – but are certainly felt in your body.
Do an experiment for me. Tonight, turn off the wireless devices in your bedroom, and plug in your phone/alarm clock in another space. Let me know in the morning if you slept differently. I haven’t had a patient yet that hasn’t told me it affected them.
Screens, light and waves of activity all reduce our ability to fall into deep sleep. Doing something as simple as removing or covering items that bring light into the room, and powering down, or moving frequencies that are in the room can decrease the stress on the body, allowing the brain waves to function at optimal capacity and letting the body transition effectively into deep sleep.
Most people struggle with one aspect of sleep – from too little to often interrupted. Sometimes just knowing that sleep can impact our ability to function the next day can help us to prioritize its importance in our life. Spending an extra hour up doing something can shift the sleep pattern for the full night, whereas going to bed a bit earlier may have you awake fresher and accomplish the same task in just 10-15 minutes.
Don’t underestimate the power of sleep and its impact on reducing stress in the body.
Watch for our last blog as our ten tips to reduce stress continues.
Note: This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed health care worker.
Ellenbogen, J. M., Payne, J. D., & Stickgold, R. (2006). The role of sleep in declarative memory consolidation: passive, permissive, active or none?. Current opinion in neurobiology, 16(6), 716-722.
Siegel, J. M. (2003). Why we sleep. Scientific American, 289(5), 92-97.