Everyone loves a good sleep. Whether its sleeping for a solid 12 hours or a simple half hour nap in the afternoon, we’ve all been there. But why do we sleep? And do we understand just how much our sleep really affects us?

Sleep serves many purposes and having proper sleep provides us with many benefits. While we are sleeping our body is in what’s called a parasympathetic state. This is when your body is in a relaxed mode in which all background and automatic processes are priority. This state is also referred to as your rest and digest state. During this state, your body will focus its energy on digesting your food, restoring lost or damaged tissues, filtering blood and fluids to balance your body’s chemistry and restore function. While most of these processes also occur while you are awake, they are most efficient and effective while you are asleep – due to your body not focusing on anything else, such as work, exercise, or other day to day activities. One process, in particular, is the clearing of a by-product called adenosine. Scientists believe that the buildup of adenosine throughout the day is what causes the feeling of being tired and while we sleep the body clears this substance and we are able to feel more alert the next day.

Research shows that the major restorative processes like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly or only occur during sleep. We’ve all heard that adequate rest is just as important as training when it comes to building muscle and maintaining performance. This is due to these restorative processes mainly occurring in our slumber. Top-level athletes like LeBron James or Roger Federer get roughly 12 hours of sleep every night. Their performance levels are so high that they require much more recovery.

Another function of sleep is the buildup of memory and storage of information in the brain. When we take in the information it is not instantly stored in our memory. While we sleep our brain processes information from the day and creates connections with other areas of the brain to store important information so that it is ready to access when needed, and discards things that are less important to us. Good sleep is also vital for people who are studying, or undergoing intensive learning so that the brain has a chance to store what is required for later recall.

It is especially important to consider how much sleep our children are getting too. As they are growing up they are constantly taking in information about the world around them, and their bodies are also growing and developing at a rapid rate. Given that all the developmental processes are most effective in sleep, ensure your child is getting the right amount of sleep to allow for healthy cognitive as well as physical function.

If we are not getting enough sleep, all these aforementioned functions and processes are not carried out the way they should be and will limit the way our body performs day to day. We all know that we feel great after a good night’s sleep, and following poor sleep, we feel sluggish, unfocused, and unmotivated.

Now that we have a decent understanding of why we sleep and how important it is for our health and well-being, how do we get the most out of slumbering hours?

First and foremost, we must ensure our central/autonomic nervous system is running efficiently by being free of Subluxation. I mentioned above that sleep is a function of the parasympathetic nervous system, but when the nervous system is Subluxated it gets stuck in a sympathetic state AKA fight or flight response. This leaves the brain in a wired, survival state which directly inhibits the restorative functions required for sleep. Chiropractic has been shown to improve the function and activity of the Parasympathetic nervous system, allowing the body to rest and repair fair more efficiently. If you haven’t already, make sure to schedule a consult at The Wellness Collective where we use state of the art technology to accurately measure the balance between these two branches of the nervous system.

As with a lot of human habits, you will get better results if sleep is a prioritized routine. By practicing good sleep hygiene, we can optimize and get more from our slumber. Going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time in the morning will help your body anticipate the time for rest and recovery meaning it will be in the appropriate state to carry out its functions more efficiently when the time comes. Having a pre-bed routine will also help the body to get into a more sleep-ready state. More sleep is not always what you need, we know that oversleeping can be just as draining as undersleeping, especially if all that sleep is poor quality. Aim for consistent 7-8 hours of sleep for adults and 8-10 hours for kids and teenagers. You may find it tough at first, but if you can stick to this for 1-2 weeks you will find it much easier to fall asleep at night as well as get up in the morning.

Keep screen time to a minimum in the evening and avoid using your devices at least 1-2 hours before you go to bed. The light exposure from screens has a huge effect on how our brains work and prepare for sleep and how our brain shifts into the deeper stages of sleep such as REM and SWS, where the body heals and restores itself. Blue light triggers a wakeful response by the brain and body and is produced by screens such as phones, computers, iPad, TVs, and even household lighting. When we are exposed to more orange light, such as that of the sunset or campfire our bodies produce melatonin and move toward the sleep state. If we are exposing ourselves to blue light through technology in the evening, we are inhibiting and sleep response and may find it difficult to get to sleep or to get good quality sleep.

Simple ways to mitigate this are to avoid this effect of technology are to:

  1. Avoid the use of devices 1-2 hours before bed and leave the phone out of the bedroom so you don’t look at it in the middle of the night, disrupting your sleep.
  2. Add blue light filters such as Flux, Iris Tech, or Apple’s ‘Nightshift mode’ to your devices. These filters are timed with the sunrise/sunset to add an orange tint to your screens, reducing your blue light exposure in the evenings.
  3. Wear blue light blocking glasses. You can buy glasses (prescription or non-prescription) that filter out certain frequencies of blue light. You can buy clear lenses for general day to day/early evening, and/or a pair of darker orange lenses for closer to bedtime, allowing you to facilitate your body’s sleep response. The brand I would recommend is Blue Blox Sleep + model which can be bought here:

https://www.blublox.com/collections/blue-light-glasses

  1. Exposing yourself to natural blue light from the sunrise as soon as you can after waking is also a good way to trigger the wakeful response which kickstarts the circadian rhythm for the day, allowing your body clock to be more synchronized with the day.

Avoid staying up late. Hours of sleep before midnight have been shown to be of greater quality than hours after. Also, try to rise with the sun or soon after. Before the introduction of artificial lighting, all we had to tell us when and when not to sleep was the rise and fall of the sun – our bodies are designed to work in these cycles.

Reserve your bed for sleeping and sex. By not working, watching TV, or using your computer in bed, your brain will associate the bedroom with just sleep and sex and make it easier to wind down at night.

These are our top tips for improving sleep either as an adult or for your kiddos! If you need any more info or would like to get yourself or your kiddo’s nervous system checked please don’t hesitate to reach out!

References

A. Green et al. Evening light exposure to computer screens disrupts human sleep, biological rhythms, and attention abilitiesChronobiology International. Vol. 34, May 26, 2017, p. 855. doi: 10.1080/07420528.2017.1324878.

Porkka-Heiskanen T. 1999. Adenosine in sleep and wakefulness. Annals of Medicine. 31:125-129.

Frank MG. 2006. The mystery of sleep function: current perspectives and future directions. Reviews in the Neurosciences. 17:375-392.