Friday, February 17, 2017

The ABCs of Good Zzzzzs

A new report from the National Sleep Foundation lists these key indicators of healthy sleep habits: sleeping at least 85% of the total time spent in bed; falling asleep within 30 minutes or less; waking up no more than once a night and being awake for 20 minutes or less after initially falling asleep.

Foundation researchers said that 27% of people take longer than 30 minutes, on average, to fall asleep.
Corresponding author Dr. Maurice Ohayon said, “In the past, we defined sleep by its negative outcomes, including sleep dissatisfaction, which were useful for identifying underlying pathology. Clearly, this is not the whole story. With this initiative, we are now on a better course toward defining sleep health.”

Ohayon is director of the Stanford Sleep Epidemiology Research Center in Palo Alto, Calif.

My Take:
I like this approach – let’s define the parameters of health rather than just look for pathology. However, to say this report is oversimplified is an understatement.

Sleep occurs in a rhythmic pattern with four phases. When we first fall asleep (Phase 1) we begin to dream. You may experience some body movement during this phase as your brain stimulates various muscles in response to the dream scenario. This phase lasts just a few minutes followed by Phase 2. In Phase 2 we sleep a little deeper and continue to dream, again just for a few minutes. In Phase 3 dreaming stops and true restorative sleep begins. During the first sleep cycle of the night, this phase is also short and we quickly move into Phase 4. Like Phase 3, Phase 4 is deep, deep sleep and very restorative for the body. About 90 minutes into the first cycle, we move quickly back through Phases 3, then 2, then 1 and briefly awaken.

If you are a healthy sleeper, then you return to Phase 1, through Phase 2 and into Phase 3 without even being aware that you woke. During this second sleep cycle you spend the majority of your time in Phase 3. Again, this is very restorative for the body. Then about 90 minutes into the second cycle, you move back through Phases 2, then 1 and briefly awaken.

The rest of the night is spent in Phase 1 and 2 where the dreams support healthy brain function. The first two cycles, spanning 3 hours, are all the physical body needs. The rest of the night is needed for mental health.
So each cycle begins and ends in the dream state. In other words, we always fall asleep dreaming and always awaken from a dream.

If you stay awake between any cycle for more than 20 minutes that is defined as maintenance insomnia. This is an indicator for adrenal fatigue. High cortisol production from the adrenal glands is often the cause although there are many causes of high cortisol.

If you take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, that is defined as onset insomnia. Typically, this is a more serious issue that maintenance insomnia. Onset insomnia has been associated with adrenal failure.

The Bottom Line:
Health sleep habits are essential to good health and are one of the most important indicators of health as well. When evaluating the endocrine system the two questions I always ask: How well do you sleep? How’s your libido? So ask yourself: How well do you sleep? How’s your libido? If you don’t like your answers, or think I wouldn’t like them, seek nutritional advise.

Source: January 31, 2017 National Institutes of Health

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