by Adam Soyars
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” We have all heard it. Heck, we’ve all probably used it. Most of us have worn it like a badge of honor that deserved adoration.
I want to let you in on a secret: that cultural adage is dead. Ironically, it passed in its sleep, and here is what put it in the grave: obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, stress, Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, cancer, anger, and depression.
In healthcare, especially when viewed through a functional medicine lens, the flames of chronic disease are almost always ignited by lifestyle and habit. Sleep is one lever that, when pulled, will positively influence virtually every pillar of health.
Sleep is a biological necessity. My goal is to convince you that sleep is worth prioritizing and to hold it sacred. Improving your sleep quality will improve your life now and into your future.
Let’s learn a little about sleep.
This is our personal, internal, 24-hour clock. It designates our sleep-wake timing and is synchronized by daily environmental signals. Circadian rhythm aligns our sleep-wake cycles with day (activity) and night (restorative rest). Stable circadian rhythm is essential to health because it coordinates many mental and physical systems throughout the body. [PMID: 26600101].
Our circadian clock is sensitive to and responds to light . Morning light exposure generates alertness and signals the body to be awake and active. During the evening, as natural light fades, circadian rhythm initiates the release of the hormone Melatonin. Melatonin primes our body for sleep. Exposure to light in the evening disrupts Melatonin signaling.
Sleep Pressure is a homeostatic mechanism that makes us feel sleepy. It is primarily mediated through a chemical called Adenosine. Throughout the day, Adenosine accumulates in our body and drives the feeling of sleepiness. The act of sleep is a release valve that clears Adenosine from the receptors. With adequate sleep, you wake feeling rested.
Stay tuned: next issue we’ll have more on the many benenfits of sleep!