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The Necessity of Sleep

For as essential as it is to our well being, sleep was largely a mystery until the 20th century, when scientific equipment became capable of measuring its effects on the body and brain. Studies have documented the various benefits of sleep, but the most prominent plus is that sleep is the time each day for our bodies to recover from all that we put them through. Every animal must sleep in order to go through this regenerative phase– even certain varieties of sharks that must stay in constant motion to keep oxygenated water in their gills can still manage “sleep” by turning off sections of their brains at a time.

Sleep and hormones:

“Sleeping like a baby” should indeed be envied as an adult: babies less than 12 months require 14-18 hours of sleep each day. During deep sleep, higher levels of human growth hormones (hGH) are released from the pituitary gland, making it possible for the body to heal more quickly. Kids go through the ringer in their first few months of life: development, learning how to move muscles and limbs, crawling, walking, and so on. Because of how much growth they’re going through, it’s no wonder that they need to spend 75% of their days snoozing away.

It was assumed that after adolescence, hGH stopped being needed for many functions in a matured body, but in truth, adults still greatly benefit from this natural encounter with hGH, using these hormones to repair damage induced by any form of active lifestyle, and keeping their tissues “young”; “Recent evidence suggests… that human growth hormone (hGH) is involved in many physiological processes throughout life, including the turnover of muscle, bone and collagen, the regulation of fat metabolism and the maintenance of a healthier body composition in later life.” – http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/human-growth-hormone.html (This article has more information on how hGH can relate to body weight and muscle mass.) In adults, this restorative hormone will still be released in its highest concentration during deep sleep, so be sure to get anywhere from 6-8 hours of rest a night.

Sleep and the brain:

Sounds like a children’s cartoon series, doesn’t it?

Several studies have proven the positive effect sleep has on brain function, creativity, memory, and the capacity to absorb information. In one study done in 1988, half of a group was deprived of sleep for 32 hours, then had to complete a series of verbal and figural tests—the half that was kept awake had “severe and persistent impairments in their performance”.  Home, J.A. (1988) Sleep loss and “divergent” thinking ability. Sleep: Journal of Sleep Research & Sleep Medicine 11;6, pp. 528–536

Think that sleep is wasted time? Not so. Here are a few anecdotes related to the power of sleep and the creative process:

  • Jack Nicklaus had a dream that allowed him to correct his golf swing
  • Paul McCartney discovered the tune for the song “Yesterday” in a dream
  • Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s “Frankenstein” was inspired by a dream
  • Otto Loewi, a German physiologist, won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1936 for his work on the chemical transmission of nerve impulses. He discovered in a dream how to prove his theory

Sleep and immune system:

Have you ever noticed that when you’ve got a cold, all you want out of life is a blanky, a cup of hot cocoa, and a 17 hour nap? That’s because sleep directly correlates with the integrity of our immune systems. When the immune system is deprived of sleep, it results in a 20% drop of white blood cells, making our bodies more susceptible to colds, infections, and overall compromised health. So take your body’s request and get some shut-eye when you’re feeling under the weather; quality sleep is one of the fastest ways to get a cold out of your system!

Sleep and dreams:

While not everyone can remember them, it’s been confirmed that everyone dreams during the Rapid Eye Movement (R.E.M.) portion of the sleep cycle. Theories abound as to the purpose of dreams, ranging from the spiritual, the philosophical, the biological, the psychological, even the humorous! Dreams have been shown to improve long-term and semantic memory capacity, and even act as a “defragmenter”, cleaning our brains of random information that wasn’t fully processed during waking hours.

Renowned psychologists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung pioneered dream interpretation, assigning meaning to the images, senses, and thoughts in our dreams. The most widely accepted interpretation of dreams is that they are expressions of the wants and desires buried in our subconsciousness, and if analyzed, can provide insight and closure into our deep-seated and sometimes repressed emotions. Dreams, in a sense, give us a safe space to try on a more daring persona or experience freedoms we may not ordinarily feel. For example, dreaming of flying usually relates to the feeling of freedom and liberation– perhaps you’re getting out of an unhealthy relationship, or advancing in your job.

Here are some fun factoids about dreams:

  • a small portion of people claim to only dream in black and white rather than full color
  • negative emotions in dreams are far more common than positive ones
  • an “oneironaut” is someone that can dream lucidly and actually control the characters, themes, and plot of their dreams
  • deja vu is sometimes thought of as reliving a portion of a forgotten dream, usually triggered by similar emotions or details of a location

Sleep and chiropractic:

A chiropractic approach to sleep disorders is simple: restore the correct nerve function, and the body will do the rest. As each organ, muscle, structure, and gland in our bodies receives the information of how it is to perform from the nervous system, it stands to reason that if that information is interrupted, the organ/muscle/structure/gland will not be able to perform at 100%. What does this mean for sleep-related diseases? The nerves that transmit the information to the gland needed for healthy and restorative sleep (the pituitary gland) are influenced most heavily by the first vertebra in the body: C1, or the atlas. A chiropractor will target this area, as well as any other sections that could be causing C1 to get “out of whack” with specific adjustments to ensure that all vertebrae are in their correct locations, in essence “taking the foot off the running garden hose” and allowing the pituitary gland to work as well as it possibly can.

Another helpful tool the we have at our disposal at Access To Health is a product from the Orenda line called “O-Tropin”: a supplement that is designed to work exclusively with the pituitary gland to balance all of the hormones it secretes. For more information on this product, please visit http://www.orendainternational.com./content.asp?page_id=12

While getting chiropractic care, it is important to maintain consistent sleep patterns to allow the body time to heal. Once nerve function has been restored, it can be its most effective when the body is resting and not under any form of stimulation. All power is rerouted (if you will) to “repair mode”, allowing for less pain (if any) and faster results.

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