Sleep requirements have remained the same for thousands of years, but statistics show that we are sleeping less and less. Genetically, our bodies are about the same as they were thousands of years ago, but our lifestyles have changed. Our ancestors sleep habits coincided with the sun rising and setting. When the sun went down, it was dark, whether one was inside or outside. Also, it was quiet. There were no radios, televisions or automobile sounds.
Along with diet and exercise, getting enough sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Short term effects of a good night’s sleep include: feeling energized and more productive, restoring cognitive functions, maintaining an active memory, increase the odds of living healthy lives and having a better immune system. While asleep, the body’s cells and tissues have the opportunity to recover from the previous day. Many of the body’s major restorative functions occur almost entirely during sleep; including tissue repair, muscle growth, and protein synthesis. Also, sleep is required to maintain normal brain and immune function. In other words, regular quality sleep is essential for good health.
One in five people suffer from insomnia. Some of the causes of insomnia include: stress, nicotine, caffeine, sugar, aging jet lag and shift work. Other causes are related to activities before bedtime, such as television, computer use and late night meals.
Habits that are inductive to a good night’s sleep include: routine relaxing habits, no food or drink (including alcohol), no vigorous exercise before bed time, and short naps during the day. The bedroom should be cool, quiet and dark. Go to bed when tired and turn out the lights. Bedroom activities should be limited to sleep and sex. A comfortable mattress and pillow are also important.
According to Dr. Ray Strand, M.D., researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, monitored blood levels of potent inflammatory mediators and sleep patterns. They found that losing sleep for just a portion of one night is enough to trigger inflammatory disorders. A good nights sleep can undo the effects of the inflammatory response. Do not under value the simple act of going to bed on time.
Circadian rhythms are important in determining human sleeping patterns. When your body clock gets off schedule, certain problems may develop that affect sleep patterns. Circadian rhythm disorders can be caused by many factors. Some of these factors are: shift work, pregnancy, time zone changes, medications and changes in routine. We have lost our natural rhythm of light and darkness.
Normal sleep cycles help us feel more energized, promote healthy immune function and support antioxidant defense. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone made by the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain. Melatonin helps regulate sleep and wake cycles. Melatonin’s job is to help us sleep. By promoting sleep and inactivity, melatonin allows the body’s natural antioxidant defenses to overcome the oxidative stress that accumulated during the days activity. Melatonin also acts as a free-radical scavenger, stimulating the activity of several antioxidant enzyme systems in the body.
Our bodies have internal clocks that control our natural cycle of sleeping and waking hours. In part, our body clock controls how much melatonin our body makes. Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid- to late evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours. Light affects the amount of melatonin your body produces.
Natural melatonin levels slowly drop with age. Some older adults make very small amounts of it or none at all. Melatonin becomes especially important as we age because daily melatonin production cycles stimulate immune cell synthesis and function, a process that naturally declines as we get older. When shopping for a melatonin product, be sure it is of pharmaceutical grade with potency guaranteed. It should not contain any animal ingredients.