Sleep makes up one-third of our life on earth. Why is it that sleep is so important that we need it as much as air, water and food? I’d like to start this article with a philosophical view on sleep.
“Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.” -Shakespeare
I think the quote from Shakespeare above is a great anchor to settle into. Why does he use the word care, instead of labors, struggles or endeavours? I think the word care is most appropriate because it covers the full and subtle realm of life. There is some form of “care” that we all face together each day of our lives. This care; makes us go through the process of preparation for an everlasting and uncertain future. We trade this moment to prepare for greater things or we live in the moment because it is more precious than a “better future”. Either way each and every one of us has a “care”. Care is the place of our work, our play and everything in between, either for others or ourselves-throughout the endless possibilities of our lives. It makes us row hard against the waves of the day as to make the outcome of the future more possible or timely. We give effort to such an extent we need to sleep one-third of our time throughout our lives on earth- “The death of each day, sore labour’s bath”.
What is interesting though, is that our brain never sleeps. Our body gets to rest but not our brains. While we sleep our brain will fluctuate in electrical activity and reach levels that are on the same intensity as being awake. Even though our muscles relax and our blood pressure and body temperature drop -the electrical activity of our brain is still humming. We go through different levels of sleep from shallow to deep and we experience this as our dream life. What is the purpose of this? Why do we and our fellow beings sleep. Dolphins can stay awake for days by having one hemisphere (half of the brain) sleeping while other hemisphere guides them through the day. Giraffes and the American Bullfrogs have the same abilities to defy sleep. It is a mystery we live with our whole lives. Why does nature find it so important to us?
When we have problems with our sleep it is a health problem but its causes are varied. A sleep problem can be a challenged blood sugar regulation problem that can lead to diabetes. It can be a “sleep hygiene” issue where we are not doing our work to create sleep success. It can be a stressed endocrine system that can finally regulate itself at night and disrupt our sleep. It can be a vitamin deficiency, metabolism problem, sleep apnea, or life crisis. As you can see, there are various causes that can affect our sleep. It is paramount to realize that sleep is an indicator to our overall health and is as fundamental as food and water.
OK, so what do you do about it?
Well, first of all, you can have a sleep study done. Many sleep issues are found with a sleep study. However, if a sleep problem is found this way it is generally treated with a cpap machine. The question of why you need the machine is focused on the fact that you have an obstruction. The machine will force air in to make up for a collapsed airway when you inhale. I have seen people have a new lease on life with the machine and some who cannot use it. A question to consider is why do you need one now and how did the “obstruction” come into being? What is the nature of the “obstruction”?
If the last paragraph did not answer your questions regarding sleep, continue reading.
If you can’t fall asleep or you can fall asleep and not stay asleep you may have a sleep hygiene issue, vitamin deficiency, functional endocrine problem, or a blood sugar issue.
How do you prepare yourself for sleep? If you cannot answer this, then this may be the key to better sleep. You have to prepare for sleep. Now, before the advent of electric light, we would start our sleep when it became dark. We had no TV, telephones, email etc.., we had candle light and fire. This means stop the screen time an hour before you plan to fall asleep. If you try to catch up a busy day with emails, news, text and calls your brain cannot slow down. In addition, the artificial light from the screens alters the pineal, pituitary and the brain, which are the major agents that start the process of sleep. It is best to read a book rather than read from a screen. Books on tape, or audiobooks can be used as well. Biographies of people that interest you are the best as they are easy to put down. Walking after dinner, yoga, meditation, prayer, breathing exercises and visualization exercises also work well.
Your endocrine system is involved in your sleep and is the most vulnerable to nutrient deficiencies, which includes vitamins. Your pituitary and pineal glands are part of your endocrine system. The endocrine systems make, distribute, control and are controlled by powerful hormones that can drastically alter your biology. Though they can release powerful hormones they are our most delicate organs. The B vitamins are a significant block to the foundations of endocrine function and health. The B vitamins are the necessary cogs to generate energy for our cells. When we start to have a decline in our B vitamins our body will compensate with stimulating the endocrine system. This will stress the thyroid, adrenals and the gonadal organs. With a stress endocrine system it is hard for the body to manage all stresses and it will affect the sleep process.
It is with great apprehension to that I will state that our culture is deficient in B vitamins. The reason for my apprehension is the misunderstanding that will ensue. In the US we have most of our staple foods enriched with B vitamins. We even have access to many supplements that are delivered in mega doses of B vitamins. You can try taking a supplement of B vitamins. I would suggest you get the full complement of the Bs. Do not look for a supplement that only has one or a few. You need B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, Folic in the supplement. You can try this for one month and see how you do.
You may be taking them now and you still have sleep issues, and yet, you may still have a B vitamin deficiency. I did warn you about the ensuing misunderstanding! My reasoning behind this idea is that the food manufacturers that make our staples and the majority of vitamin companies use synthetic sources and processes to make B vitamins. The best source of B vitamins is direct from nature. This is hard to come by in the US. You can supplement with either liver (ew!) or bakers and brewers yeast (TBLS/day). Try this source and check results. The best supplement companies that I am currently aware of is Standard Process and Biotics for the best natural source of B vitamins.
Blood Sugar Issues:
The human body finds it paramount to have an efficient and responsive blood sugar. The blood is the conveyer belt and the cells are the depots. From our foods to the cells there is an elaborate yet direct process that brings energy to life. Our nervous system cannot use the storage sights of fat for fuel. Our brain, spinal cord and nerves need to get the glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream. If the levels are low our nerve cells can die and when it is too high our brain cells can die as well. The regulation of our blood sugar is managed throughout our bodies, but the key players are the liver, muscles, heart, brain, pancreas and adrenal glands.
Your sleep problem could be the beginning of metabolic syndrome. Your body will lose the ability to properly maintain blood sugar levels. These levels may dive deep in the night waking you up to eat. This will tie into having your cortisol (stress hormone) levels elevate making it easier to wake up at night. You may fall asleep but you can’t stay asleep! You can see if this is the problem to maintaining your sleep by having fresh juice by your bed with no added sugars; when you awake at night you simply drink the juice and see if it is easier to sleep. If it is easier to fall back asleep after drinking the juice your blood sugar regulation is off or your cortisol levels are not staying low.
If this is the case it is best to see your doctor and run a blood glucose tolerance test, as well as, have your cortisol levels checked with saliva or dry urine testing. Having this looked out sooner may lead to great health later. If it is not the case it can be a B vitamin deficiency
Sleep is the “chief nourisher in life’s feast”. It resets the body to make the best adaptations to the next day. Great sleep is the balm and the best guide to show you you are in tune with nature and hearing the song of the spheres.