“Circadian Rhythms—Are They Important or Not?”
There is a government warning that states that according to the Surgeon General, “the consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems”. This very same statement should be applied to lack of sleep!
Sleep is one of the most poorly understood areas of human behavior. Considering that we spend around one-third of our lives asleep, not taking time to understand its importance is incredible. Sleeping is as essential to good health as food and water.
Human beings are incredibly complex. As a trainer who decodes the patterns that create negative health states, I am often faced with physiological riddles that do not respond to conventional medicine.
The scientific method has created a situation where highly intelligent, well-educated people study a tiny aspect of human function and pursue that same minute area for a lifetime. In following this model, many practitioners have lost sight of the big picture and have created a health care system that does not always understand how to evaluate dysfunction from a holistic standpoint.
So it is with sleep deprivation– which can be the answer to hormonal problems, neck pains, headaches, skin changes, itching, dyslexic behavior, forgetfulness and lack of focus.
It is recommended that we go to bed with the moon and rise with the sun. Some folks criticize this idea as if it were a new religion! The fact is that the later we go to bed, the longer our body will delay releasing melatonin – the hormone that makes us sleepy.
Sleep and Hormones
Just like us, our children can suffer due to our unknowing irresponsibility. In my opinion, children should nap everyday and sleep at least 10-12 hours at night.
If we keep lights bright and televisions on when it is time to start turning off our bodies, our nervous system will actually over-ride our tiring bodies and enact the fight or flight syndrome. This will actually keep us awake longer!
Bright lights activate Cortisol, which ideally is released when we wake up to begin the day. The later you stay up, the more Cortisol that is released to keep you up, and the less time your body has to repair itself while you sleep. To fix this, we should try to return to a “normal” bed time little by little. It can take 7-21 days for the body to get used to your new pattern for healthy living.
Melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep, is activated by darkness; thus, going to sleep with the moon makes sense. Cortisol controls activity level, so if it is out of balance, we can put on excess belly fat. The belly fat is stored for survival reasons. Some fat is important but, naturally, too much is a problem.
The Ideal Sleep Plan
To manage our bodies well, we should try to be in bed from 10:30 PM and we should wake at 6:30 AM or later. These times are not determined by me or anyone else but by nature. From 10:30 PM – 2:30 AM, your body repairs physically. From 2:30 AM – 6:30 AM, the body recovers emotionally, which includes repairing the immune system. This constitutes the famous “eight hours of sleep” you always hear about.
Some folks say they are the portrait of health and vitality with less rest, but they are disconnected from themselves— in effect, numb. If someone said that they didn’t have cancer and had been smoking for years, that would not cause us to smoke and would not be a good argument that smoking doesn’t cause cancer. And so it is with sleep… just because someone else says they can live with less sleep doesn’t mean you should try it.
Individual sleep requirements are unique, but some general trends can be identified. For example, teenagers require much more sleep than adults because of the tremendous changes that are occurring in their bodies. Experts say that teenagers require 9.5 hours of sleep each night.
This is nearly impossible to attain, as school in the United States starts much earlier than in other countries. Teenagers tend to feel very alert late at night and are typically unable to function well early in the morning. The fact that they stay up later and start school earlier constitutes a sleep debt of nearly 3 hours per night (Carskadon).
For the people that work late, it is better to choose a schedule that is steady in time as their body will adapt to stress – and, in such cases, it is a good idea to nap during the day.
Suggestions for Better Sleep:
- Go to bed at 10:30 PM and wake at 6:30 AM for 21 days.
- Begin to dim lights close to bedtime.
- Find time to read peaceful books before bedtime, not gossip magazines.
- Avoid coffee, wine, and other stimulants before bedtime.
- Exercise four hours before bedtime, no later. This will give your body time to calm down.
- Make your room as dark as possible.
- Don’t go to bed hungry.
- www.pzizz.com has an amazing device that will help you nap easily without releasing melatonin, ensuring that you wake up refreshed and not feeling sluggish.
Electromagnetic pollution can be another source of stimulation that prevents sleep. Our bodies have antenna-like tendencies, and can detect electromagnetic waves from microwave ovens and other electronic devices. These waves disrupt hormonal pathways and create disorder inside of us.
In particular, microwave ovens are a convenience that we do not need if health and vitality are our goals. Research shows that food cooked in microwaves can increase cholesterol HDL/LDL ratios, and even create new chemicals that the liver has never seen before! Staying several feet away from the microwave oven while it is functioning will help you avoid some electromagnetic pollution and help avoid the decrease of hemoglobin levels (Baker).
The consumption of foods cooked in the microwaves are pretty much like plastic—they are poised to pollute the body. I remember once when a client told me that we, as humans, could digest plastic. Actually, that is what caused his sluggishness and inflamed body!
Microwave ovens are an additional form of stress to the body. It damages and poisons cells, depletes the nutrition from your food and leaves you feeling tired. Many people use microwave ovens to heat babies’ food and bottles, then complain that their babies won’t sleep – it’s likely to be because of their over-stimulated food.
Consider that our ancestors cooked with fire and never encountered this new stress that microwave ovens have added to our lives. Did you know that taking time to cook or heat up your food is a step of digestion? Our mouths water in response to hunger or when you think of something good that you want to eat. Skipping the step of waiting for your food to warm could actually cause you to miss a step of digestion—anticipation!
There are several sources of electromagnetic fields that have been linked to health problems and interruption of sleep. These include but are not limited to:
- Cellular communication transmission towers
- Power lines of all types
- Electric water beds
- Visual display terminals (VDTs)
- Mobile telephones
- Domestic microwave cookers
- Electric blankets
- Medical equipment including x-rays, CT and MRI scans
- In-floor/wall central heating systems
- Domestic electrical wiring
- Radio and television transmission towers
So take the time to give yourself one of the biggest advantages to peak performance – powering up your Circadian rhythms by getting good sleep each night.
Dement, W.C. and C.Vaughan. The Promise of Sleep. Delacorte Press, 1999.
Carskadon, M.A., A. R. Wolfson, C. Acebo, O. Tzischinsky and R. Seifer. “Adolescent sleep patterns, circadian timing, and sleepiness at a transition to early school days.” Sleep 21.8. (1998): 871-881.
Becker, Robert and Selden, Gary. The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life. (Paperback-July 22, 1998)
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About The Author:
The author, Migdoel “DIO” Miranda, B.S., CMT of Dio Fitness, is an authority on optimizing peak performance at any age through accessing one’s inner athlete, metabolic nutrition and personalized training routines. He works with amateur and professional competitive athletes, celebrities and health-conscious people who desire to enjoy life more through healthy commitments. Dio believes that getting out of the gym is a key to life-long fitness. Visit his website at www.diofitness.com .