Regularity is probably the most important aspect of good sleep hygiene. The last hour before bed, try and stay away from screens and shut off half the lights in the house. We sleep better when the environment is cool. Not a loud jazz bar cool. Temperature wise cool. We evolved in caves. My computer’s CPU started to run very hot and it’s function speed slowed down because of that. Our brains were the original CPU and they work better when kept cool. Dig? Personally I don’t like to be cold when falling asleep, but I’m told I’m different in all kinds of ways. A hot bath vasodilates our blood vessels. That lets the heat from our core escape. That is why a warm/hot bath helps people to fall asleep. A drop in temperature is a signal to the brain to sleep. Probably because when we were hunter gathers it got cold at night.
Midnight means the middle of the night. Thanks to electricity we don’t know when the middle of the night is. We are dislocated from our natural rhythms. Midnight is now a good time to go out and party. Hunter gatherers have biphasic sleep. Some tribes will sleep for 6 hours and then take a siesta in the afternoon. Most countries have a siesta. Not America. We actually produce less after a heavy lunch. Even if they skip lunch they still get a need to sleep that is not allowed to be obeyed in our society.
People that say life is short or I don’t have time to sleep are going to die sooner. Less sleep is a very accurate indicator of your mortality. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan both bragged that they functioned well on 5 hours of sleep. Maybe it is a coincidence that they both wound up with Alzheimer’s?
We make best use of time by being awake less. Wakefullness causes a low level of brain damage. Sleep offers a reparative function. A lack of sleep seems to be the most important determining factor on whether you will develop Alzheimer’s or not. Shift workers have higher rates of obesity, diabetes and cancer. The World Health Organization considers any kind of night time work to be a carcinogen. People that work the night shifts eat less healthy food. The two hormones that control your appetite and weight are Leptin and Ghrelin. Leptin tells your brain that you are satiated. Ghrelin is the hunger hormone, it makes you hungry. 5-6 hours of sleep a night will cause you to eat an additional 200-300 calories everyday because the lack of sleep increases your Ghrelin and decreases your leptin levels. That is about an extra 70,000 calories per year which is about 10-15 pounds of obese mass each year.
When you are under slept, you just don’t eat more, but you are compelled to eat more of the wrong things. People that were given total sleep deprivation ate over 450 calories more than usual. They had a choice of any food possible, but picked the ones that had heavy carbohydrates. They wanted the junk processed food and avoided the healthy choices. This is why a lack of sleep has such a strong obesity profile. There has been an exponential increase in obesity over the past 70 years. If you superimpose this over a graph of the lack of sleep society has been getting for that time period it is directly inversely proportional. Don’t be fooled into thinking the obesity problem is just a lack of sleep. It’s a lack of political will power to stop taking bribes from junk food manufacturers. It is many factors, but sleep is one of them.
Naps can offset some of the problems caused by a lack of sleep. They have discovered though that you can’t keep using naps to make up for the sleep that you lost. Your brain cannot make up for the total loss. You could lose 8 hours and then get an extra 2 for the following 4 days, but you will only get back 4 and not the 8 that you lost. Sleep is not like a bank. You can’t accumulate a debt and then pay it off by the weekend. There is no credit system in the brain for sleep. You can’t bank it. Fat cells can store up calories for when there is a famine. Brain cells don’t do that with sleep.
Human beings are the only species that will deliberately deprive themselves of sleep. Mother nature has never faced the challenge of coming up with a safety net for the lack of sleep. This is why you get such a demonstrable amount of disease from a lack of sleep. Some animals will forgo sleep when they are starving. They stay awake longer to forage further. When people fast, their sleep becomes disturbed because their brain is receiving this ancient trigger that tells them to stay awake and survive and eat. Ghrelin will become a starvation hormone at this point and it will force you to stay awake and try and find some food when you are fasting for a few days.
Cognitive performance takes a nose dive when you are awake for more than 20 hours. You are as physically impaired as well as if you were legally drunk. Drowsy driving is linked to a car accident almost every minute. Drowsy driving kills more people on the roads than alcohol and drugs combined. When you are under slept, you can experience micro sleeps. Your eyelid does not close all the way. However, the brain goes to sleep for a brief period of time. At this moment if you are driving, you are not in control. With drugs and alcohol it is a problem of delayed reaction. With a lack of sleep there is no reaction. Instead of breaking too late, there is no breaking whatsoever. The leading cause of death in teenagers is this, then suicide. If just shifting the school start time by one hour they found a 70% decrease in car crashes among those students. ABS breaking systems decreased collisions by 20%. So a simple solution like getting more sleep gets no traction in our society. Our goal is to educate children and we put their lives at risk because we keep making school start time earlier. At 6 AM there is bumper to bumper traffic on the Los Angeles freeways because people have to get to work early. This means these people probably woke up at 5AM. The amount of productive work that they can create is decreased drastically. American schools used to start at around 9 AM. They slowly shifted earlier because of work times that parents had to get to work. Another reason is the bus unions went along with it. SAT scores improved by over 212 points in school systems that started later. Modernity has caused us to work longer and commute longer. The lack of sleep is having a catastrophic impact on the health of our nation.
Stay tune for part 4