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Some very sleepy thoughts on sleep.    Some amazing new science about the wonders of sleep.  You will not fall asleep during this read because of the astounding information is very exciting.

Try and stay awake through what I thought was some of the more interesting things that Matthew Walker had to say on the subject.

Dolphins can sleep with half of their brain wide awake.  This ensures their survival and why you may not feel rested in a new environment designed for sleep also known as a hotel room.  There are 4 stages of sleep in the category of non rapid eye movement.  Stages 3 and 4 are where we are very deep asleep.  This is when the body repairs itself.  One half of your brain resists going into that phase when you are in a foreign environment.

Quality of sleep is just as important as quantity.  But if you are not getting 7 hours of quality sleep you have a better chance of developing Alzheimer’s.  Well we’re all in a lot of trouble if that is true.

Sleep aids cause your brain to not function correctly.  The counter in your brain that registers how many hours you are getting in each phase of sleep keeps track and when drugs do not allow you to cycle through all the phases correctly.  You can get a Rem Rebound effect.  REM is rapid eye movement sleep and that is when you are dreaming.  You can end up getting very intense dreams when you are in a deficit.  When you drink a lot of alcohol it is not excreted for about 6 hours by your liver and kidneys.  So you are deprived of proper brain activity while you were sleeping it off.  But then your brain tries to make up for it and gives you some very intense dreams.

Marijuana puts people to sleep quicker.  Alcohol is considered a sedative and sedation is not real healthy sleep.  Marijuana targets different receptors than alcohol.  The experts are not sure if that is considered natural sleep.  Let’s say that it is.  The problem is it affects the brain stem where REM sleep occurs and it seems to affect it in not a good way.   It may block your REM sleep.   Alcoholics have delirium trends.  DT’s do not stand for detoxing.  Their dream state has been blocked for so long that they are delirious.  Their seeing their dreams while being conscious.  Those pink elephants are real to them.  Since your brain can’t get the dream sleep while you are asleep, the brain decides to take it while you’re awake.  It’s a collision of two states of consciousness known as delirium.  If the brain will cause this to get what it is missing, then you can assume that full good sleep is vital.

It took 3.6 million years of evolution to acquire a brain that required 8 hours of sleep.  You are not going to change that just because you think Red Bull may be the answer.  The last 100 years we seem to think that we don’t need a lot of sleep.  Men that sleep 5 to 6 hours a night have the testosterone levels of a man 10  years their senior.  A few less hours of sleep  will age you a decade in just those terms alone.

Marathon bikers that manage their lack of sleep to go across the country as quick as possible report the same kind of delirium as alcoholics do.   

Sleep studies performed while you are sleeping in a Pet Scan that measures brain activity reveal that there is a 30% marked increase, more active than when you’re awake in certain areas of your brain during REM sleep.  Not all parts of the brain are ramping up in REM sleep.  The visual, motor, emotional and memory centers ramp up.  The prefrontal cortex does the opposite, it winds down.  This is considered the CEO of the brain.  Rational, logical thinking occurs here.  Well for most people.  That part of your brain is shut off during REM and that is probably why you don’t question your dreams when they are occurring.  So we see things in our dreams because our vision center in our occipital cortex is activating, we shake and move because our motor strip is activating, we’re emotional because our limbic system is working faster, but none of it makes any sense because our prefrontal cortex is shutting down.

We forget our dreams so easily because it is hard to access all of the storage in our brain.  But it is in there, and something can trigger your recollection of a dream.  When our conscious mind wakes up and takes over, the I.P. address for that dream is lost, but it is not destroyed.  It is available, just not accessible.  We may not remember it, but that doesn’t mean it might not be affecting our behavior.   

The chemistry of the brain is radically different when you are in the dream state.  Noradrenaline plummets to a very low level.  When you wake up it spikes.  Acetylcholine is inversely flowing and it has to do with memory.  The way these chemicals are interacting is it is sending out information rather than saving it.  It’s more involved with outputting information than committing it to memory in the dream state.

What is the function of the dream state?  Why did mother nature create it?  We get about two hours every night of virtual reality.  One answer is  no answer.  It’s like a light bulb.  It produces light, but a byproduct is heat.  Maybe dreaming is the heat production of REM sleep?  On the other hand it is metabolically demanding to have dreams.  When nature burns calories it is usually for a reason.

All stages of sleep are important.  When you are sleeping you are not doing anything that nature requires of us.  Is it the biggest mistake that the evolution process ever made?  Probably not.  Nature would not bother putting you into a state that is not necessary.  Each stage of sleep has unique and separate functions.  You can’t short change one of them.  Evolution has taken a long time to get the blue print created accurately and you can drink all the energy drinks you can stomach, but you are hurting your brain and that hurts all of your health.  There is a good chance that you or the manufacturers are not smarter than nature.

Your cardiovascular system goes through dramatic changes during sleep.  Your mind paralyzes most of your body so that you can dream safely.   If you were to start acting out your dreams in the deep dark night, you could get hurt.  End of Part 1

Studying rat’s brains electrical patterns revealed that while we are sleeping our brains are replaying muscle patterns that they had learned during the day but only at a faster tempo (20 times faster) if you were to place tones to the electrical impulses being recorded.  That would mean that if you don’t sleep well, you’re not going to learn very well.  Yet the school system insists on making kids wake up at 5 AM and send them off to school totally exhausted.   We’ve seen science fiction movies where you can speed up time in the dream state and it turns out that you do speed up time.  If you are an athlete this last paragraph really should mean a lot to you.  You are going to perform better at a skilled motor task if you sleep well on it after initially learning it.  Practice does not make perfect, practice with a good night of sleep is what makes perfect.  Sleep can improve your physical performance by 30%.

The opposite is also true.  You could train for months for an athletic event and if you get only 6 hours of sleep the night before, you’ll have a 30% decrease in functionality.  With less sleep you even have difficulty exhaling Carbon Dioxide.

Injuries increase with less than 7 hours of sleep.  4 hours gives you a 60% chance of an injury.  Stability muscles of the spine are also weakened, not just major strength muscles.  That in turn effects your balance.  Visualizing a movement will develop the connections in the brain almost as well as actually performing the exercise.  Sometimes basketball players shot more accurately when they just practiced it in their mind.  Possibly because they are not letting all the other pathways interfere with their performance.

How does sleep increase your skills?  They have discovered that sleep does not improve the parts of your brain where your motor skills are already good, when you’re sleeping, your subconscious is good at finding the problem point in your brain for a certain motor skill and helps to smooth out the rough edges.  Musicians have often reported not being able to get a certain piece of music the day before and after a good nights sleep they were able to play it.  People say sleep on your problems because your subconscious mind has a way of solving it.  Edison, Einstein would often wake up from a dream write something down and the next morning would realize they had the answer to their question.  Sadly at my age, the only time I wake up from a dream is when I need to go to the toilet.

Sleep increases creativity.  The brain when asleep with seek out and make new connections and that is what learning is.  Neurons becoming connected to other neurons.  It is like informational alchemy.  You wake up in the morning with a better version of the world wide web.  People have woken up to an incredible solution to a previous impenetrable problem.  Dimitri Mendelev figured out the periodic table of elements from a dream.  He figured out how all of the elements in the universe fit together.  His waking brain could not do that.  Einstein was known to not sleep well, but he was a habitual nap taker and we know what his brain came up with.  Einstein had a chair that he would fall asleep in.  He would have two ball bearings in his hand and when his muscle tone relaxed as he was falling asleep they would crash into a metal bowl below his arm rest and wake him up at his desk where he had a pen and paper ready to write down what he was dreaming about.

The phrase sleeping on a problem seems to exist in almost every language.  The benefit of sleep transcends cultural boundaries.  The British say sleep on a problem.  The French say sleep with a problem.   Thanks to Edison or Tesla, we control the night and we are a dark deprived people.  Electric light is one of the things that keep us awake at night.  Our pineal glands that produce melatonin are stimulated by light.  The gland produces melatonin when the sun goes down telling us to go to sleep.  Now we’re told to stay awake all night.

Reading by ipad light, computer light delays the onset of the melatonin hormone by 3 hours as opposed to just reading by a dim light bulb.  Also, you get less REM sleep from computer light which means you don’t feel refreshed in the morning.

End of Part 2

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 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.  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.

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 let 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.

End of part 3

Melatonin is efficacious when traveling between time zones.  If we were flying from a time zone 8 hours away our Melatonin spike would not occur for another 8 hours after we landed back home.  A melatonin supplement can help fool your brain and regulate your jet lag.  It does not work as well once you are acclimated to the new time zone.  However, the placebo effect is the most constant effect in all of pharmacology so if it works for you take it.

1 out of 2 adults are not getting enough sleep in America.  No one is immune to a lack of sleep.  You may think you are functioning well, but you are not.  Just like a drunk thinks he is O.K. to drive home from the bar.  Under slept employes will take on less challenging projects.  They’ll just slack off every chance they can.   Experiments have shown that employees that knew nothing about how little sleep that their boss had the night before, would rate them as less charismatic on the days that they did not get enough sleep.  Less sleep does not equal more productivity.  Everyone may look like they are doing something, but they are not getting anywhere.  Efficiency goes down.  They can read a paragraph 5 times and not get it.  It is hard to work at peak capacity for 8 hours. While boil a pot of water at half heat when you can just put it on high and get it over with?

Sleep deprivation can increase your creativity if you want to come up with some crazy stuff.  The prefrontal cortex, the rational part of your brain is the first thing to deteriorate.  The deep emotional centers of your brain that are normally controlled and kept in check by the prefrontal cortex, which is shut down from lack of sleep, now lets some crazy unconscious thoughts come to light.  You become more childlike because the last part of your brain to mature is the prefrontal cortex.

One study showed that people given just 4 hours of sleep for just one night had a 70% reduction in cancer fighting cells called natural killer cells.  These are good immune assassins that target malignant cells.  We produce bad cells everyday and while we’re sleeping our body is busy destroying them before they can become cancerous.  Just one night creates an immune deficiency.  This is why insufficient sleep predicts cancer.

There is a global experiment that is performed on 1.6 billion people a year that proves that just one hour of sleep loss increases heart attacks.  It is called day light savings time.  In the spring when we lose an hour of sleep a 24% increase in heart attacks have been recorded.   In the autumn when we gain an hour of sleep there is a 21% decrease in heart attacks.  That is how fragile we are to sleep deprivation.

Insufficient sleep can erode the fabric of life, your DNA.  One study took a group of healthy adults and limited them to 6 hours of sleep per night for a week.     711 genes were distorted in their activity.  This is relevant because many people are trying to survive on 6 hours of sleep a night.   Half of those 711 genes increased their activity and the other half decreased their activity.   The genes that were switched off had to do with immune responses.  The genes that were over expressed were related to the production of tumors, long term chronic inflammation which is a root cause for all disease,  and genes that were associated with stress, which creates cardio vascular diseases.   

There is a gene that allows you to get along with 5 hours of sleep a night.  The chances of anyone having that gene are that you are more likely to get struck by lightning.  The gene promotes wakefulness chemistry in the brain.

One of the toxic sticky toxins that builds up in our brain and are removed at night while sleeping well is beta amyloid.  Those are the plaques found in Alzheimer’s patients.

The profile of sleep deprivation is cognitive decline, reduced alertness, increased impulsivity, lack of ability to concentrate, difficulties with learning and memory, and behavioral problems.  If you described that to a pediatrician they would put your kids on psychotropic drugs that will stimulate their brain further.  Many of these millions of kids on these drugs have been misdiagnosed and need some sleep, not drugs that could put you in jail if using them without a prescription.  When you remove their sleep disorders, the ADHD disappears.  This doesn’t fit all.  ADHD people do not sleep well.  Sleep should be prescribed, but not through sleeping pills.

Sleep is a third of a doctor’s patient’s lives and they receive 2 hours of training on the subject.  Residents working a 30 hour shift are 460% more likely to make a diagnostic error in the intensive care unit compared to if they were working a 16 hour shift.  If you are having elective surgery and your doctor has had 6 hours or less of sleep you have a 170% increase risk of receiving a major surgical error.  When a resident finishes a 30 hour shift and drives home there is a 168% increased risk of them getting into a motor vehicle accident.  They’ll wind up being back in the same emergency room that they just walked out of but now as a patient.

They do this to residents because a doctor named William Holstead, set up the first resident surgical program in the United States at John Hopkins University.  He was known for being able to stay awake for 3 days.  Was he super human?  No, he was addicted to cocaine which was legal back then.  He expected his residents to match his ability.  He knew that he had a problem and in those days rehab consisted of getting addicted to morphine.  His legacy is residents are still forced to work ridiculous hours that are quite dangerous to everyone.  After 20 hours your doctor is as impaired as someone that is legally drunk.   One in five medical residents will make a serious mistake, 1 in 20 will kill a patient because they are sleep deprived.  Right now there are over 20,000 medical residents.  So that is a thousand dead patients right there.  The requirements of a medical resident are beyond human capacity.

Infants in the neonatal ward that were allowed to sleep with the bright lights turned down, left the ward much quicker than those that were not as lucky.  Sleep is the greatest and least expensive health care system known to man.  Modern medicine does not agree with that.    

If you are dieting and not sleeping well, 70% of the weight you lose will come from lean muscle and not fat.  Your body becomes stingy when giving up fat when under slept.  Rand Institute did a study of the cost of lack of sleep to the corporate world and discovered that it costs most nations about 2% of their GDP.  In America that comes to 411 billion dollars lost due to lost sleep. You could double the budget for education and half it for health care just be sleeping better.   We see Seasonal Affective Disorder in people that are in the northern hemispheres where there is more light for longer time.



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