More Health Tips

Sleep is essential for the repair and regeneration of the brain and body.

Stage one sleep is called theta, it is a superficial half sleep. Some brain re-charging happens, but no restoration of brain chemicals. Too much time in theta speeds aging.

Stage two of sleep decreases neurotransmitter repair and storage.

Stages three and four involve the repair of neural networks that are typically disturbed in waking hours. The brain waves are in the delta stage and this is where most of the brain repair, regeneration and detoxification happens. As we age, we spend less time in these stages.

REM (rapid eye movement) sleep includes dreaming and serves as a check for repairs done in deeper sleep stages. Children spend lots of time in stages three and four as they are actively building neural networks.

Adults who are in pain or experience discomfort likely get no stage four sleep.

Elderly people experience what is called “degenerative sleep.” There is no stage four, very little stage three, they are mostly in stage two and can have periods of awakening or nearly awakening. This causes the breakdown of neural networks. In dementia, there is no stage three, mostly stage two.

Some people have a condition called sleep apnea in which one stops breathing during sleep, often many times, triggering a brief, shallow awakening to re-start breathing. These people are often prescribed a c-pap machine that provides continuous air to the user. However, using a c-pap prevents going deeper than stage two.

Many people have disturbed sleep, either difficulty falling asleep, maintaining sleep, or getting deep enough sleep.

As a population, we get about two hours less sleep per night than we did 60 years ago. While many people feel they can get by with 5-6 hours of sleep, the consequences of not getting 7-8 hours is an increased risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, brain damage and dementia.

The way our natural, internal cycles work best is to sleep when it is dark, wake when it gets light. Electricity enables us to stay awake when it is dark, disturbing our sleep/wake cycles. Eight hours of sleep between 2 am and 10 am is not as beneficial as 10 pm to 6 am. The best hours for us to be asleep are from 9 pm to 3 am.

When it begins to get dark, the pineal gland begins to secrete the hormone melatonin, which makes us sleepy. If we have lights on at night, melatonin secretion is blunted. This is especially true if we are watching screens—tv, computer, smart phone—as these emit blue light wave length which abolishes melatonin.

Melatonin is a potent anti-oxidant, and it also helps to prevent lipofuscin, which show up as age spots on the skin, but also in the brain and in the eyes as cataracts.

Some people begin to show signs of decreased melatonin by age 35-40. This is associated with the onset of degenerative disease.

Although there is the occasional person for whom melatonin prevents sleep, for most others it is a safe, inexpensive way to not only improve sleep, but preserve brain health as well. There can be a wide range of dosing melatonin, as little as 300 micrograms up to 10 mg. We carry a liquid sublingual melatonin that is handy to cover these doses. Use the minimum amount necessary to sleep. It may take up to three weeks for melatonin to begin working.

A beneficial side effect of melatonin is that it tones up the esophageal sphincter, lessening reflux symptoms.

Sleep medications, such as Ambien prevent sleeping deeper than stage two. These are also hazardous drugs with deaths associated with those with sleep apnea, alcohol users, and elderly people who metabolize these drugs more slowly.

Depression is not only a cause of insomnia, but an effect of poor sleep as well.

Restless Legs
Restless leg syndrome can be very disturbing to sleep. The most common causes are deficiencies in folate, magnesium, iron, potassium or calcium. I usually recommend magnesium first.

Habits for Successful Sleep

Natural Sleep Aids