Monday, February 15, 2010

Special Report: Part 2


Yeah. For now. Have you heard the old adage, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”? Well, if you really think that sleeping is that much of a waste of time, you may meet your death much sooner than you might expect. Sleep is one of the MOST IMPORTANT things that we need. And we need a lot of it. Most people do not get eight hours of sleep a night. We are asking that you try to get NINE. The ONLY time when your body can completely cleanse and repair itself is when you are sleeping.

When we are exposed to light (natural and artificial), our bodies produce a stress hormone called cortisol. It is also produced when we are exposed to any kind of distress (bad) or eustress (good) such as emotional and mental stress (work related, family, relationship, etc.) and physical stress (like exercising). With all of this overstimulation from light and stress there is a subsequent overproduction of cortisol, which leaves us in a perpetually inflamed, tired, and unbalanced state. When your cortisol is up, melatonin cannot turn on and that means you will not truly be resting, even if you are asleep.

Think about it for a minute. Back in the day before there was artificial light, we were awake with the sun and asleep with the moon. It is our natural rhythm to have energy when it is light out and to be tired when darkness falls. With the incredible invention of electricity (which obviously has a great many benefits) we gradually started shifting away from our natural sleep-wake rhythms. If you are wondering whether that means we should be sleeping for 12-14 hours in the winter… Well, yes, we should. Many animals hibernate in the winter months. A similar decrease in waking activity may have also been the case for our Paleolithic ancestors. In the summer time we naturally have more energy with the longer days. We are more active and we can eat more. In the winter it is natural for us to exercise and eat less, taking advantage of the darkness to rest and conserve energy for when the spring and summer come around again. Ever notice how you are a little less motivated to work out or go out in the winter? That’s not just you being moody- it is programmed into your cells.
The problem now is, we don’t sleep more and eat less in the winter and sleep less and eat more in the summer. We pretty much sleep less and eat more all year round, and this seriously messes with our entire bodies on a physiological level. Not to mention we don’t stay up and eat healthy food, we stay up and eat processed, carb-heavy food. When you habitually don’t sleep enough and eat too many carbs, you are on a fast track to some serious problems. Unfortunately, this way of living can lead to not so uncommon health problems such as high cholesterol, hypertension, type II Diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer. This lifestyle causes your immune system to be a flimsy paper-thin barrier as opposed to the strong brick wall it should be, making you infinitely more susceptible to all sorts of disease. And I’m not just talking about your seasonal cold or flu. Another one of the main things that happen when you don’t sleep enough and are spending too much time in the light is that the cells in the lining of your heart DIE. In other words, when you skimp on sleep, you are weakening your heart. A weak heart leads to heart failure.

Since sleeping 12-14 hours a night in the winter is almost impossible with the structure of our lives, we suggest that you make a very concerted effort to get nine hours of sleep a night in a completely dark room. Do whatever you have to do to keep the room dark even if you sleep past sunrise. Put heavy drapes on the windows and cover up the illuminated clocks. Getting a lot of good quality sleep is absolutely imperative to preventing disease and living a long and health life.

If you are wondering whether this “taboo” concept that we are the same as our Paleolithic ancestors is correct or not, a valid question to ask yourself is: why is there no cancer, heart disease, or obesity in nature? Also, why do only humans and their pets get these sorts of diseases? High cholesterol, hypertension, type II Diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer are all MAN-MADE. We are killing ourselves.

*An authoritative book on the subject of sleep is, Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by T.S. Wiley and Bent Formby, Ph.D. If nothing else, this book will make you think twice about staying up in front of the television late at night.