One of the pillars of health in Ayurveda is sleep, but it’s not just the ancients who prescribed a great night of rest for feeling your best. Many modern day studies are scientifically proving the crucial connection between enough sleep and sleep at the right time to optimal body function.
Your body is naturally programmed to sleep during the night and wake during the day by its circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are biological processes originating from inside an organism (like humans, plants, and animals) that operate at a natural oscillation of about 24 hours. It’s an internal clock that maintains itself without external stimulation.
Our modern culture seduces us to scoff the early-to-bed mentality and forge ahead into the energy of the night with artificial lighting, night shift work schedules, computer and television entertainment, and sexy night life. These cultural external stimuli (called zeitgebar) are unfortunately more powerful than their natural predecessors (like the sun setting) and turn our circadian rhythms upside down and inside out, preventing us from creating the most optimal environment for natural healing.
Your body’s circadian rhythm for sleep naturally kicks in through the production of melatonin, which is triggered by the pineal gland when it senses decreasing light at sunset each day. The body is set up for 10pm – 2am to be the time of deepest, most restful sleep, and it’s during this time that the body counts on your external energy expenditure to decrease so internal energy can rise. Your internal cleanup crew activates to get rid of all the toxins that have entered your body from food, environmental factors, and stress throughout the day. If you’re awake during this time your body can’t complete this whole clean up process.
Various studies published by the National Institute of Health have linked sleep deprivation (which is considered to be 6 or less hours per 24 hour period) to the suboptimal functioning of at least 711 genes, which thus affected the functioning of many biological processes including immune response, metabolism, and stress response.
Some common issues related to sleep deprivation include:
- Reduced Immunity
- Increased Stress
- Abnormal Metabolism
- Heart Disease
- Abnormal cognition and mood
- Weight gain
- Eye disorders
- Neuropsychiatric illness
So if you’re experiencing chronic illness, stress, or just aren’t feeling your best, take a good close look at your sleep patterns. If you find yourself to be a night owl, maybe try a week going to bed by 10pm just to test it out. Even clinical trials found significant benefit in just a week long study…. you may too!
Mayo Clinic: “Trouble Sleeping”: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/lack-of-sleep/AN02065
Science Daily: “New Links Between Sleep Deprivation, Immune System Discovered” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131023183908.htm
Wikipedia: “Circadian Rhythm” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circadian_rhythm
Cleveland Clinic: “Circadian Rhythm Disorders” http://my.clevelandclinic.org/neurological_institute/sleep-disorders-center/disorders-conditions/hic-circadian-rhythm-disorders.aspx
LifeSpa: “How Much Sleep do You Really Need?” http://lifespa.com/how-much-sleep-you-need/
PubMed: “The Rhythms of Life – What your body clock means” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24363383
PubMed: “Effects of insufficient sleep on circadian rhythmicity and expression amplitude of the human blood transcriptome” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3607048/
PubMed: “Sleep and Immune Function” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256323/
Dr Oz: “Sleep and Longevity” http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/kulreet-chaudhary-md/sleep-and-longevity