You need to finish that report; you’ve got young kids in the house and evening time is the only time left to finish all those other jobs; you need some personal decompression time at the end of a long day. Sleep is often last on the list of priorities. Yet, I believe that it can be the single most important aspect of living a healthy energised life.
“But I can function fine on 6 hours sleep!!!”
That’s great. However, I don’t want my clients to simply function. I want them to thrive. Sleep is a vital evolutionary function and the one time that your body and mind have a chance to repair, reset, and recharge for the next day.
There are many advantages on a basic level for making sure you get those 8 hours. Sleep:
- Makes you live longer
- Enhances memory and makes you more creative
- It makes you more attractive
- It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings
- It protects you from cancer and dementia
- It wards off colds and the flu
- It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke
- You will feel happier, less anxious, less depressed.
These are great reasons for everyone to want to increase their sleep and yet over the last 50 years on average we now receive 1.5-2 hours less sleep a night. Over the course of a year that works out to one month of continual sleep that we are missing out on!
For my autoimmune clients and those with other inflammatory conditions, sleep is even more important. Poor sleep quality and quantity have been shown to be one of the key reasons for the increase in inflammatory disease.
So how specifically does sleep help your immune system?
- Lack of sleep can increase the risk of developing an autoimmune condition. Immune cells primary role is to identify and destroy foreign invaders. However,not every immune cell is made perfectly. Some immune cells can be created that are programmed to destroy your own tissue. And one of the roles of your adaptive immune system is to weed out these defective immune cells before any damage can be done. This is done when we are asleep. A lack of sleep therefore can increase the number of defective immune cells in circulation
- Sleep provides total body rejuvenation. Muscle growth, tissue repair, new protein assembly and growth hormone release. Inflammation breaks down tissue and sleep provides the opportunity for that tissue to repair.
- Detoxification of the brain. Sleep is the only time when the brain is able to wash out the toxic waste that has built up during the day. Your brain shrinks by 60% during sleep to provide the space for the cerebrospinal fluid to take out the trash. When sleep is deprived toxins build up and impact our cognitive abilities, behaviour, and judgment.
- Pain and autoimmune conditions are intrinsically linked. Flares are often accompanied by pain and undiagnosed sufferers often report joint pain as a key non-specific symptom. Pain perception increases with a lack of sleep . Less sleep results in more pain. Thus purely from a functional standpoint prioritizing getting more sleep can allow you to reduce your daily discomfort. The difficulty is that pain impacts sleep quality creating a negative loop. By looking at both pain-relieving strategies and sleep hygiene we can attempt to break the negative cycle and provide lasting relief
- Insufficient and interrupted sleep is associated with increased inflammation, a classic symptom of autoimmune disease and flares. Women appear to be more vulnerable to the inflammatory effects of poor sleep contributing to the unequal distribution of autoimmune disease between the sexes.
HOW I APPROACH SLEEP QUALITY IN CLINIC
In clinic, developing a sleep strategy is key amongst my treatment plans for all my clients. Sleep hygiene is discussed in-depth and a strategy is put in place to optimise this critical function.
But as a clinician, I also have to work with reality. Simply telling a client that they need more sleep is not always enough. I have clients with young children that wake through the night; those whose jobs are across timezones and are on call constantly; shift workers with a disrupted sleep pattern. Generalised tips are great but I appreciate that a sleep routine needs to be tailored to the individual client.
If you’d like to discuss how to improve your rest and restoration please get in touch for a complimentary discovery call