I will be writing an entire paper on this incredibly important topic in the near future. I can not put a number on the importance of sleep. Millions and millions of people have poor sleep habits and it is totally explainable in the vast majority of cases. And, it has potentially cataclysmic effects on our health, ranging from poor decision making to increased cancer rates.
The following is a letter that I just wrote that will serve as a primer for the paper to come. I hope it helps.
Sleep- An Email to a Client:
Hey H. and Y.,
Yes, this lack of sleeping problem is a huge issue and I am about to write a paper purely on sleep. Because our body heals during sleep, this could not be a bigger issue. It is a complex issue but one with very definable aspects.
I do not believe that there should be much innate difference between individual’s need for sleep or when they get it. All humans should get close to 8 hours and we should all get it from about 10 PM to 6 AM. That is the natural cycle and one that I am finally on now that I have altered my diet (for 6 years) and am off all caffeine.
But, there are many, many things that alter our circadian rhythms and get us off this natural cycle, including our diets, caffeine, lifestyle, and habits. If our bodies are one thing, they are adaptable. We are incredibly and wonderfully made. If we insist on doing shift work…working at night instead of the day…then our bodies will adapt, thank God. But it is unnatural and studies of disease rates among people who do this proves it.
All we really have to understand is the serotonin-melatonin cycle, the effect of light on our pituitary, and what we do to disrupt all of this to understand the dilemma we are in. For one thing, light inhibits serotonin to melatonin conversion. Stay up watching TV or working on the computer does much to delay this conversion. And caffeine does not do what most people think. Caffeine from 8am to 3pm postpones bedtime, delaying serotonin conversion, while caffeine consumed after 4pm speeds up the sleep-wake cycle at the other end, awakening people at 4-5 AM instead of 6 when it should happen. So many people think that caffeine has “no effect” on them because they can drink it in the late evening hours and still sleep. Now you know why. It doesn’t inhibit serotonin to melatonin conversion after 4pm, it simply speeds up the wake cycle in the AM. Ask those same people about that and they will tell you that this is exactly what’s happening to them….restless sleep after 4 or 5 AM. So simple, so misunderstood.
“Insomnia”, the way we use that term, is really a misnomer. Most who call themselves “insomniacs” don’t have trouble falling asleep. They have trouble staying asleep. In fact, they have trouble staying awake. They typically pass out at 9pm or so on the sofa, sleep ’til 11 and then drag themselves off to bed. But, they wake up like a shot at 1-2 AM and can’t go back to sleep. This is a classic pattern for millions of people. I hear it all the time. And, it is the glutamate content (the “MSG” protein in foods, if you will) of their dinner and dessert that wakes them up 4-6 hours after eating, just like the un-medicated epileptic dog that seizes 4-6 hours after meals. (See The GARD section of the site.) It takes 4-6 hours for the glutamic acid (glutamate) in our food to be metabolized and reach the brain (whereas, it takes only 30 mins to an hour for free MSG…monosodium glutamate…to reach the brain and cause migraines, pain, the “MSG rush” and more.)
So, we have people who now stay up late on the computer or watching TV who are postponing serotonin to melatonin conversion. Many of these same people are drinking lots of caffeine (like the average person does). They ate a meal rich in the non-essential, neurostimulating amino acid glutamate (found in the richest abundance in the “big 4″ foods that cause food intolerance…gluten, casein,soy, and corn), and they are wondering why they don’t sleep? Hmmm…
Our bodies are amazing and they adapt to all of this abuse, so well that we think people are actually different and require less sleep than other and live in different time zones as that article you sent me “explains”. Ha-ha. What an absolutely ridiculous notion, if you ask me. Hey, we are all humans. We may look different on the outside but we are all put together the same way biologically. It is our lifestyles and diets that are different and this has the potential to change everything.
I hope this helps,
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