Enter Sandman. The Importance of Sleep.

Estimated time to read:  9 minutes

 

CliffsNotes Version:

***Who’s a Metallica fan?  Raise your hands high, so I can see you!

***There was a big party, with lots of confetti.  Now the custodians are coming by with push brooms.  Kind of like the “sweepers” in the Jemez Mountain Trail Run race I walked in 2019.

***She has woken up to the power of sleep.

 

I knew it. As soon as I would close the laptop, I would forget to thank someone in my Oscar acceptance speech. And I did. I forgot the little people. The actual little people. My children. Laugh cry emoji. They were the whole reason why wrote the blog to begin with! In the morning, we were driving to school in the minivan, and they were laughing and snickering about hiding the “Nilla Wafers” from me because they know that I will eat them if I find them. My family has been known to hide food from me, concealing not-healthy snacks in larger, healthier snack boxes, like for quinoa and kale crackers.  So thank you kids, for hiding them. You don’t know that mommy is going to get the last laugh by stopping buying them all together. They are not healthy. And I am your mother. Muahaha ha ha ha ha ha ha. In all honesty, my kids are great about reminding me of my SMART goal of having a six-pack for Christmas!

 

Wait, wait, wait a minute. Now, I’m really confused. If she’s had this plan of how to get from point A to point B for several months now (https://santafeveinmedspa.com/2019/08/20/getting-from-a-to-b/), why does she still look like she does? Why does she not have her six pack NOW? And the answer is, I don’t actually do the things on my list with regular consistency for the most part. I decide they are a really good idea, I tried them once or twice, I blocked time for them, and I found the ideal time to do them, but then, I didn’t actually follow through. Until sometime earlier this year, when I started trying for reals. The day after Labor Day, on September 3, to be exact. Laugh cry emoji.

 

So, even as a healthcare provider with a commanding understanding of functional medicine principles, I still struggle with putting my own oxygen mask on first and caring for myself.  One day the light will turn on inside of my brain, you know, alerting me to put the mask on, and I will know what to do. I think the important point here is that I continue to try on a regular basis. Sometimes, the universe sends me signs that I need to get back on track.

 

Like a couple of months ago, for example. I went into the co-op for my usual morning cup of coffee. There was a man microwaving something that smelled really delicious, and so I approached him to ask him about what he was cooking. I learned that he is a plain-closed employee of the co-op, named Andrew. We had an interesting conversation about health and wellness. At some point, sleep came up in the conversation. He very convincingly informed me that he felt six hours of sleep was perfectly adequate for adults.

 

As soon as those words had left his lips, I felt like I had to channel my inner Matilda from the “Angry Birds” movie.  If you haven’t seen it, Matilda is the group therapy session leader for the anger management class on Bird Island. She herself is a reformed angry bird.  I am a reformed 5-6 hour a night sleeper. I feel strongly that for most adults, 8 to 10 hours is required for adequate sleep. More important to consider is the quality of sleep.  I felt a little bit guilty, because I knew that I had been getting only 7 hours or so of nightly sleep. In addition, I had no scientific evidence readily available to tell him why he was wrong. I think I mumbled something about your body’s waste management system, and not having adequate time to “take out the garbage,” as sleep is a time of restoration and renewal.

 

As I sit in my office and attempt to research why a minimum of eight hours of sleep should be non-negotiable for adults, I find that the literature presents conflicting information. Turns out that it is quite difficult to pinpoint the precise amount of sleep which is beneficial for an adult human, because we are all so different. All humans are genetically unique. Except for identical twins. But, even when considering identical twins, humans have different environmental exposures and experiences as we walk upon the earth. For example, we have genes that tell our bodies how to process and eliminate waste.  Some of us have impaired abilities to “take out the trash” due to weakened detoxification genes. Let’s be honest; some of us are not so resilient. Those are the people that need more sleep than others.

 

Blanket statements about healthcare are very inappropriate.  Functional Medicine is unique in its approach because functional medicine practitioners believe that healthcare should be personalized for the unique individual presenting to them.  Don’t put everyone in the same box, and treat everyone exactly the same. We are not all the same. Perhaps some people can survive on lesser quantities of sleep, but it truly depends upon the person. I can only speak for myself, and I am the type of person who truly LOVES sleep. Had I known that about myself earlier, I might have picked a different profession. Laugh cry emoji. At least I got out of the hospital environment when I did. Had I remained, I feel that I would’ve run myself into the ground.  For me, if I sleep any less than eight hours, I feel it the next day; I’m tired, less creative, and far less resilient!

 

You can consider sleep like an energy bank. If you don’t make an adequate deposit, there will be little available for the withdrawal. The bank of energy does not allow for overdrafts, either. You simply cannot produce things when you do not have the building blocks for their creation.  Remember the first law of thermodynamics, or the Law of Conservation of Energy. The one that says energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Only transferred. We are similar to combustive engines. We combine fuel (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and oxygen within our mitochondria.  The process of transferring electrons within the electron transport chain converts the potential energy in the substrates into energy to run our cellular machinery. You need nutrition, oxygen, and sleep to produce energy and “charge your battery.” You need an adequate amount of TIME spent in QUALITY sleep in order to feel refreshed and restored.

 

So here’s a question: how many hours of sleep did YOU actually get last night? Do you remember? You’re like, no, Dr. Biggs. I was asleep. That’s why I’m not actually aware of how many hours I was doing that activity, because, by definition, I was doing the activity. With my eyes closed. And in a semi-subconscious, dream-like state. You would only know if you took a mental note or logged the time you drifted off and the moment you woke up.  That can be difficult for some to record, because they have insomnia and lie awake in bed for a period of time. “Lying in bed” time does not count towards sleep. Sorry.

 

There are sleep tracking apps.  Some will track amazing things, like the percentage of your time spent in deep sleep and give you some insight into your capacity for resiliency.  Others can be therapeutic; helping you to get back to sleep by changing auditory frequency and having a positive impact on brain waves conducive to sleep.  I think it’s important to start being aware of how many hours you sleep nightly, the quality of your sleep, and considerations of what may be disrupting your sleep.

 

I am asking you to awaken your consciousness to the reality of your semi- or subconscious state of sleep, and to take action to improve it such that you can enjoy the benefits of health optimization.  I don’t want you to be unconscious, though. Come on people, let’s rally together. Increase sleep awareness! Get your melatonin levels tested. Lower your shades. Turn down your room temperature. Cast away all of your EMF-emitting electronic devices.  Turn off the lights. Hunker down under the covers, get your cuddles on, and doze off. Sleepers unite!

 

SUMMARY:

***DR. BIGGS LOVES SLEEP.

***IT IS OKAY TO LOVE SLEEP, TOO.  IT IS NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS.

***TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY BY PAYING ATTENTION TO ITS NEED FOR SLEEP AND THEN GET IT.