This is part II of my review of Why We Sleep By Matthew Walker. It’s an incredible read, filled with insightful, practical and scary information that will force you to take a closer look at the quality of sleep you are or ARE NOT getting.  I can tell you that since I read his book about 6 months ago, I have taken steps to increase both by quality and quantity of sleep.  I have never felt better!  It’s not perfect all the time, however,  I’m feeling the benefits.

In part 1 we reviewed how the single best arsenal to eat well is to sleep well.  In Part II we will review a few highlights on how sleep could be the precursor to dementia and Alzheimer’s. The book has all the research references you need to fact check everything you question.

There isn’t an area in human wellness that is not eroded by sleep. Think about it as a leaking pipe which will erode away your physiology.

Sleep and Alzheimer’s Disease 

Wakefulness is like low level brain damage. 

Inefficient sleep leads Oxidative stress which starts a cascade of neuronal malfunction leading to increased brain damage or what is termed neutral death. The part of the brain that is most affected is the hippocampus, or memory center. 

Amyloid protein, a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, is more prevalent in brains that have experienced sleep of 7hrs or less.  During sleep the body cleans away this amyloid protein around the brain and keeps it from building up.  Think about it like plaque around your teeth. If you keep brushing and flossing you can keep the plaque away and keep your gums from getting diseased.  If you ignore good hygiene and the plaque continues to build you will have a host of problems. 

Same goes for your brain. If you continue fall short in your quality and quantity of sleep the amyloid protein will continue to build around your brian.   

It is thought that in 20-30 years from now there will be several subsets of Alzheimer’s depending on sleep quality and quantity over the lifespan. 

Researchers looked at those with sleep apnea, and those who followed protocol and started cause correction, stayed off Alzheimer’s for 10 years.

Here are some other health and social implications with respect to sleep.

Alcohol and sleep. This is a biggie!

Many use alcohol as a sleep aid. This is most misunderstood concept when it comes to this topic. We hear it all the time, “I Just want to take the edge off with a night cap….”

Using Alcohol to help you get to sleep? Think again. Alcohol impacts sleep in 3 major ways: 

  1. Alcohol is a sedative so it works on the same type receptors that sleeping pills do. You basically lose consciousness faster.
  2. Sleep is fragmented. You wake up many more times throughout the night and not know it.  You wake up feeling less refreshed, tired or even hung over?  Are you using caffeine in the morning to “wake you up?” If so, ask why? 
  3. Alcohol will block your dream sleep or REM sleep so your overall quality will be decreased.  

Consuming alcohol before you sleep will increase your resting heart rate and respiration. This can raise your core body temperature or keep it from being lowered.  For ideal sleep we need to drop core temp. 3 degrees.  Did you ever notice why it’s so hard to sleep well on those hot humid nights? 

Daylight Savings Time and Heart Disease

You can see one example of cardio vascular disease by examining the data from an experiment that involves over 1.6 billion people.  Just a few days ago we turned the clocks ahead for daylight savings time.  Every year during this week of daylight savings time there is a 24 % increase in heart attacks. Ironically there is 21% decrease in heart attacks in the Fall when we gain and hour of sleep.  This study has been know over 10 years and that’s why many legislators are fighting to eliminate it.  See this article in the Wall Street Journal

There is the same causality in car accidents and in suicide attempts. Even federal judges hand out more harsh sentences on the Monday after daylight savings time. Everything seems to come back to normal after 4 days. 

Healthy middle age adults with no sign of coronary artery disease who got less than 5 hrs of sleep over 5 years  had 200-300% higher risk of arteries becoming calcified. This is a big precursor to developing cardio vascular  disease.

Those that are under slept by just getting 5-6.5 hrs of sleep become more sympathetic nervous system driven.  This means that if you are under slept your fight or flight increases.

As son as you are under-slept you start to see increases in adrenaline, a decrease in growth hormones and increases cortisol. Research tell us that when cortisol increases and growth hormone decreases it can predisposed someone to cardio vascular disease. 

Blood pressure goes up and heart rate goes up with just one night of 5 hrs of sleep. Compound that by weeks and months and years. 

Pay attention to your sleep.

 

 

 

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