Why You Need Your ZZZ’s

I have taken personal interest lately in the subject of sleep. Perhaps it’s because of my own sleep patterns – sometimes I run fine on three or four hours and other times I’m tired after nine. A 2005 Gallop poll determined that only 1/3 of adults over the age of 50 get a good night’s sleep. According to the study, more time is being spent in the light stages of sleep instead of the deeper restorative sleep. Reasons include: decreased physical activity and time outdoors, poor diet, medications that disrupt sleep, alcohol consumption, medical conditions like pain, anxiety, depression and restless leg syndrome, and external factors such as computer and TV usage and snoring partners.

In an attempt to better understand my sleep patterns, I even downloaded an iPhone app called Sleep Time, which tracks your sleep patterns by detecting your movements. You place your phone next to you on the mattress and hope that you don’t thrash around so much that you launch your phone against the wall. Ok, so maybe that’s not the point of the app, but it does provide some valuable insight.

There are several theories as to why we need sleep to function in a normal manner:

  1. Repair and Restoration- This theory is based on scientific evidence that there is increased cell division and increased protein synthesis during sleeping hours. Mental repair happens during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep and physiological or bodily repair occurs during non-REM sleep.
  2. Evolutionary- Proponents of this theory argue that different species sleep according to what will keep them out of danger. This helps explain why some species are nocturnal while others function best during the day. If a critter trying to get his daily food is setting himself up to be another critter’s lunch, it might be beneficial to sleep in a safe place and leave the hunting for night time when that bigger critter is sleeping it off! Bears and lions have very few predators that hunt them, so they are awarded the luxury of sleeping 12-15 hours per day.
  3. Information consolidation- This is based on the premise that information gathered during the day through all of our senses needs to be processed and filed away. After it is better organized, it can be cemented into long-term memory. If you’ve ever used the statement “let me sleep on it,” this theory should make sense to you. We have an easier time to make a decision in the morning after all of our information has been organized for us.

I believe that all three of these theories are legitimate. There is scientific evidence to support all three, but there is no clear-cut support for any one alone.

There are many benefits to a good night’s sleep ranging from increased concentration, productivity, memory, mood and immune function to decreased sensitivity to pain and literally being more physically attractive. Proper sleep can also help control your hunger. Lack of sleep can increase cravings for starchy and sugary food, which produces abnormal sugar spikes and dips and perpetuate poor sleep habits.

Functional neurology and chiropractic can help your sleep patterns by decreasing physical pain, improving the way your brain cycles through the various stages and helping your stress response, thus allowing the proper brain waves to engage.