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Why do we sleep?

Why do we sleep?

We sleep because we get sleepy and we cannot work or function properly if we get too sleepy. That is the simplest and yet most profound answer to this question. In addition, many scientists think sleep naturally occurs to enable the body to cleanse itself while at rest. Recent research has isolated products of the body's immune system that seem to be sleep-inducers and may be a good indication that the body needs to sleep to help support, and even regenerate, its immune system.


Why your body needs sleep

Sleep is a time for the body to rest, repair and regenerate itself from its normal daily functions and the stresses of everyday life. Proper sleep can help to revitalize your body each day. This revitalization is a very strong component of anti-aging.

During sleep the body has systems that rest and some that go to work. Those that are not needed while your body is in rest mode What happens when you sleep?go through a well-earned revitalization process including rest, cleansing, nutrition, stress reduction, etc. Also, during sleep there are systems that are more active, like digestion, immune system activity, and the sleep cycle itself. Your body is literally helping itself recover from the activities of the day while at rest. Without adequate and proper sleep, you may nnot fully rejuvenate your body. You may feel okay on a few hours sleep, but your body may not have fully recovered and could still be stressed by the lack of regenerating sleep.

Sleep cycle

Your body has a regular sleep cycle which is started by a brain chemical called serotonin that leads to the production of the hormone called melatonin. After melatonin is produced, deep sleep should occur within 4 - 5 hours. During deep sleep, growth hormones are active and helping to regenerate your body. The last 2 - 3 hours of sleep are much lighter and involve the cycles of the sexual hormones such as testosterone. The sexual hormone cycles are active about the time you are waking up. Based on the body's normal hormonal activity during sleep, you should be averaging  7 - 8 hours of sleep. If you are averaging less sleep, you are limiting the time your body needs to recover and this can actually add additional stress to your body each day. In addition, lack of sleep decreases your primary hormone activity that occurs while you sleep.

What happens when you sleep?

Sleep is an active, highly organized sequence of events and physiological conditions. Sleep is actually made up of two separate and distinctly different states - 'non-rapid eye movement sleep' (NREM) sleep and 'rapid eye movement' (REM sleep) or dreaming sleep.

NREM sleep is further divided into stages, based on the size and speed of the brain waves generated by the sleeper. Stages 3 and 4 of NREM sleep have the biggest and slowest brain waves. These big, slow waves are called delta waves and stages 3 and 4 sleep combined are often called 'slow-wave sleep' or 'delta sleep'.

During REM sleep you can watch a sleeping person's eyes move beneath closed eyelids. Some scientists think that the eyes move in a pattern that relates to the visual images of a dream. We are almost completely paralyzed in REM sleep - only the heart, diaphragm, eye muscles, and the smooth muscles (such as the muscles of the intestines and blood vessels) are spared frome the paralysis of REM sleep. 

Don't underestimate the importance of sleep

Sleep. Everyone recommends it, parents miss it, and babies spend most of their time doing it. Sleep is certainly one of the more important parts of a healthy lifestyle and most of us simply do not get enough of it. In fact, a full night's sleep is increasingly more difficult for nearly two-thirds of Americans who suffer from sleep disorders.

According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), sponsor of National Sleep Awareness Week, stress-related insomnia, snoring, and sleep disorders are among the top reasons Americans are losing sleep. Continued sleep deprivation over two nights or more can have an adverse effect on your overall mental and physical health, as well as on such conditions as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. The inability to get a good night's sleep can result in both health and safety hazards. Researchers say that when we are deprived of our suggested eight hours of sleep that we subject ourselves to irritability, attention deficits, and a compromised immune system.

Sleep is essential to well being

We all know when we need to sleep - we can feel this need. We also know that sleep has done its job when we feel rested. Sleep is essential to our total well being. It helps us to feel healthy, think more clearly, and live life more fully. Unfortunately, poor sleep and day-time fatigue challenge millions every night and day.

Sleep is characterized by little physical activity and almost no recognition of the outside world.

Insomnia affects more than 84 million Americans and is characterized by difficulty initiating or maintaining deep, refreshing sleep. People with insomnia report a low level of physical and mental well-being (including higher levels of depression and anxiety), and experience changes in concentration, memory, ability to accomplish daily tasks, and relationships with others. They often have more medical complaints and seek medical care more often. The National Commission on Sleep Disorders indicated in a 1998 report that sleep deprivation costs Possible reasons for poor sleepbillion's of dollars annually in accidents and lost productivity. This research indicated that inadequate sleep can lead to higher stress, shortened temper, overall fatigue, lower motivation, slower reflexes, and more mistakes. If you do not find success with self-help and you feel you have a problem with sleep, a check-up with your health professional may be in order.

Possible reasons for poor sleep

  • Stress (mental or emotional)
  • Daily anxiety
  • Physical challenges, including restless legs
  • Caffeine intake
  • Alcohol and nicotine consumption
  • Occasional pain and discomfort
  • Irregular schedules (work, professional, school, etc)

Lifestyle Suggestions - Tips on getting a good night's sleep

Healthy Exercise

  • Follow a consistent schedule and routine - go to sleep and get up at the same time.
  • Do not nap during the day - you might be less sleepy at night
  • Exercise at regular times each day.
  • Try to get some natural sunlight in the early morning or mid-afternoon each day.
  • Create a safe and comfortable place to sleep. Make sure there are locks on all doors and smoke alarms on each floor. A lamp that's easy to turn on and a phone by your bed may be helpful. The room should be dark, well ventilated, and as quite as possible.
  • Develop a bedtime routine. Do the same things each night to tell your body that it's time to wind down. Some people watch the evening news, read a book, or soak in a warm bath.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleeping. After turning off the light, give yourself about 15 minutes to fall asleep. If you are still awake and not drowsy, get out of bed. When you get sleepy, go back to bed.
  • Try not to worry about your sleep. Some people find that playing mental games is helpful. Trying to focus on one thing or one color can often slow down your mental activity. Keep trying different things until you find one that works. But don't worry about it - just try to relax your mind and body.

Healthy Diet Choices

  • Be careful about what you eat. Don't drink beverages with caffeine. Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant and can keep you awake.
  • If you like a snack before bed, a cup of non-caffeinated herbal tea and some whole wheat or rye crackers may provide some help.
  • Don't drink alcohol or smoke to help you sleep. Even small amounts of alcohol can make it harder to stay asleep. Smoking is dangerous for many reasons including the hazard of falling asleep with a lit cigarette. The nicotine in cigarettes is also a stimulant.


Sleep Changes as we age

As we age, retire, and change our lives, the impact on our sleep can be significant. Daytime naps make us less tired at bedtime. Using beds for reading or watching TV can make falling asleep more difficult. Stress and bereavement may lead to early awakenings or interrupted sleep. Normal night sounds (like a barking dog) may trouble us more than when we were younger. Medical conditions and physical changes associated with aging may play their own roles. Nighttime aches and pains may lengthen the time it takes to fall asleep - and interrupt sleep thereafter.

The middle-aged and elderly suffer from at least four sleep disorders in numbers far greater than younger people - sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, and advanced sleep phase syndrome. Medical problems that include arthritis, heartburn, osteoporosis, BPH, and ear and lung disease may also interrupt, delay, or abbreviate sleep, as may some of the drugs used to treat these conditions.  The need to use the bathroom ore frequently impacts sleep patterns. Medical and psychiatric conditions, including depression and anxiety, may lead to sleep difficulties as well. Older people find that sleep can become more shallow, fragmented, and variable in duration with age. The elderly wake more frequently than younger adults. For women, menopause is another source of potential sleep problems. Hot flashes and associated breathing changes during this time appear to disturb sleep and may lead to daytime fatigue. Seventy five percent of menopausal women suffer from hot flashes, on average for five years.

A Sleep Deprived Nation

A poll released by the National Sleep Foundation confirms what most busy Americans know already, yet few seem prepared to correct. While we may be aware of the importance of adequate sleep to performance and well being, we're still not prepared to do much about it.

Sleep experts recommend at least 8 hours of sleep a night for adults to function properly, yet NSF's 2000 Sleep in America omnibus poll found that, on average, adults sleep just under 7 hours during the work week. In fact, one-third (33%) of adults sleep only 6½ hours or less nightly. Even more discouraging, a full 45% of adults agree that they will sleep less in order to accomplish more.

NSF's poll of adults 18 years and older examines the effect of sleep habits on Americans' ability to function. Results are grouped around three major issues - sleep and the workplace; fatigue among young adults; and drowsy driving.

Sleepiness in the workplace

Americans now work the longest hours of any industrialized nation in the world, according to a recent study by the International Labor Organization. But as we work longer hours to get more done, individual productivity levels are suffering due to sleepiness:

  • One-half of the American workforce (51%) reports that sleepiness on the job interferes with the amount of work they get done.
  • Forty percent of adults admit that the quality of their work suffers when they're sleepy.
  • At least two-thirds of adults say that sleepiness interferes with their concentration (68%) and makes handling stress on the job more difficult (66%). Ability to concentrate, amount of work they do, quality of work they do is diminished about 30% when they are sleepy at work.
  • Nearly one out of five adults (19%) reports making occasional or frequent work errors due to sleepiness.
  • Overall, employees estimate that the quality and quantity of their work is diminished by about 30% when they are sleepy.
  • More than two-thirds (68%) of shift-workers report problems sleeping.
  • Nearly one out of four adults (24%) has difficulty getting up for work two or more workdays per week.
  • Thirty-five percent nap after work.
  • Eight percent report that work problems disturb their sleep.
  • Almost 1 out of 10 report having changed jobs in order to get more sleep.

Asleep at a deskYoung adults (18 - 29 year olds)

"Youthful energy" may be a myth for most of the nation's young adults. Burning the candle at both ends, more than 55% of adults 18 to 29 years old admit to staying up too late to watch TV or be on the Internet. An equal perentage of the so-called "Generation Y" say they will sleep less in order to get more done.




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Martin, Antonio. “Antioxidant vitamins E and C and risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Int Life Science Inst, (2003) Feb:69-73

Ravaglia, Giovanni, et al, “Homocysteine and folate as risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer disease.” Am J Clin Nutri, (2005);82:636-643





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NaturalCare® Products opened its doors in 1993 in Orem, Utah. Our goal has always been to provide safe, effective natural products using traditional remedies. We manufacture products we use personally and give to our friends and families. Using homeopathic formulas that conform to the U.S. Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia, and nutritional supplement products supported by a wealth of information, we have formulated products that will have a positive impact on our customers' lives and health.

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