Get Sufficient Sleep and Deep Sleep
There are many ads on TV these days about prescriptions and supplements. And it’s at the end of the day and you and your partner are watching. If you see an ad for a prescription, you give it some credibility because you probably know it went through FDA clinical trials. And we know because of those, the benefits of that drug outweigh the side effects. So if you had that condition, they’re talking about it as an advertisement, and you heard this ad, you might be very well tempted to call your doctor and ask about it. Supplements, on the other hand, are quite another thing because there are no trials behind taking supplements. And there are many of these ads on TV as well. And in many cases, there are all kinds of claims. There are people that look good; they are actors or actresses.
Sometimes, they have a white coat on to look like they’re a doctor, when they’re actually not a doctor! And they are talking about all these great benefits of supplements. The Focus Factor improves your memory. Now, let’s say tomorrow, you’re watching an ad, and it’s me on TV. I’ve got this pill and I’m claiming there are 17,000 studies, and if you take this pill, you will get 13 terrific benefits. And then, I list the benefits. It will enhance your memory. It will make you more creative. It will make you look more attractive to other people. It will keep you slim. It will lower food cravings. It will make you so much happier. It will protect you from cancer, protect you from Alzheimer’s. Ward off colds, flu, COVID-19. It will lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. And make you much less depressed. And of course, make you live much longer. So, you heard this ad you would probably turn to the partner and say, wow, “17,000 studies prove this? Maybe we should try it.”
Well, it’s not a pill! It is actually the answer to that, to receive those benefits is just get a full night’s sleep. So again, documented in more than 17,000 medically well, scrutinized scientific reports. Here is a little background. Through evolution, we humans, up until maybe 100 years ago, pretty much went to sleep when it got dark, and woke up when it got light. And that was typically eight to nine hours, depending on the time of year and the latitude.
And when you don’t get that much, when you’re getting an average of six hours of sleep, it has a catastrophic impact on overall health, the education of our children, our safety, our productivity, and our life expectancy. Let me just describe one of these 17,000 studies that prove this without a question. We’ve all heard of the NBA. We’ve all heard of the Golden State Warriors; world champions two times in the last several years. Researchers did tests on their players at real games. If the player had more than eight hours of sleep, they had a 12% increase in the number of minutes that they played. And they had a 29% increase in the number of points they scored per minute when they were playing. If they got less than six hours of sleep, they had a 37% increase in turnovers, losing the ball. And a 45% increase in fouls committed, causing all kinds of havoc.
The Importance of a Full Night Sleep
So, just one example of the 17,000 studies on why we need to get a full night’s sleep. Now, if you look at what’s happened in the U.S. In 1940, we were getting about eight and a half hours of sleep on average. In 2010, as a nation, we are getting about six and a half hours of sleep, with all these catastrophic results I mentioned earlier. One of the catastrophic results is obesity. Obesity has increased from hardly anybody in 1940 to 43% of the people now, in 2020. And when you watch those two curves together, there’s a real strong correlation between lack of sleep and obesity.
There are four areas of sleep, four stages. One is, we can be awake some of the time. And that’s because of these natural cycles. We’re not awake much. And mostly, when we’re awake, we don’t consciously know we’re awake. So, we really wake up, go right back to sleep.
There is also light sleep, and that occurs about half of the night. Then there’s rapid eye movement sleep (REM), which is about a quarter of the time. And then, deep sleep, about 15% of the time. If you just wear a simple Fitbit or another wearable fitness device, you can see the next morning how much time you spent in all these areas of sleep. I look at mine every morning when I get up. My goal is to get eight and a half hours of sleep, and I’m pretty much doing that. And for the four areas of sleep, I’m pretty much getting the amount of REM sleep I need. And, the amount of deep sleep needed.
Let’s discuss REM sleep. We have all heard about the rapid eye movement sleep. It’s when we are dreaming. We have these cycles of REM sleep, usually up to about an hour, hour apiece. And all kinds of crazy stuff happens. Our breathing becomes faster and irregular, and shallow an our heart rate and blood pressure increase.
But some of the good things that happen are, the information that we learned in the previous day is consolidated and preserves our long-term memory. Another great part of REM sleep is this. Many of us have gone to bed with a vexing problem or trying to make connections we couldn’t make. In the morning, we wake up and we’ve got them. So, many of you, I’m sure have never heard this. If you’ve got a real problem, nobody ever says, “Stay awake on it.” But many people will say, “Why don’t you just sleep it?” Well, we know, anecdotally, that if you just sleep on problems and connections, you can’t quite solve, the REM sleep is helping all those connections and all those answers to the problems.
During the first podcast, we learned dead zombie proteins that cause chronic inflammation can build up in our brain. And if we’re eating too much sugar, the sugar can cause cross-links, meaning they’ll cause these dead proteins to agglomerate together. That puts us on the path to Alzheimer’s when they build up too much. Deep sleep helps with that. It’s called a restorative stage. In deep sleep, the body is motionless. Our muscles and tissues are being repaired. Our growth and development are being stimulated. Our immune system is being stimulated, which is great. And our energy is being built up for the next day.
And most importantly, these dead proteins are being washed out of our brains. When the dead proteins build-up in our body, then during deep sleep, they are washed out through the lymphatic system. And that’s a big pipe. It goes right out through our urine. It’s easy to wash those dead proteins out of our bodies.
In our brain, constrained by the skull, the only way to get those dead proteins out is to wash them out through the glymphatic system. That’s the system in our brain that will wash them out down through the spinal cord, a much, much smaller pipe. It’s only in deep sleep when our brain cells shrink in size and allow that glymphatic fluid to wash them out 20 times faster when we’re not in deep sleep; one of the most important reasons to get deep sleep so you can get rid of all those dead proteins that have agglomerated in our brain, which lead us to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Tips for Increasing Deep SleepHere are some ideas on increasing deep sleep. Go to bed at a consistent time each night. I go to bed at 10:00 PM and typically read to 10:30. Sleep eight to nine hours, as I mentioned before. Sleep in a cool environment. My wife and I keep the house at about 73 during the day. But at night, we turn it down to 67. Darken the bedroom, so that the light, especially at the time of year when the sun comes up early doesn’t wake you up. Or use a sleep mask. Use a white noise generator. I live in downtown D.C., there are all kinds of environmental noises, sirens and marchers and all kinds of stuff going on.
If you have a white noise generator, it generates a kind of a hum, so you don’t become awakened by the external noises. And one other great way to do this is to rid your room of any screen, computer, cell phone, etc. TV emits all kinds of light, including blue light. The trouble with blue light is it suppresses melatonin, the hormone that helps us go to sleep. If you want to get great deep sleep, you really should turn off those screens within an hour before you go to bed. Or use eyeglasses that have what are blue-light-blocking lenses in them. I have a couple of pairs of those. One for home, and one for travel. I think they’re $80 at Costco. It’s my normal prescription, but it also has the blue locking part to the lens.
Another thing you can do is wear some loose-fitting socks while you’re sleeping. It results in longer sleep, less awakening, better thermal regulation of your body, and increases the body of blood flow.
There are some things you shouldn’t do before bedtime so that you don’t lose deep sleep. Don’t exercise within three hours of going to bed, avoid caffeine and nicotine within eight hours of going to bed. That would mean coffee, some teas, sodas, chocolate. Avoid alcoholic drinks within two hours of bedtime. Forget about that nightcap. Avoid large meals within four hours of bedtime so that once you go to sleep, your whole body isn’t still working on digestion, it’s working on the REM sleep and the deep sleep. Don’t take naps after 3:00 PM. And then, don’t lie in bed awake. If you wake up and can’t go back to sleep, get up and read for a little bit and then go back to bed.