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Sleep Cleaning

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The third of the four pillars of chronic pain reduction may be the most important. The third pillar is......


We have previously covered 2 other pillars, cardiovascular fitness which improves our mood, release our own opioids, and desensitizes our nerves, and goal setting which need to be SMART for incremental and progressive successes.

The importance for sleep cannot be overstated. We, unfortunately, live in a society that does not value sleep, and it is usually the first thing cut when we need to fit extra activities into our routine. When going through graduate school, the joke was you could could have 2 of 3 things: Study time, a social life, or sleep. Most people chose study time and a social life. But the trick is, getting enough sleep would improve the other two.

The recommended amount of sleep is between 7-9 hours, with a strong emphasis on 8 hours of sleep every night for almost everyone. You hear many people claim "I haven't got more than 6 hours of sleep my entire life, and I am healthy and fine." Only around 3% people have the ability to survive on 6 or fewer hours of sleep a night. Missing sleep increases risk for an incredible amount of diseases, but most notably, heart attack, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression.

I could write a few posts on sleep, and I probably will, but if you want to skip the wait, I would recommend the book by Mathew Walker, "Why We Sleep" (I have no finance interest or investment, just a strong commitment to encouraging a healthy community)

This is an incredible book that changed the way I view sleep education and how I treat. One of my favorite quotes is, "Eight hours of sleep should be non-negotiable." Meaning everything else should fit around your sleep schedule. I fully understand a large percent of my patients have difficulties with getting to sleep, or staying asleep. We have to start somewhere.

Before we get into 10 tips to help you sleep, I want to bring to your attention to a lesser known biological system in the human body known as the glymphatic system (so unknown, autocorrect tried twice to change it.) The glymphatic system only engages when we are sleeping, and it is like the cleaning service for our brain.

Imagine this, usually when you leave for work at night from your building, a cleaning service comes in and takes care of the trash, cleans the floors, the tables, maybe maintenance comes in and runs comes checks and possibly IT runs some stress tests of systems or installs an update. If the crew is less than effective, you'd notice, but still be able to perform your job, but maybe not as well. If the company makes you work late the cleaners can't get in to their job, you may end up with a less than effective work place during normal working hours. This may continue to the point where only part of the staff can work at any one time because the building or systems are so run down.

This is how the glymphatic system works. After your brain and body are done working, you go to sleep for a nice cleaning. The glymphatic system gets rid of the waste products of the brain which reduces the resistance to helping clean and maintain the neuropathways within the brain and to the body. The glymphatic system is present at REM sleep, but more present during the non-REM cycle.

So how can we maximize improve the glymphatic system and our sleep?

  1. Start a routine. Starting healthy sleep habits may help you limit medication (ask your physician about starting or stopping medication.) Use these tips to start.

  2. Cool down. Set your room temp to around 68 degrees. If you are still struggling to cool down, you can take a warm shower which will stimulate your body to give off the extra heat, cooling your inner temperature.

  3. Turn off your electronics about an hour before bed. 90 minutes if you're feeling really spicy. The blue light emitted by our devices stimulates our brain to thinking it is day time, which disrupts our hormones to sleep

  4. No TVs in the bed room. The bedroom should be used for 2 things, sleeping and freaking.

  5. Darken the room. Make your bedroom as dark as possible, use blackout curtains if you can. Watch the Seinfeld episode"The Chicken Roaster," for a wonderful example of what happens when a room is too lit.

  6. Avoid eating or drinking about an hour or so before bed. Eating too close to bed also affects your hormones and digestion as well as sleep cycle, which tends to lead to obesity or even Type 2 diabetes.

  7. Avoid looking at the clock, this includes your phone. If you continue to be restless for an around 30 minutes without falling asleep, get up and take a short walk, or perform some mindfulness routine outside the bed. Then try again

  8. Perform regular exercise. This may help the body relax at night enough to promote quick sleep

  9. Wake up at the same time. Yes even on weekends. Believe it or not, once this becomes your routine, you won't need to use an alarm clock. This helps keep those healthy habits we are trying so hard to start

  10. Keep your fur babies out of bed. They tend to increase the heat in the bed and take up space, resulting in a more restless night of sleep.

  11. Bonus ---- Don't hit the snooze button. Hitting the snooze button negatively effects the your heart rate by keeping it elevated throughout the day!

Sleep is one of my favorite topics because of how holistic it is. It literally effects every system of your body and your ability to function at the highest level.

After all that, you may think "What about napping?" Well, the verdict is still out. There is good evidence that a "rest time" is greatly beneficial, but long naps may be harmful. More research needs to be done however. But a good 15 min nap is great for recharging the batteries, some call it a cat nap. Speaking of which, this is the newest member of the LiberationPT team!

Be kind to yourself,


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