Part I: Sleep is Essential

Sleep does matter, learning how to get steady restful sleep especially during stressful and worrisome times like now is so necessary to our emotional, mental, physical and immune health. 
Did you know that getting good sleep helps us handle complex thinking activities like memorization, decision-making and problem-solving? Have you ever experienced waking up irritable or moody? Did you ever consider how your sleep duration and quality impact your disposition?

The bottom line, getting a good night’s sleep makes a difference in your energy levels, reaction time, concentration ability and information processing! Without getting into all the “sleep-inducing” details, let me highlight a few points. Each of our bodies has their own natural body clocks, its own sleep-wake cycle known as circadian rhythm. Our body clocks regulates the timing of our sleep. Your body clock is unique from mine which is distinct from the next person. We also use our sleep-wake internal biochemical system, a timer in a way which controls our sleep intensity and onset of drowsiness using specific inter-related hormonal reactions. Sleep researchers now recognize four stages of sleep with Stage 3 known as the period of deep sleep as being most beneficial. If a person has spent an adequate amount of time in Stage 3 sleep, he or she will feel refreshed and typically better able to handle complex cognitive activities the next morning! What sleep researchers know is this, paying attention to the quality, intensity and duration of our sleep is vitally critical to our overall health and especially our immune and cognitive functions.

Why is sleep essential for humans? Our bodies use sleep as restorative rest, a time to replenish and recover from daily events, stressors and chronic illnesses. Our bodies undergo bone formation and repair during sleep and when we experience episodes of insomnia, this function can be diminished. When we are overly stressed or anxious, one of the body’s critical hormone known as adrenalin increases meaning more of this hormone is circulating. Increased levels of adrenalin can impact our ability to fall asleep. Another important hormone is melatonin which helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is naturally released based on a series of responses like the optic nerves sending signals of diminishing light to a designated part of the brain and so on. When our sleep environments are lit up or we are using electronic devices emitting blue light, the brain cannot register “darkness” which in turns does not allow the body to naturally release melatonin. Cortisol, another natural steroidal hormone helps mediate our stress responses allowing our bodies to fight, take flight by running or freeze by playing opossum during times of chaos, abuse or traumatic stress. Cortisol also influences how extra or stored glucose is rendered usable as energy through a series of complex metabolic processes during times of stress. There are other hormones involved in our sleep response, but adrenaline, melatonin and cortisol have some far-reaching implications as to the overall quality, duration and intensity of sleep.
What other agents impact our ability to fall or stay sleep? How does caffeine, alcohol, marijuana, certain medications, foods and drinks enhance or diminish our sleep response? Is there a link between use of anti-histamines and anti-depressants and overall sleep quality? Well, that’s all for now, please stay tuned to the next installment of “Sleep is essential!”

ESV Scripture – Psalm 91:1: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

Prayer. Dear God, your word says in Proverb 3:24, “If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down; your sleep will be sweet.” During this time of uncertainty, turmoil, inequities and strife, grant us rest and sound sleep to heal and restore our bodies to withstand whatever lies ahead. Whisper through our dreams your plans and hope for our lives and provide glimpses of joy and healing for tomorrow’s sunrises, challenges and opportunities. We are grateful for these times of rest and quietness given through your protective hands of mercy. Bless those who are lost, lonely or overwhelmed. Help us to reach those living apart from your saving grace. Thank you God for all things especially the redemptive blood of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen