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Natural Awakenings Austin

Prioritizing Sleep for Health and Well-Being

Dec 05, 2016 04:33PM

by Bruce Wayne Meleski

Too many American adults accept poor sleep as part of modern life, which has transformed the way we sleep. Artificial lights allow us to work 24/7. There are the stressors of urban living and sedentary jobs that make it difficult to relax and expend the energy necessary to sleep efficiently.

Sleep is a basic physiological drive, necessary for life and proper functioning. Yet, many people suffer from inadequate sleep, with 30 to 40 percent of Americans suffering from insomnia. Sleep loss results in poor brain function reflected in physical illness. Insomnia can lead to poor health and debilitating disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. The body requires deep sleep or slow wave sleep to heal and restore at the cellular level. Sleep is an important part of human health.

In our 24-hour cycle, the sleep/ awake rhythm has approximately eight hours of sleep and 16 hours of being awake. The brain regulates this rhythm, known as the circadian rhythm, by responding to light and darkness. The brain’s nighttime response to darkness stimulates the release of melatonin to help one sleep. Different individuals vary for patterns of sleep, energy and daily rhythms. Even day-to-day, rhythms vary for each of us. Being acutely tuned into these variations can create a natural sleep cycle by focusing on four rhythms that impact sleep in modern society— circadian rhythm, stress rhythm, metabolic rhythm and behavioral rhythms.

In 1879, Thomas Edison patented the design for the light bulb, and our sleep has never been the same. Artificial light changes our nighttime chemistry in the brain, delaying the release of melatonin, which naturally releases in darkness. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant, anticancer fighting molecule and ensures a good night sleep when present in adequate amounts. Artificial light from household lights, computers and cell phones all reduce melatonin. Stress is a regular occurrence in today’s world. Chronic stress leads to anxiety and eventually depression in severe cases. Sleep, anxiety and pain often occur together and are inter-related, so one must control or mitigate stress to achieve optimum sleep.

The brain utilizes only carbohydrates as a source of energy and glucose metabolism factors into poor sleep for many. When the brain struggles to process glucose during the night, there is a tendency to wake up. The 2:30 a.m. wake-up call that many clients report experiencing makes it difficult to fall back asleep until the glucose metabolism can be restored to normal levels.

The bedroom should be used for sleep and sex only. When we work, watch television or read in the bedroom, we risk training our brain that we should be active at night. This training may lead to behaviors that cause chronic insomnia.

To achieve quality sleep, it’s important to focus on the body, mind, health and home. Providing physical comfort with a balanced sleep surface, quieting mind chatter, optimizing brain function and establishing the proper environment for sleep in the bedroom all play important roles in achieving optimum sleep.

Sleep medicine physicians screen patients for breathing problems associated with poor sleep; extreme cases include stoppage of breathing known as sleep apnea, a serious disease that can lead to heart problems, poor sleep quality and snoring. The standard treatment for sleep apnea is the CPAP machine that provides continuous air pressure to eliminate the apnea.

Many people just do not get enough sleep or wake up in the middle of the night and need help to get quality sleep. A solutions framework that includes behavioral, neurosensory, and metabolic techniques can help one sleep better, become more resistant to stress and enhance one’s experience. Treatment for chronic insomnia includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTi), a structured program that helps one identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen sleep problems with habits that promote sound sleep.

Others may need brain balancing for neurotransmitters; the chemicals of the brain that make the brain operate effectively. Tests can be completed to determine neurotransmitter levels and nutritional supplements can restore neurotransmitter levels to normal.

Neurosensory techniques include Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), sound therapy, breathing exercises, biofeedback and meditation. These approaches help one to relax and connect the mind and the body. When practiced and perfected, the brain will change and provide a strong foundation to wellbeing and balance. The chemistry of the brain can change moment by moment to the environment and the events that surround one’s day. By creating a brain that automatically balances itself and returns to homeostasis quickly, one will have more energy, joy and fulfillment.

Dr. Bruce Wayne Meleski is founder of Intelligent Sleep. For more information, call 512-306-1833 or visit

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