We know that sleep is critical to achieving and maintaining good health, but how much do we consider it as part of our body’s detoxification process? When we’re asleep—particularly when we’re in deep sleep—three important things are happening:
- The brain is recharging itself. What most people don’t know is that the brain is actually an immune organ—90 percent of its cells, called glia cells, are immune cells tasked with protecting neurons and keeping them healthy; sleep is a vital part of that.
- The brain is eliminating toxins. Sleep is also the time when our brains detoxify themselves—researchers call this the glymphatic system. Glia cells are connected with lymphatics in the brain, and during sleep, toxins and chemicals are being drained from the brain through this glymphatic system.
- The cells of our body and brain are growing, regenerating, and repairing themselves, so when we’re sleeping, our body and brain are healing. When we’re sleep deprived, our immune system becomes compromised; alternatively, good sleep helps to create a strong, robust immune system.
Poor sleep is associated with a number of health risks: suppressed immune function, amplification of cardiovascular disease, obesity, neurological changes (i.e. mood, irritability, behavioral changes, focus, etc.), chronic pain, and gastrointestinal disorders. It’s estimated that between 50 and 70 million American adults have some type of sleep disorder, with insomnia being the most common. The required amount of sleep for different age groups is as follows:
- Adults: 7-9 hours
- Teenagers: 8-10 hours
- Children aged 2 to 6: 10-14 hours
- Infants: 12-16 hours
There are a number of strategies to sleep better at night. The most important thing is to wake up at the same time every day, including on weekends, to prevent throwing off the circadian rhythm. Second, eliminate electronics from the bedroom and turn them off one to two hours before going to bed—this includes computers, cell phones, TVs, etc. Electronics interfere with sleep because they emit EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies) that stimulate the brain and increase cortisol. The bedroom should also be dark and cool, both of which relax the body and promote sleep.
Another sleep strategy is to control evening blood sugar levels by not eating sugary foods at night (people with hypoglycemia should have some protein or fiber at night to keep their blood sugar levels up). Since fruits contain sugar too, they should be eaten earlier in the day. It’s also a good idea to get natural daylight outside as early in the day as possible to kickstart a natural circadian rhythm into gear. There are also some nutrients that can help, but these need to be addressed on a person-to-person basis.
Other issues that can affect sleep include how well the body detoxifies environmental toxins, generational toxins, and toxins produced by the body itself. Learn more about sleep, exercise and natural detoxification methods, or how to improve the body’s natural healing ability, tune into Module 5 of The Down5 Pounds Challenge.