So you can’t sleep. It’s been going on for a while. You feel that you could be doing something to fix the sleep deprivation situation but you don’t feel the sense of urgency. Perhaps it’s because it’s been so long since you woke up feeling GOOD in the morning that feeling groggy and tired became your baseline. And what is at a baseline, simply does not feel like it requires urgent action and remains on your “to do” list for some point in the future.
My purpose today is to show you how urgent fixing sleep actually is.
Ayurveda regards sleep as a matter of utmost importance for health. In fact, it goes as far as saying that we can’t really heal from ANY disease fully unless we fix our sleep. We cannot be fully healthy, EVER, if our sleep is out of whack. That’s because when we sleep, our body does its magic that it cannot do during the day: repairing, rewiring, replenishing, reprocessing – all of these are essential.
Science now also has shown that poor sleep over time can bring about medical conditions across the entire health spectrum. For the purpose of this article, let’s focus on three of them.
Lack of sleep causes impaired memory and Alzheimer’s disease
We have all heard of the lympthatic system, which is comparable to our body’s sewage system. According to recent findings (cf. Matthew Walker, University of California, Berkeley, 2017), our brain has one such system too, which is called the glymphatic system. Its job is to get rid of the build up of metabolic waste (or ama, in Ayurvedic terms) in the brain, that accumulates throughout the day. It does this when we are in deep sleep.
Among the debris that the glymphatic system clears, there is a sticky protein called beta amyloid, which is shown to be one of the leading causes of Alzheimer’s disease. So here’s the thing – the less deep sleep you get throughout your life, the more beta amyloid will accumulate in your brain. “Insufficient sleep is one of the most significant lifestyle factors determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease” (Matthew Walker, interview with Terry Gross on Oct 17, 2017). I bet all those late nights binge-watching Stranger Things are starting to lose their innocence now 🙂
Sleep regulates your hormone health
Ayurveda has always advocated a 10pm bedtime, with good reason. Studies have shown that melatonin production peaks between 10pm-2am. This is the Ayurvedic “Pitta” time of night, which is responsible for transformation, regeneration, detoxification – of our bodies and minds. If we are awake during this time, we miss out on all of these processes as well as on proper Melatonin production.
Melatonin is the hormone kingmaker – it orchestrates our overall hormone patterns. Thereby, it also regulates our sleep patterns by timing when our body is ready to go to sleep. Impaired melatonin levels resulting from exposure to artificial light in the evenings and due to lack of sleep will therefore further disrupt our sleep cycle and will negatively impact our hormonal health. So if you suffer from any kind of hormonal issue, this is your reminder to make fixing sleep your priority, yesterday 😉
Sleep supports your immune function
Imagine this for a moment: a study showed that after one night of sleep deprivation (of 4 hours), natural killer cell activity (our first line of defence against viruses, bacteria and cancer cells) dropped by 70% in human subjects! 70% after ONE NIGHT, people – please read that again. I leave it up to your imagination what it would be after weeks, months or even years of disturbed sleep. This reason alone should be enough for proper sleep hygiene to be taught at schools.
Protecting our sleep as our duty
There are a zillion other health conditions that may result from living in an under-slept state. In an unlikely case that you are still on the fence, here are a few: heart disease, premature ageing and wrinkling, digestive trouble and weight gain, depression, low libido. In a nutshell, shorter sleep predicts shorter life.
From the Vedic point of view, prioritising and fixing sleep when there is lack thereof, is our utmost duty – a way of living in harmony with the cosmic order, which really wants us to thrive. For if we don’t, we will gradually start falling apart and won’t be able to do what we came here to do – whatever that may be.
Ready to take action?
So here is an action plan to get you started – you can kick-off by reading my Ayurvedic tips for fixing sleep and preventing insomnia here. If you are feeling inspired, you can also make yourself a delicious Ayurvedic sleep tonic recipe! Finally, don’t be afraid to seek support. I work with clients helping them make small tweaks in their routine that ultimately lead to peaceful nights and less anxiety. Reach out by booking a free health assessment here!