By Sharon Jane Akinyemi

Sleep is that thing that we are so much in need of in this our hyperactive, adrenaline-addicted culture. It is that thing that we often ignore until we feel the consequences of missing it. That thing that 48% of Nigerians report a lack of (insomnia) occasionally and 22% report missing every night. Insomnia in Nigeria has become an epidemic and it is wreaking havoc on our health.

A recent research notes that between 40 and 60 per cent of people over the age of 60 suffer from sleep deprivation; while women are up to twice as likely to suffer from insomnia as men.

“This has to do with women’s hormones,” experts say; as sleepless nights and daytime sleepiness have been linked with hormonal changes in a woman’s life, including pregnancy, menopause, and the menstrual cycle.

The Learning Process and Sleep

Sleep, learning, and memory are complex phenomena that are not entirely understood. However, animal and human studies suggest that the quantity and quality of sleep have a profound impact on learning and memory. Research suggests that sleep helps learning and memory in two distinct ways. First, a sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently. Second, sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information.

Although the exact mechanisms are not known, learning and memory are often described in terms of three functions. Acquisition refers to the introduction of new information into the brain. Consolidation represents the processes by which a memory becomes stable. Recall refers to the ability to access the information (whether consciously or unconsciously) after it has been stored.

Each of these steps is necessary for proper memory function. Acquisition and recall occur only during wakefulness, but research suggests that memory consolidation takes place during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form our memories. Although there is no consensus about how sleep makes this process possible, many researchers think that specific characteristics of brainwaves during different stages of sleep are associated with the formation of particular types of memory.

We all know that sleep is important. Restful sleep helps to “recharge” your system, decrease stress hormones, and reduce fatigue, but you probably didn’t know that it’s also vitally important to protecting your brain from toxicity, damage, and even debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

In a recent study conducted at the University of Rochester Medical Center, researchers discovered that it’s during sleep that the brain clears out potential harmful waste that builds up during the day.

You see, as you sleep your brain pumps spinal fluid into the brain to “flush out” waste into the circulatory system and eventually to the liver for removal. Because this process is very energy intensive, it’s difficult for the brain to perform it during the day while already over-active and preoccupied with performing every day tasks.

Instead, researchers found that sleeping brains were able to clear out much more amyloid-beta, the plaque-building protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Take home message: If you want to keep your brain healthy and free of toxins, strive for 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night. Nothing new there, but this information just may cause you to make it more of a priority!

Speaking of toxins, there’s another very common type of toxin that can do SERIOUS damage to your health if you don’t deal with it before it’s too late. Unfortunately, although nearly everyone is dealing with “infestation” levels of this toxin, most people aren’t even aware of it.

The Importance of Rest and Exercise for Peak Health!

Rest and sleep are natural phenomenon, they are crucial for healing and maintenance of health. They are also imperative for optimal weight. Studies have shown that those who sleep less often weigh more!

Rest is defined as a period of inactivity when the systems of the body can restore energy that was expended during activity. The body cannot expend energy and build-up energy supplies at the same time. Rest allows the body to redirect energies for cleansing and restoration. Sleep is defined as a natural periodic state of rest for the mind and body, in which the eyes usually close and consciousness is completely or partially lost so that there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli. Sleep is essential for life and health.

The benefits of sleep are:
Regeneration of energy expended throughout the day

Restocking of cells and organs with fuel and nutrients

Destruction of old, damaged and toxic cells

Replacement of old cells with new cells – the multiplication of cells during sleep is more than double that of waking hours

The elimination of toxins from the body

Reorganization of mental and emotional thoughts – the subconscious mind through dreams works things out mentally and emotionally

Our body’s metabolism has three separate and distinct phases every 24 hours – digestion takes place between noon and 8:00 pm, assimilation between 8 pm and 4 am, and detoxification between 4 am and noon. That is why it’s important to sleep at night. Most of your eating should be done from noon to 8 pm when the body is in the digestion mode. Eating in the morning prior to noon should be light to prevent disruption of the cleansing that the body is doing at that time.
What could affect my quality of sleep?

Ideally you should sleep between 7 and 9 hours each night, depending on the amount of toxicity in your body and the energy expended prior to sleep. Listen to your body and it will let you know what you need.

Minimize sensory interference during sleep. There should be absolutely no light while you sleep so your body produces melatonin (natural hormone made by the body’s pineal gland during sleep.) Melatonin production goes hand in hand with the light/dark cycles; therefore you need darkness to produce this vital hormone. This hormone allows you to sleep well and is often low or absent in people with insomnia. You should also have no noise that affects your sleep, unless you live in a place where there is a lot of noise that you cannot control. In that case, you can use something like a fan to provide “white” noise that keeps you from waking up from the other noise. Basically you want no distractions to your mind while sleeping.

It’s best to focus on something positive before going to sleep to assist you in focusing on positive things in your sleep. You can accomplish this best by meditation on Scripture or reading something from a positive book. Avoid the 11 pm news!

Exercise promotes improved sleep quality by allowing smoother and more regular transition between the cycles and phases of sleep. Exercise in the morning or afternoon, not close to bedtime. Stanford University School of Medicine researchers studied the effects of exercise on the sleep patterns of adults aged fifty-five to seventy-five who were sedentary and troubled by insomnia. The result? The time required to fall asleep was reduced by half, and sleep time increased by almost one hour.

There are many benefits of exercise besides helping you sleep well. Here are some of exercise’s benefits:

Helps you feel better and have more energy

Tones muscles and tissues for more effective use of strength and nutrients

Increases circulation and delivers oxygen to the cells

Increases lymphatic flow which aids in the removal of toxins. The best exercise is the one you’ll do!

What kind of food helps to detoxify?

There were times when my systems were clogged with toxins, all I do is take more of vegetables and fruits, e.g. ugu (fresh pumpkin leaves), water leaf, okra, cabbage, carrot, cucumber, watermelon, pawpaw, raw tomato, oranges.

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