The Fundamentals – 1. Sleep

Disclaimer

The Fundamentals is a list of 6 categories that I think clears a pathway towards optimal health and well-being.

The categories are listed in order of rough necessity, however every component of The Fundamentals directly impacts the other.

N.O.T.H.I.N.G  H.A.P.P.E.N.S  I.N  I.S.O.L.A.T.I.O.N

The context of this list is (like anything I write about) referring to the everyday human being, who’s main priority is to thrive in the modern world with a quality of life that supports themselves, their families, occupations, and hobbies. That enables them to progress day to day, year after year throughout their entire lives, while in the absence of injury and pain, mental emotional and spiritual distress, chronic stress, movement inadequacy, and any other sub-category of disease that you can think of.

Obviously I’m no doctor (don’t sue), this is just me giving you an opportunity to think critically about your lifestyle habits.

1. Sleep

Sleep is first on my list because

a) It’s the first thing you do everyday, and

b) It’s the very base of the pyramid for human function

Meaning,

You can’t out-eat sleep deprivation with a good diet, you can’t out-exercise lack of sleep, and you can’t run to the store and buy sleep in supplement form. (Melatonin from a bottle isn’t the same as melatonin from your pineal gland)

Here’s a few of the things I’ve been experimenting with myself as I journey down the rabbit hole of improving my sleep.

1) Spending 10-15 minutes in direct sunlight as soon as I can in the morning

Exposing your eyes and skin to sun first thing in the morning kick starts the production of serotonin, which is then later converted to melatonin, which in turn induces sleep.

2) Matching my daily schedule with our circadian rhythm

This is just an expansion on getting sunlight in the A.M. The closer you can get your sleep/wake cycle to that of the sun, the better. Obviously this can be hard to do as we have sunlight 24/7 (artificial light), but you have more control over it than you probably give yourself credit. I’ve been doing my best to be in bed by 9pm, and waking in the morning without an alarm as often as possible.

3) Varying my sleeping environment

I’ve transitioned to sleeping on the floor pretty much every night now, or if not the floor then I’ll switch between the bed or the couch. I find the feedback from lying on a hard surface knocks me out. 

We don’t think of sleeping as being an opportunity to make physical change to our body like we do with exercise,  but the process of mechanotransduction still applies. Mechanotransduction simply meaning a mechanical input (the surface you’re sleeping on in this case) being converted by your cells into electrochemical signals which then have different physiological effects. 

You could think of the 8 hour sleep window as an opportunity to recover much like you do when you’re rolling on a foam roller or having a massage, given the surface is hard enough to create enough of a mechanical input. 

For more resources on this concept click HERE

The benefits of optimal sleep

I’m not enough of an expert (not much of one at all) to know all the positive outcomes of sleep for the human being, but it includes things like:

Structural repair of the body

Including the release of HGH (human growth hormone), especially important if you’re training hard or physically active

Brain health

“Cerebral spinal fluid is pumped more quickly throughout the brain while you sleep. It acts like a vacuum cleaner, whisking away waste products, such as molecular detritus that brain cells make and toxic proteins that can lead to dementia over time. So you wake up with, quite literally, a clean slate”.

– https://www.sleep.org/articles/brain-during-sleep/

Gut health

“The relationship between sleep and the microbiome is increasingly seen as a two-way street. Our microbiota seems to have an effect on how we sleep. In turn, sleep and circadian rhythms appear to affect the health and diversity of the important bacterial world that lives in our gut”.

– https://www.thesleepdoctor.com/2018/05/29/the-latest-on-sleep-and-gut-health/

Immune health

“Sleep and the circadian system are strong regulators of immunological processes. The basis of this influence is a bidirectional communication between the central nervous and immune system which is mediated by shared signals (neurotransmitters, hormones and cytokines) and direct innervations of the immune system by the autonomic nervous system. Many immune functions display prominent rhythms in synchrony with the regular 24-h sleep–wake cycle, reflecting the synergistic actions of sleep and the circadian system on these parameters.”
 
– https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256323/

The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts

One thing I do know is that we can study our parts as much as we want (and for good benefit), but we will never shortcut our way to health by focusing on isolated components of our being and behaviours. 

The underlying pillars of health, the things that make us human, the things that dictate the quality of our experience here on earth (also known as The Fundamentals) are innately intertwined with the intricacies of our biology. You don’t need to know why sleep makes you feel better, or why eating real food helps you lose weight or improves your mental health.

Just like you don’t need to understand the mechanism of how your body heals itself when you break a bone or graze your skin.

It just happens.

Put yourself in situations that are biologically appropriate and then get out of your own way. Your body will take care of the rest, it’s spent a gazillion years evolving to do so.

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