In our Anti-aging category we discuss the impact of inflammation on the aging process, and how it seems to underlie many of the disease conditions that eventually take us down the final slope of life. Now there is word that even one bad night’s sleep increases a major promoter of generalized inflammation, Nuclear Factor Kappa Beta (NFkB). NFkB is the master signaling chemical that tells the cells of the body to ramp up inflammation, and it is activated quickly by a single night of 5 hours sleep, rather than a good 7-8 hours of sleep.
There are many other longer term studies that show the impact of poor sleep patterns; disrupting neurotransmitter levels, hormone production, increasing inflammation, lowering immune function and exhausting the HPTA axis glands. The net result is a faster aging process that moves the body slowly toward metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes. This was seen in another recent study where subjects in their 20s were shown to develop increases in fasting blood sugar, fasting insulin levels and clear evidence of increased insulin resistance within a few days of insufficient deep sleep.
Many people who have trouble falling asleep resort to an alcohol nightcap – yours truly no exception in the past – it is just easier to fall asleep and conk out sooner. But more and more evidence is pilling up that alcohol disrupts the repair mechanisms that work during sleep. Alcohol is a sleep disruptor that ruins the effectiveness of the sleep you get, and causes the same kind of malfunctions as the lack of sleep itself. So I am reforming my patterns – no booze after 7:30 (exceptions for good company and the very rare wild party) and aim at being clear headed by bedtime.
There are lots of healthy sleep aids on the market. Look for products with these components: magnesium (malate), extracts of – valerian, ashwagandha, hops, passionflower, lemon balm; 5-htp or Tryptophan itself, L-theanine and GABA. There is also chamomile tea or warm milk (natural source of tryptophan) and melatonin. I have no luck with melatonin; I get drowsy at first, then get agitated and sleep is very fitful if it comes at all. Melatonin acts as a stimulant in nocturnal animals – what does that say about me? At any rate, learning to sleep long enough and well enough may be the number one key to successful aging and long term fitness – make it a priority!
Good Living – Frank