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Creation Health: Rest

In 1964, Randy Gardner set out to break the world record for sleep deprivation previously set by disc jockey Tom Rounds.  Gardner, a high school student in San Diego, broke the record by staying awake without any stimulants for 11 days and 24 minutes.  While there have been others to break the world record, Gardner’s record is the only one to be attended as a scientific experiment by medical researchers.

It is often claimed that Gardner’s experiment demonstrated that extreme sleep deprivation has little effect, other than the mood changes associated with tiredness.  This is primarily due to a report by researcher Dr. William Dement, who stated that on the 10th day of the experiment, Gardner had been, among other things, able to beat Dement at pinball. 

However, Lt. Cmdr. John Ross, who monitored his health, reported serious cognitive and behavioral changes.  These included moodiness, problems with concentration and short term memory, paranoia, and hallucinations.  On the 11th day, when he was asked to subtract 7 repeatedly, starting with 100, he stopped at 65.  When asked why he had stopped, he replied that he had forgotten what he was doing.  (Source: Wikipedia)

Lack of rest and sleep can cause major problems in our health and well being.  The problem of sleep deprivation is especially serious in America, where people are constantly using stimulants, staying awake for activities, games and television.  All of these are harmful to the body and our health.

In Genesis chapter 1, we see that God created the day and night.  In chapter 2, we see that God gave us the Sabbath as a day of rest.  If these gifts of God at Creation are ignored, then serious maladies will occur in our lives.  God created rest for us so that it will give the mind, body and soul the power to Refresh, Rejuvenate and Rebuild.  When statistics show that 30-40% of people sleep less than 6 hours per night, then we know that problems will occur with our health.

Sleep is divided into two basic types: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep (with four different stages).

REM Sleep occurs about 90 minutes after you fall asleep.
It cycles along with the non-REM stages throughout the night.
During REM sleep:

  • Eyelids are closed and the eyes move rapidly
  • Breathing is more rapid, irregular and shallow
  • Heart rate and blood pressure increase
  • Dreaming occurs
  • Arm and leg muscles are temporarily paralyzed

Getting adequate amounts of early sleep nightly is important to your well-being because it refreshes you and regenerates your body. Getting most of your sleep during the night, especially early in the night, creates the best results.

We all know that 7-8 hours of sleep a night is best for adults and is associated with the greatest longevity. In the classic Alameda County Study, mortality rates from heart disease, cancer, stroke, and all causes combined were lowest for people who slept 7 to 8 hours per night.

More than 8 hours, however, can be detrimental. People who sleep less than 6 hours or more than 9 have an increased nine-year mortality rate when compared to those who sleep 7-8 hours a night.

In another study of nearly 7,000 persons older than age 31, people who reported sleeping more than 8 hours had an incidence of stroke and all-cause mortality that was 50% greater than people sleeping 7-8 hours per night. The Nurses’ Health Study found a relationship between long sleep duration (9 hours or more) and the development of diabetes and coronary disease.

What about children? How much sleep do they need? The National Sleep Foundation recommends:
Infants, 3-11 months: 14-15 hours
Toddlers, 1-3 years: 12-14 hours
Preschoolers, 3-5 years: 11-13 hours
School-Aged Children, 5-12 years: 9-11 hours
Adolescents: 8.5-9.25 hours

Dr. Timothy Monk, a sleep expert from the University of Pittsburgh, says: “Human beings are built to be daytime creatures. It's hardwired into our circuitry…When you deliberately try to shift the sleep/wake cycle, it's like having a symphony with two conductors, each one beating out a different time…Your delicate internal rhythms go haywire…You need to treat sleep as a precious and fragile thing.”

Studies show that we function best physiologically and psychologically when our internal cycles are well-synchronized with those of the external world. If we mess up our sleep and wake patterns, for example, we feel out of sorts. Mood suffers, alertness wanes, concentration falters, memory worsens and performance declines. Physical well being suffers too. The immune system is compromised, hormones are in disarray, and stomach problems arise.

Stimulation is available around the clock. According to Dr. Roseanne Armitage, an expert on sleep at the University of Michigan, the sleep patterns of Americans are getting worse, increasingly out of phase with the natural rhythm. People are staying up later than ever and it’s happening at a progressively younger age. Interestingly, she points out, the less people sleep, the more they get depressed. And the worsening of sleep among Americans has been accompanied by very real increases in the incidence of clinical depression.

Going to bed earlier boosts immune function. Two studies conducted by the same lead researcher, Dr. Michael Irwin and his colleagues from the Departments of Psychiatry at the University of California and San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center, illustrate this point very well. One study showed nearly a 30% reduction in cellular immunity after subjects were sleep deprived between the hours of 3am and 7am. However, in the other study, when the subjects were deprived of 2 hours sleep from 10pm until 3am, their cellular immunity was suppressed by nearly 50%.  Consider how getting 3 hours of sleep before midnight could be of even greater benefit.

Adequate sleep that involves going to bed early and rising early impacts how well students do academically. Among a large sample of about 3,000 students in grades 9 through 12, Wolfson and Carskadon (1998) reported students with higher self-reported GPAs slept longer and went to bed earlier than those with lower GPAs.

Studies involving 35 medical students revealed higher scores for students with earlier bedtimes, longer sleep length, and less sleep irregularity.

Another benefit of getting to bed early is the benefits stages 3 and 4 sleep give. Remember stages 3 and 4 are considered deep sleep that are “restorative” and necessary for feeling well-rested and energetic during the day.

As the night progresses, REM sleep time becomes longer, while time spent in non-REM sleep, stages 3 and 4, becomes shorter. By morning, nearly all sleep time is spent in stages 1 and 2 of non-REM sleep and in REM sleep. This shows the significance of going to bed early to reap the “restorative” benefits of stages 3 & 4. 

Proper rest maximizes the body’s natural hormonal processes.

The first hormone we’ll discuss is melatonin, a precursor to good sleep. Getting to bed earlier maximizes the benefits of melatonin. It synchronizes circadian and circannual rhythms, stimulates immune function, and was recently shown to be a potent hydroxyl radical scavenger and antioxidant.

Guards the nervous system against degenerative disease (Alzheimer’s and stroke).
Prevents debilitating migraines.
Coordinates physiological rhythms that set the brain’s biological clock.
Easily diffuses into all cells crossing the blood-brain barrier to protect the delicate brain.May help manage elevated blood pressure in men and women.
Lastly, melatonin helps fight a wide array of cancers including breast and liver cancers, non-small cell lung cancer, and brain metastases from solid tumors.

In normal people, endogenous melatonin levels are highest during the normal hours of sleep, increasing rapidly in late evening, peaking after midnight and decreasing toward morning.

Melatonin is found in a variety of plants in varying levels of concentration and the consumption of such plant foods might alter the blood melatonin levels, as well as provide protection of macromolecules against oxidative damage.

In normal people, endogenous melatonin levels are highest during the normal hours of sleep, increasing rapidly in late evening, peaking after midnight and decreasing toward morning.

Sleep restriction boosts ghrelin, a hormone that makes us feel hungry. A lack of sleep suppresses another hormone called leptin, which suppresses appetite and makes us feel full. A lack of sleep might be contributing to increased obesity in the United States.

Deep sleep triggers the release of human growth hormone, which fuels growth in children, and boosts muscle mass and repairs cells and tissues in children and adults.

During sleep, your body creates more cytokines—cellular hormones that help the immune system fight various infections.

Lack of sleep reduces the ability to fight off common infections.  Researchers in Germany took a group of healthy adults and gave them all a Hepatitis A vaccine. They allowed half the group to sleep normally whereas the other half stayed up for 36 hours following the vaccine. Everyone slept normally after this. Four weeks later, the first group had a two-fold increase in immune system antibodies. This means, even one night of missed sleep can compromise the immune system for up to four weeks.

Loss of sleep is associated with a decreased ability to perform tasks controlled by the frontal lobe such as planning, concentration, motor performance, and high-level intellectual skills.

Furthermore, in schoolchildren, sleep restriction seems to be a factor in increased attention problems.

Getting a good day’s sleep means including activities in your day that promote a good night’s sleep, such as:

1.  Get plenty of sunlight: Adequate sunlight helps us to sleep better and maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.

2. Get plenty of fresh air: Fresh air enhances circulation which is vital to good sleep because it improves bodily oxygenation. It also improves our sense of well-being, relaxes us, lowers body temperature and resting heart - all of which improve our ability to sleep.

3.  Get regular physical activity: If your body is tired at the end of the day you will sleep better. Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine studied a group of 50-75-year-olds with sleep problems. The participants began moderate physical activity for about 30 minutes, 4 times per week. The researchers compared the active adults with a similar group who did no physical activity. The more active group slept an average of one hour more each night, took less time going to sleep, spent less time napping, and reported improved sleep quality.

4.  Finish your last meal about 3 hours before bedtime; aim for a lighter meal. Your rest will be optimal if your body isn’t still digesting supper. Remember, your digestive organs need rest, too. Restful sleep is facilitated by a light supper consisting of easily digestible food such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit your liquid intake before bedtime to minimize bathroom use during the night.

5.  Maintain regular sleep/wake times. Regularity is essential for great sleep! Sleep-in no more than 30 minutes beyond normal rising times on the weekend. A brief nap in the early afternoon is better than sleeping in excessively. 

6.  Resolve conflict and leave stress, anxiety and worry outside the sleeping room for the night: The mind will overpower the body’s ability to sleep. Relax your mind before going to bed and stop worrying about what can’t be resolved immediately. On the other hand, you will sleep better if you resolve interpersonal relationships before going to bed.

7.  Relax before bedtime: Twenty minutes before going to bed, do something relaxing and calming.

8.  Get rid of too many stimulants: Many people depend on the caffeine in coffee, soft drinks, or tea to wake them up in the morning or to stay awake. Caffeine blocks the cell receptors that adenosine uses to trigger its sleep inducing signals, so the body is fooled into thinking it isn’t tired. It takes 6–8 hours for the effects of caffeine to wear off. Coffee in the late afternoon can prevent you from falling asleep at night. Nicotine is another stimulant that interrupts sleep since heavy smokers tend to wake up too early because of nicotine withdrawal. Lastly, although alcohol is a sedative that makes falling asleep easier, it prevents deep sleep and REM sleep, allowing only the lighter stages of sleep. People who drink alcohol tend to wake up during the night after the “nightcap” wears off.

Certain commonly used prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines contain ingredients that can keep us awake. These ingredients include decongestants and steroids. Many pain relievers taken by headache sufferers contain caffeine. Heart and blood pressure medications known as “beta blockers” can cause difficulty falling asleep and increase the number of awakenings during the night. People with chronic asthma or bronchitis have more problems falling asleep and staying asleep than healthy people either because of their breathing difficulties or the medicines they take.

9.  Get your sleep primarily at night: Naps, though beneficial, can rob us of nighttime sleep, so they should be used with discretion only two or three times a week. If more are needed, examine nighttime sleep habits to ensure maximum rest.

10.  Take a hot bath 1 ½ - 2 hours before your bedtime: Research published in the journal Sleep found that women with insomnia who took a hot bath within 1 ½-2 hours of going to bed had better sleep. The bath increased their core temperature that quickly dropped once they got out of the bath, which helped them fall asleep faster and rest better.

Other Notes:
Psychological disorders including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders are well known for disrupting sleep. Depression often causes insomnia, and insomnia causes depression. Some of these psychological disorders are more likely to disrupt REM sleep. Psychological stress also takes its toll on sleep. People who are stressed spend less time in deep sleep and REM sleep. Many people report having difficulties sleeping if, for example, they recently lost a loved one, are undergoing a divorce, or are under stress at work.

Aligning our lives with nature’s seven-day rhythm is another way to stay energized.

It seems that many things in our world operate with a circaseptan rhythm: a seven-day cycle. This seven-day cycle is found in plants, animals and humans.

Medical research has demonstrated seven-day rhythms in connection with a variety of physiological functions. Some that have been identified include heart rate, natural hormones in human breast milk and urine, swelling after surgery, rejection of transplanted organs, human and animal cancers and their response to treatment, inflammatory responses and the drugs we often use to treat them. For example, patients tend to have increased swelling on the seventh and fourteenth day after surgery. Similarly, a kidney transplant patient is more likely to reject the organ seven days and fourteen days after surgery. Perhaps we need to pay attention to weekly rhythms in order to take care of our health. Dr. Baldwin stated that research shows “that this seven-day rhythm is a normal built-in feature of physiology.”

What initiates and maintains the seven-day rhythms of the body? The precise causes and mechanisms are not clear yet, but some chronobiologists think that a regular day of rest might pace it.

The need for rest every seven days was supported by what happened during World War II when Great Britain instituted a 74-hour work week in which people worked over 10 hours a day, seven days a week. It was soon found that people could not maintain that pace. After experimenting, a 48-hour work week with regular breaks plus one day of rest each week resulted in maximum efficiency. Production increased by 15 percent. So the British government passed a law which required one day of rest each week and at least 2 weeks vacation each year.

During the French revolution, France experimented with a 10 day week. Chaos resulted, and the mental institutions quickly filled to overflowing.

Yes, our bodies were designed with a seven day rhythm. One of the beautiful ways we can honor this is by enjoying a weekly day of rest.

Many people keep a weekly Sabbath, for example:
Jews keep Saturday
Muslims keep Friday
Catholics keep Sunday
Protestants: some keep Saturday, while others keep Sunday
Buddhists – rotates 1 day out of 7

This rhythm of life originated in the Genesis CREATION story where God set aside the seventh day as a Sabbath rest. He asks us to remember to rest one whole day each week.

Sabbath is a day for reflection, meditation, prayer, worship, recreation, and a time to focus on spiritual values.

It’s a special time to connect with the Creator and those around us whom we love and care about. The Sabbath is when God “rested” from the work of creating the world because He wanted to enjoy His family. The Sabbath is a weekly reminder of our value in God’s eyes.

Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” 

Sources: CREATION Health- Florida Hospital, Wikipedia

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