Cultivating Superior Sleep – Part 2 – Light Cycles and Brain Waves

For those of you residing in and around the DC metro area, it’s been feeling like a pressure cooker the past few weeks! We’ve been hanging in waiting for more space and ease. There is no time like the present to recommit to a health strategy for resilience; getting quality restorative sleep is so important for improving resilience and longevity. In working with new clients, I always begin by creating a good foundation for health, highlighting that healthy sleep is just as important as a healthy gut (there’s a great immune support recipe below that supports this!)

There is no shortcut or replacement for sleep – after all, we are mammals subject to a circadian rhythm.  We need sleep to repair the daily wear and tear in our cellular machinery, to replenish energy supplies, and to remove wastes effectively. We also require it for a process called ‘synaptic pruning’ – whereby we let go of accumulated information stored up during the day.  It’s a cleaning house of sorts.

Our sleep mechanism – directly dependent upon natural light – demonstrates just how intimately we are connected to the rhythms of nature.  Sleep results from an interplay of a couple of processes:  sleep homeostasis or sleep pressure – which increases with the length that one is awake (and as light diminishes during the day) – until a threshold is reached. The second is the circadian alerting signal which is a daily rhythm under the influence of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) within the hypothalamus.  
The SCN is sensitive to light and dark cycles.  It rhythmically signals organs and glands of the peripheral nervous system, each of which have their own slightly different clock.  Many of them produce their own chemicals: hormones, metabolites, and immune molecules on a 24-hour rhythm. 

As you can imagine, this is a very intricate balance. Remember how last week we discussed how missing out on sleep impacts so many vital systems in our bodies?  It happens as a result of these chemicals and markers getting out of balance. You may have heard how sleep occurs in cycles during the night.  Each sleep cycle is marked by 4 stages – each with its own brain wave activity** (see below).  A cycle lasts on average 90-minutes and we need 4-5 cycles per night for quality sleep.
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STAGE 1 is an introduction to sleep and it involves a slowing down of muscle activity and brain waves transition from beta and gamma to alpha and theta, it’s very easy to be awakened in the stage.

STAGE 2 also lasts about 15-minutes and it is a light and dreamless state represented by theta waves – it is the beginning of true sleep.

STAGE 3 is a deep non-REM sleep comes45-minutes after onset, brain and muscle activity is limited, and it is in the stage that the brain is cleaning house (also where sleepwalking, night terrors, sleep talking and bedwetting occurs during the transition from deep sleep to REM).

STAGE 4 is a deep sleep to slow wave sleep where brain and muscle activity is limited, also known as parasomnia.
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Deep sleep is the phase that is compromised in Alzheimer’s and is most compromised by alcohol.

REM sleep occurs between stage 4 and a new cycle. It’s where dreaming occurs, the brain, heart, and lungs are active but muscles become paralyzed.  At the end of REM there may be a slight waking before a new sleep cycle begins. The very end of the night we experience our longest REM right before we wake up.

**Brain waves are measured by frequency (cycles per second), or hertz (Hz), and they range from very slow to very fast: 
Delta– deepest state of dreamless sleep (the slowest brain wave).
Theta – When you’re sleeping more lightly or when you’re extremely relaxed, your brain may produce more theta waves.
Alpha – The brain wave most active in a meditative state, it is associated with calm and relaxation and it is smack dab in the middle of the brain wave spectrum. 
Beta – With these kinds of brain waves, you’re wide awake, alert, and focused. You’re going about your activities of daily living and making decisions. This is when your brain produces higher-speed beta waves.
Gamma – The speediest of brain waves, the gamma waves, when you’re actively involved in processing information and learning.

Lastly, I think it’s important to touch on melatonin – as it is the master of regulating the circadian rhythm.  It gets secreted in the largest quantities in the middle of the night and completely shuts down the wakefulness response associated with light.In practice, I find melatonin works best for those who are actually deficient in it, and for those who aren’t deficient, it can leave them feeling hungover in the morning. 

So, it’s not typically my go to for improving sleep quality, I prefer to begin with a gentler approach.  In addition to last week’s suggestions, I love cortisol manager (which promotes relaxation by supporting healthy cortisol levels). This product was critical for me when I was dealing with my own sleep issues, and I take it periodically, and it’s also part of my travel kit (whenever we start traveling again!)  

Lately I’ve become obsessed with skullcap, a trophorestorative to the nervous system – meaning it restores nutrition uptake to the nerves. 2 squirts of a glycerite tincture soothes my mind and eases tension almost instantly.If you find you aren’t where you want to be with your sleep quality, please don’t give up! There are so many options out there to help restore this process.

I want to close with a go-to fall breakfast.  I find that starting the day properly by supporting balanced blood sugar sets the tone for a better nervous system and adrenal balance throughout the day, which in turn assists in proper sleep quality.  
IMMUNE SUPPORT BREAKFASTThis healthy breakfast supports the health of the body’s digestive system and enhances optimal elimination.  Over 80% of our body’s immune molecules originate in the gut, so healthy gut function supports optimal immunity.Suggestion: Use this recipe for 2-4x/week over the course of 2 months to notice a change in gut and immune health.
INGREDIENTS– 2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free)
– 1 cup fruit (I like frozen berry blend)
– 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
– 1/2 cup chia seeds
– 1 cup ground sunflower seeds
– 1 cup nuts (walnuts, cashews, almonds, etc. – no peanuts)

INSTRUCTIONS1) Place in a bowl & cover with 4-5 cups of almond, rice, hazelnut, or hemp milk. 
2) Sprinkle with spices like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, & add 3-4 Tbsp of Dr. Marie’s Elderberry Syrup
3) Mix & refrigerate overnight.
I still have homemade Elderberry Syrup for sale – it is infused with an immune blend of: astragalus, licorice, ginger, cinnamon and orange peel. It works great as a syrup,
a warm tea or even in a soda water spritzer! 
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Quick Update on ND Licensure in VirginiaWe’re setting the groundwork for a virtual legislative session December 2020 – March 2021.  We find ourselves striking a balance between educating, mobilizing our grassroots network, and fundraising while at the same time countering lies and a disinformation campaigns against us. While I never in a hundred years thought I would find myself involved in the political realm, this cause is obviously near and dear to my heart, and there’s a force motivating me to step up. 

My mantra is ‘natural medicine is from the earth and for the people.’It can be heavy and exhausting work as we’re actively dissolving an out of date structure in Virginia, and let’s face it – not only is our health care model flat out broken, it’s a corrupt and profit driven system.  The current crisis has certainly highlighted this, natural medicine is actively being suppressed on ALL channels while selective biased reporting and fear mongering abounds. We won’t give up!

Getting naturopathic doctors licensed in every state in the country is an answer to balancing our system. ND’s are experts in prevention, our medicine has the potential to save millions on the sale of prescriptions.  This is why they’re trying to keep us quiet.

Do you support health care reform with wider access to naturopathic medicine? Do you you want to ensure patient choice when it comes to health care? Want to protect public safety and promote transparency?

Please consider supporting our movement and sharing with others!

To your health~
Marie

Naturopathic Doctor
Energy Healer
Artist
Future Herbalist