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  • Dr. Marsha-Gail Davis

The Health Download with Dr. D: RECHARGE!

Wagwaan, beautiful people! Dr. Davis here again

(Wassup/What’s up/What’s going on? in Jamaican patois)

It is always a pleasure to chat it up with you in this blogosphere! This week we’ll be discussing a little bit more on the measure of RECHARGE!

So let me start off by asking you a couple of questions.

What happens if you leave your car lights on for hours on end?


What happens when you use your phone continuously without charging it?

It’s the equivalent of being in the woods in a scary movie.




Oh, dear. That can’t be good!

Exactly, and it is the same with our bodies. We can’t expect to keep running around without recharging or we may end up like the car battery of the cell phone. Oh no. Yikes!

So, I’m curious to know, Big Picture Family...

  • What are your thoughts around sleep?

  • Is sleep something you really need consistently or can we get away with the bare minimum?

  • Is it the less important of the lifestyle measures that benefit us or is it just as important to our health as the other five?

So many questions and so little time but I will do my best to drop some gems on you!

Sleep is one of the most fascinating and complex physiological processes that occur in our bodies. To this day, we are still just scratching the surface of our understanding of the nature and impact of our sleep.

Let me answer a few questions for you.

What is sleep?

It is a complex physiological process that is foundational for our health, regulated by our brains and follows our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is the 24-hour interval that the physiological process of our bodies follows and is timed in accordance with natural sunlight. Sunlight stimulates the production of melanopsin in the visual system which signals to our brains that it is daytime. This stimulates the suppression of the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone, leading to us feeling awake. Conversely, melatonin levels begin to arise with the onset of darkness which encourages us to feel sleepy.

Why is sleep important?

It is particularly necessary for the restoration and renewal of the body and has notable impacts on all systems of the body (circulatory, digestive, endocrine, immune, dermatologic, muscular, nervous, reproductive, respiratory, skeletal, and urinary).

What happens when we sleep?

There are two main types of sleep that we pass through in 4 stages. The first stage is NREM, which stands for non-REM sleep and is a type of non-dreaming sleep that is the main type of sleep we experience throughout the course of sleep. The second type is REM sleep, which stands for rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Our dreams and the consolidation and processing of memory occur during this type of sleep. A sufficient amount of REM sleep is crucial for health. Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with a decrease in REM sleep.

What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?

Sleep deprivation is a common problem in the American population and research shows that many teens do not get enough sleep on a daily basis. Sleep deprivation that remains consistent overtime can lead to metabolic abnormalities like high blood glucose, elevated lipids, high blood pressure and weight gain, which may result in medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes. It also significantly impacts cognitive function including concentration, memory formation and recall, reaction time and overall cognitive performance. Being sleep deprived has been found to be EQUIVALENT to being intoxicated above the standard limit of a blood alcohol level (BAC) 0f 0.04 percent. Many accidents have been the unfortunate result of drivers who fell asleep at the wheel.

How much sleep do we really need?

The Sleep Foundation provides an excellent chart below that lists the recommended sleep times for different age groups. As you can see, we require more sleep in our younger years and less sleep as we age.

What do we know about problems with sleep?

There is a difference between disordered sleep and sleep disorders. Disordered sleep is a behavior pattern of sleep that results from suboptimal sleeping habits while a sleep disorder is a physiological problem that usually is caused by a medical condition. More people suffer from disordered sleep than sleep disorders.

So, since disordered sleep is something we learn over time and is based on our habits, what things can we do to make our sleep better?

Well, here are just a few tidbits I’d like to share that seem too simple to be as powerful as they are BUT if you apply them on a consistent basis, you will be thanking me later.

  1. Ban beverages before bedtime. Drinking a nice big glass of water before bed will usually guarantee a run to the bathroom in the middle of the night that can disrupt your sleep and make it difficult to fall back into sleep. Keep the consumption of large amounts of beverages to 2 hours before bedtime.

  2. Keep coffee or other caffeine-laden beverages and food products in AM. The recommendation is not to have any caffeine after 12Noon to minimize any effect the caffeine can have on your sleep. One dose of caffeine can remain in our bodies for 25 to 30 hours before it is completely metabolized.

  3. Shut down screen time before bed. Screens from smartphones, tablets, and television emit a blue light that decreases the production of melatonin thus decreasing our ability to fall into a good sleep. Putting screens away about an hour or two before bed can help tremendously to ensure our sleep hormone will be ready to work when we are ready to sleep.

  4. Slow down on the snacks. Eating less than 2 hours before bed is recommended so that our bodies have enough time to digest our food. The body has to undergo digestion during sleep can disrupt sleep and leave us feeling groggy in the morning.

  5. No 90-minute naps. Avoid sleeping during the day for more than 30 mins. As shown in the image on the 4 stages of sleep above, stage 3 of NREM sleep is where deeper sleep occurs and we usually find ourselves in that stage around 45 mins after falling asleep. So naps that pass the 30-minute mark are bound to leave us feeling lethargic as it is likely that we will be in the middle of deep sleep.

  1. Make time for movement. Regular physical activity is very important for a good night's sleep. Regular movement has been shown to promote good quality sleep.

  2. Get out in the outdoors. Natural sunlight is our body’s circadian rhythm calibrater. Getting exposed to natural sunlight on a daily basis, not only helps our Vitamin D levels but helps to make sure we are synchronized with the sunlight.

  3. Narrow your nap. If you are feeling tired and want to sleep during the day, keep naps to 20 to 30 mins. This is the perfect amount of time to get a little energy boost. It is just enough time to give your body a rest but not enough that you fall into deep sleep. The 20 - 30 minute nap is my go-to technique when I begin to experience any sleepiness in the day. These short naps can be most useful and effective in the daytime when sleepiness typically becomes a barrier to productivity.

  4. Roll out a nighttime routine. Now that you know our bodies operate with an internal clock called the circadian rhythm, then you understand that our bodies love routine. Creating a sleep routine is one of the best habits that you can begin practicing now in your teenage years so that you will be automated by the time you are an adult.

    1. Developing a routine helps to teach your body what to do and allows your body to act on cue when you are ready for bed. There are so many ways that you can practice a sleep routine!

      1. Spend 30 mins reading a book before bed or journaling.

      2. Take a warm shower or bath before relaxing.

      3. Dim the lights and do 15 mins of deep breathing, meditation, or stretching.

      4. You can listen to soft relaxing music and reflect on your day.

Dr. D’s personal nighttime routine: Take a shower right before bed, stretching or sun salutations, reading or reflecting on my day in my journal, and deep breathing to relax.

I hope that you have learned something new and interesting about sleep and these tips will help you experience the amazing power of the good sleep that we all need in our lives.

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