Sleep…The Real Fountain of Youth

If there was one goal you could set for the new year that would profoundly effect the way you feel on a daily basis, how well you perform in any activity, and in effect, slow down the aging process, it would be to get enough sleep! And this includes “power napping” when you’re feeling tired during your day.

In the book, “We Want to Live”, author Aajonus Vonderplanitz states, “Sleep and rest are necessary for healing. Ninety percent of healing happens in sleep states. A nap a day is not only a beauty aid, it is rejuvenating physically, emotionally and mentally. When on a healthy diet, situations that seemed so complex, or difficult, or futile before a nap are often magically reduced to something more solvable after a nap. To help yourself feel better and become healthier, sleep, or at least nap, when tired.”

When Aajonus was recovering from blood and bone cancer, he slept from 12 to 24 hours a day.

I have observed for many years that the only time I would have to go through a cold or flu was when I was simply doing too much and not getting adequate sleep.

It is easy for the normal garbage dumping that occurs in the body to get backed up when we are continuously spending too much energy without giving the body enough time to catch up. This is why we then must go through the detoxification process in a more severe and uncomfortable way as the body tries to expel what it can more drastically through the nose, mouth, ears, skin, bowels, etc.

We do not function well physically, emotionally or mentally without enough sleep. Our vitality, healing ability, immune function, intellectual function, coordination, emotional stability and more is all compromised to say the least. You increase your risk of an accident-whether that be cutting yourself while preparing food or dosing while driving and anything in between-and you are more likely to get injured when sleep deprived.

How can you expect to live “in the moment” and have adequate awareness skills if you cannot even focus due to fatigue?

The Biological Clock

Just one-hundred years ago our bodies followed the same daily cycles it has for over a million years. We were active during sunlight and rested when it was dark. In fact, it is most natural to go through cycles throughout the day-just like a cat-with activity followed by rest (napping) every few hours.

However, this has all changed in modern times. We are now living in a most unnatural state since the invention and use of unnatural light.

In the book, “How We Heal”, author Douglas Morrison states, “Each of us has our own unique circadian or daily cycle. The exact timing of this cycle varies from one person to the next. In general, each of us has a daily cycle of clock dependent alerting which involves a morning as well as an afternoon/evening peak with a lull in between. It should be noted that the peaks of clock dependent alerting are in general strong enough to overcome the effect of sleep debt, unless the sleep debt is truly enormous.”

In “The Promise of Sleep” Dr. William C. Dement says that these periods of drowsiness do not occur without significant sleep debt, according to his studies.

This periodic feeling of drowsiness is also going to be dependent on how much mental and emotional energy we are spending. Either way, by listening to what our bodies are telling us, we can continually “re-set” our biological clock and prepare ourselves for further activity by getting in the habit, and scheduling in if necessary, a minimum of 10 minutes and up to an hour of quiet relaxation or even a power nap. Otherwise, if you keep pushing (maybe have some caffeine?), you continue to work at a deficit and this is where you begin to feel less effective, stressed and even accelerate the aging process.

The Power Nap

Studies have shown that glycogen, the energy source for brain activity, is reduced with tasks requiring high mental activity or from a lack of adequate sleep.

In the newsletter “Alternatives”, Dr. David Williams describes one of these studies where, “three groups of individuals were given identical, exhausting, one-hour visual tests four times daily. A third of the group stayed awake all day, another third took a 30-minute nap at 2 p.m., and the last third took an hour-long nap, also at 2 p.m.

As testing continued later in the day and early evening, those who were awake all day began to take over 50 percent longer to solve their problems than those who napped for an hour. Those who had the 30-minute nap performed about the same all day long. However, those who had the hour-long nap actually improved their performance as the day went on. The researchers found that those taking the hour-long nap spent the greatest amount of time in the “short wave” sleep phase, which apparently contributed to their better performance.”

Probably two of the most important benefits of adequate sleep is the release of growth hormones and the removal of free radicals in the brain.

Many people today have learned about and are taking pills or even injections of HGH or “Human Growth Hormone”. It is known as the “anti-aging” hormone. Quality injections can be very expensive and now, of course, there are a multitude of companies peddling growth hormone supplements.

HGH has been shown to regenerate the liver and other tissues, build muscle, reduce fat storage, normalize blood sugar and more. Thing is, most of the body’s natural secretion of this “youth” hormone occurs during sleep. Unfortunately, most people’s quality and quantity of sleep decreases with age. In my opinion, it is always better to help the body’s natural secretion of growth hormones by respecting its needs of proper rest and sleep rather than taking something extracted by lab techs.

The same can be said for the removal of free radicals. People are spending billions of dollars on antioxidant supplementation. Antioxidants are known to scavenge free radicals. Free radicals damage tissue on the cellular level throughout the body. If the body cannot keep up with the production of free radicals then more damage than repair will occur. So efficient removal of free radicals is essential to good health and slower degeneration.

During sleep, free radicals are removed from the brain to ensure that there is minimal nerve tissue damage from free radical accumulation during the time that we are awake. On-going sleep deprivation most likely will result in inadequate free radical scavenging and, in turn, faster nerve tissue breakdown and degeneration of the brain.

Melatonin is another one of the modern wonder supplements. It is a “drowsiness” hormone that is secreted as it gets dark. Melatonin stimulates the immune system and has been shown to be a potent inhibitor of cancer growth. This is another reason to learn to respect the cycle of nature. By not getting adequate sleep, and continuing to push when tired, we lose a dramatic amount of natural healing that exists right inside us.

So, again, no need for the expensive lab tech’s supplements. Nutrient-dense real food along with adequate sleep and rest will support the body’s natural ability to stay healthy even into old age.

Remember, there are only two outside sources of energy for the body: food and air. These two are where we get energy. But how much do you spend? Our brains are known to use as much as 80% of our daily energy. Sure we can perform deep breathing exercises and eat quality food to increase the amount of energy available, but to live more efficiently so that normal bodily processing is enough, it is essential to learn to spend less. Meditation, or a focused mind state, can help us to quiet our minds and therefore spend less through thinking.

When overworked and under-rested, sleep can be the best meditation.

Well, not exactly. Sleep is not “a focused mind state.” So, let’s call it, “sleepatation.”

 

Originally published January, 2003

Author:

Shifu Ahles
Shifu Raymond Ahles, the owner and Chief Instructor of the Blue Dragon School, is a certified instructor of Ba Gua Zhang Kung Fu & Chi Kung and a 7th Generation Lineage Disciple in the Ch’iang Shan Pa Kua Chang Association. In addition to his 30 years plus teaching experience in the martial arts, Shifu Ahles also holds a B.S. degree in Exercise Physiology, he’s a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and has an extensive background in the healing arts of Oriental Medicine including certifications in Advanced Amma Therapy, Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture. He is a licensed Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist in NJ.