People think of sleep as a time of rest when the body and mind “shut down.” But while you’re asleep, a lot is going on. Sleep is the time where you repair your cells and rebuild your energy levels. Your body is working to recover, restore, and rebuild.
Yet, almost 30% of the population has a sleeping disorder. Sleep deficit leads to ill health and makes it hard to function at a basic level. On World Sleep Day, we turned to Dr. Greg Wells — a physiologist and health and performance expert — to explain just how crucial sleep is for our overall well-being and what comes between us and a good night’s sleep.
Our body is kept healthy and clean thanks to our lymphatic system, which is full of a clear liquid called lymph. It travels our body to pick up viruses, broken cells, etc. and fights off invaders. It is not located in our brain though, so how does it keep itself clean?
It was only recently, Greg said, that researchers established that our brain has its own lymphatic system. When we sleep, the 100 billion neurons located in our brain shrink and that space gets filled with cerebral spinal fluid. This fluid washes our brain while we sleep. It happens every night, and is the key to maintaining good brain health.
But, Greg says, we have a chronic problem, and we are all victim to it at some point — we look at screens in bed, with the typical culprit being our beloved smartphones.
When these devices shine light into to our eyes, they turn them into electricity and this signals to our brain that it’s morning; that it’s the middle of the day. As such, it stops us from producing melatonin, our sleep hormone that helps us fall asleep quickly and deeply. Our tech habits are our own worst sleep enemy.
“We all need to create a barrier and defend the last hour before we go to sleep at night to enable us to fall asleep quickly and deeply,” Greg said. “We have to do things differently in order for us to reach our potential but also, very importantly, to be healthy.”
“First thing in the morning, if you wake up and are having a hard time going by all means take your phone and shove it right in your face,” he said. “But in the afternoon, phones away.”
Watch the video below to hear more insight into the science behind sleeping and why, no matter how difficult it is, we should aim for more screen-free time before bed.
Dr. Greg Wells is a health and high performance expert who, as a scientist and physiologist, has dedicated his career to making the science of human limits understandable and actionable.
In his informative and engaging keynotes, Greg draws helps audiences learn how to perform at their highest level, even when under the most extreme circumstances.
Interested in learning more about Greg and what he can bring to your next event? Email us at [email protected].