Blogs are so easy to write when you're experiencing the actual 'thing' you are talking about.
Lately my sleep has been woeful. I'm either getting to sleep way too late, waking up throughout the night, sleeping too little or sleeping too much.
With our New Moon Anxiety Workshop coming up in less than a week's time, it seems only too appropriate to discuss the reasons why a) you need more sleep for your physical health and b) how it interplays with anxiety.
Have you ever noticed your senses are heightened when you have a short amount of sleep or even a disrupted sleep? Have you ever noticed changes in your mood when you don't get to sleep before midnight or when you oversleep?
I'm certainly experiencing this the past week.
Here are some common signs and symptoms related to sleep deprivation and inconsistency:
-Detriment to performance
-Poor memory, focus and cognition
-Immune and endocrine disruption
-Poor blood sugar regulation
-Sore muscles / joints
-Low energy and fatigue
-Irritable, frustrated and easily triggered
-Emotional sensitivity, low mood, depressive symptoms
-Dry, dehydrated skin
These are just some of the side effects.
Something to explore is WHY am I (or even yourself) not sleeping well in the first place? Why is sleep so important for our mindset, our emotional wellbeing or mental state? Why is sleep the catalyst for so much physical disruption around the body?
The liver is the largest organ and is the prime detox organ in our body. It breaks down and metabolises used hormones, proteins, fats, leftover substances in the blood and other substrates from the food we eat (such as fructose). On the other hand, the liver is important for storing blood, moving energy around the entire body, supplementing the sinews and tendons, moisturising the eyes and sharpening vision, guiding the digestive process (by guiding the gallbladder to release bile) and aids the production of hormones and neurotransmitters.
In Chinese Medicine the liver pertains to the emotions of depression when it is weak and anger when it is overloaded or in excess.
How do sleep and the liver relate?
The liver is most active between the hours of 1AM - 3AM according to the Chinese Medicine organ clock. The clock is based on the notion that each organ has an 'optimal' function schedule that coincides with our circadian rhythm. The liver does an abundant amount of detoxing during the time and disruption to this can lead to all of the above physical signs and symptoms.
According to the Chinese Medicine organ clock: You should be asleep by 10.30PM at the latest and awake just before sunrise.
The majority of patients I observe in my clinic have sluggish livers. I think this is due to the busy go-go lifestyles, the consumption of sugars and processed foods, the exposure to chemicals in our everyday living and much more.
What can cause a sluggish liver?
-Leaky gut syndrome
-Heavy metal toxicity
-Mental stress (particularly pressure, deadlines, unresolved conflict)
-Diet lacking fibre, magnesium, potassium
-Excess alcohol consumption
Slow - wave sleep SWS (connected to the liver time) is the time when the parasympathetic system is dominant by repairing bodily tissues, restoring neurotransmitters (acetylcholine for instance) and modulating the immune system. This is a complete anti-inflammatory process and is essential for not just body, but for the brain (mind)
Interestingly recent studies and research support the importance of sleep at these particular time frames: as getting to sleep early is essential to activate SWS in the first half of the sleep cycle to support detox, optimal cognitive function, immune regulation and tissue repair.
If your liver is inflamed and the sympathetic nervous system (stress response) is dominant- this could disrupt the repair process. Therefore the link between chronic illnesses, insomnia and our lifestyle are interlaced.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that act as a neural message and hormone that play a role in determining our mood, emotions, cognition and other brain functions such as thyroid, adrenal and reproductive modulation.
During sleep our brain cells shrink so there is increased blood flow to clean out the debris and waste. This simultaneously enables an influx of good nutrients to be absorbed in. This is part of the glymphatic system - our brain detox pathway that is important for modulating and signalling hormones that can down-regulate stress and inflammation.
Crazy to think how amazing our human body is, even our brain has an inbuilt anti-inflammatory and detox system!
All of this information just confirms how SLEEP is the most underrated TREATMENT for dealing with any acute or chronic physical and mental conditions. If you are struggling with insomnia, see a practitioner (could be me!) in order to get to the root cause of your sleeping issues so you can start to repair, reset and rejuvenate your entire body.
So perhaps a closer look at my liver, my stress levels, my diet and ensuring I'm wearing my blue light lenses will get my sleep rhythm, my detoxing pathways and my repair processes back in order.
Mendelsohn A.R & Darrick, J.W (2013): Sleep facilities clearance of metabolites from the brain: glymphatic function in ageing and neurodegenerative diseases. Rejuvenation research, 16 (6)
Roth T (2009) Slow Wave Sleep: Does it matter? Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine 5 (2Suppl), S4 - S5