My phone tells me in the morning that it is fully charged after being left alone and plugged into power over night. Being “fully charged” is a great feeling for humans as well, but not so simple as connecting to a charger. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, about 30% of Americans struggle with insomnia and about 10 % of these are significantly affected in their daytime performance because of it. For older adults, aged 55-85, a national sleep foundation study put the number experiencing problems sleeping to over 40%.
Being physically and mentally well and feeling at ease instead of at dis-ease is significantly affected by our ability to be at rest. Sleeping, putting good fuel into our bodies, breathing clean air, moving our bodies, connecting with others, and purposeful working are some of the other simple building blocks of wellness. The problem is that because these basics seem so simple, we neglect to give them their proper importance in the decisions we make on a daily basis. Our body and mind are keeping score whether we are paying attention or not.
For some, sleeping seems to be a waste of time. In truth, sleep is not a time of nothingness going on in our bodies. Scientists researching at the University of Rochester Medical Center have found that “sleep acts like a brain cleaner, clearing away neurotoxic waste that accumulates in the central nervous system when people are awake.” There is research also being done around the possibility of a connection between sleep and the toxic by-products such as beta amyloid formulation associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.
This is the first column in a series that will focus on recent sleep research findings and practical ways to help ourselves awaken fully charged as we embrace the mystery of sleep.