Stress Sleeping Could Put Our Brain and Health at Risk



What is a stress-sleeper? This is a person who can’t switch off their mind and thinking during the night, keeping them awake. Many wish there was a switch to turn it off when we lie down, as we should all strive to get good, deep sleep for so many reasons. A solution may be found in Craniosacral Therapy.

First, let’s look at the four levels of sleep. We have Stage 1 sleep, which is choppy, shallow and not restful sleep. Our brain waves have slowed, but we still have some awareness of noises, light and movements around us. The next stage is light sleep, which is when our body processes memories and emotions, regulates our metabolism and provides body maintenance. We spend 50-60 percent of our sleep time in light sleep. Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, sleep is when the brain becomes very active and the body is very relaxed and inactive. This is known as dream sleep, when the body processes emotions and memories. REM makes up about 20-25 percent of our sleep time. The final stage is deep sleep. This is when the brain waves take on a deep and wide form (Delta waves) and the brain secretes growth hormones, stimulates our ability to rebuild, regenerate and restore tissues, repairs DNA and detoxifies the brain. We spend 10-25 percent of our sleep time in deep sleep.

It turns out that deep sleep can be the most important time of sleep for optimal health. Research has shown that lack of sleep leads to loss of concentration, decreases memory, increases sensitivity to more pain, makes us take risks and make poor decisions. In fact, poor sleep is often found in many that eventually are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, diabetes, fibromyalgia and cardiovascular diseases.

While the brain only makes up 2 percent of the total body mass, it requires one-quarter of the body’s entire energy. Therefore, the brain needs a continuous supply of nutrients and oxygen through the cardiovascular system—our blood
 supply via arteries, capillaries and veins.
In the rest of the body, the arteries and veins are accompanied by the lymphatic system. While all our cells receive nutrients, they also make waste. This waste is released from the cells and floats in the fluids around the cells until the fluid is absorbed into the capillaries or swept away into the lymphatic system. The lymphatic vessels return this waste to the bloodstream just before entering the heart.

While this is an effective system for the body, there is not enough room in the brain to possess a lymphatic vessel in addition to the brain cells, blood supply and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). So how does the brain detox the waste? It uses the CSF at night, during the deep sleep state. The CSF, along with the glial cells, become the glymphatic system of the brain. The glymphatic system sweeps away waste from between the neurons.

The very health and function of the brain is at stake when the CSF flow is hindered, which can happen when deep sleep is limited or not achieved or when there has been a head injury, stroke or strong emotional event causing PTSD. The increase in waste becomes toxic to the brain and increases inflammation. Over years, this inflammation contributes to the shrinkage of the brain. In fact, a person with Alzheimer’s has a 75 percent decrease in flow of CSF, compared to an average adult.

So how can we increase CSF flow to the brain and decrease brain inflammation? Craniosacral therapy is one of the best tools to reset the craniosacral rhythm and enhance CSF flow. Michael Morgan conducted a study in which they took mid- to late-stage dementia patients and gave them daily craniosacral therapy treatments. The patients all showed improved memory, recognition and behavior. It is believed that an improved flow of CSF allows the amyloid plaques to loosen and be cleared.

Remember that external and internal trauma held in the nervous system and brain can decrease the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. These people often have trouble sleeping. Over time, this decrease in deep sleep has a detrimental effect on the nervous system and overall health of the body. So, if your body feels like it is in the fight-or-flight mode all the time, your mind is too active and you know you don’t sleep well, consider receiving a craniosacral therapy session.

Most clients find they sleep well for many nights to many weeks following a few sessions. Until then, stop the long nights of watching TV or staying up on the computer or cell phone and start to unwind an hour before crawling into bed. Start to quiet the mind with gentle music, quiet the body with some gentle stretches, drink a warm cup of herbal tea and then crawl into bed for a good night’s sleep and brain detoxification. Sweet dreams.

Jean Read offers craniosacral treatments, which may also be combined with visceral manipulation, lymphatic stimulation or myofascial techniques. She has been trained by the Upledger Institute on using craniosacral therapy for specific brain structures. She has seen improvements in vision and hearing, changes in balance and vertigo, improved sleep and mental focus. Connect at 956-566-5443, LiveYurPassion@gmail.com or IAHP.com/Jean-Read. See ad, page 35.

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