Good night, Sleep Tight

6/17/2015 - 9:32:19 AM
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Sleeplessness. Millions of people around the world get a good night of sleep every night, and millions more don’t. People who have never had any problem with insomnia have no idea how frustrating and debilitating not getting enough quality sleep is, but those who have experienced it know they’d do just about anything in order to go to bed and go to sleep right away, and sleep soundly again for 6-8 hours.

It can be helpful to take a look at how sleep works.

Two Systems that Regulate Sleep

Sleep-Wake Homeostasis

Sleep-wake homeostasis is the body’s 24 hour clock of awake/sleep time. You can think of homeostasis as the control panel of the body, regulating things like blood pressure and temperature, and the sleep-wake function as a program that controls the times the body is alert or sleeping.

When you wake up adenosine, a sleep-inducing chemical, has low levels or none collected in your cerebrospinal area and for the next 16 hours (more or less) you are alert until toward evening it kicks in again you feel the need to “sleep it off.” With a sufficient amount of sleep those 16 hours are mostly awake, though if you got less sleep you may have difficulty staying awake the entire time.

Interesting fact: Caffeine works by blocking the adenosine receptor, temporarily inhibiting sleepiness or feeling drowsy.

Circadian Rhythm

If sleep-wake homeostasis tells us that we need to sleep soon and helps us maintain that sleep throughout the night, circadian rhythm is the 24 hour biological clock that regulates the timing of sleepiness and alertness. Most adults circadian rhythm dips into the most tired or sleepy between 2-4 a.m. and 1-3 p.m, though this changes depending on whether you are a “morning” or “evening” person. Then too if you’ve been losing sleep, obviously you will probably be more tired than otherwise during this “dip.”

The circadian biological clock is controlled by a part of the brain called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) which is a group of cells that respond to light and dark signals. The optic nerve in the eye first catches the light and then sends it to the SCN, which could be called the “alarm” to wake us up naturally. The SCN then signals the parts of the brain that control hormones, body temperature and other things that figure into making us sleepy or awake.

Interesting fact: Have a teen that can’t seem to get to sleep before 11:00 at night? The circadian rhythm is sometimes different for teens, along with melatonin levels rising higher later in the night, it can make it harder for them to get to sleep early and wake up in time for school.

When the light signals, the SCN also delays release of sleep hormones like melatonin that are associated with sleep onset, and stay elevated throughout the night. This is why for that teen that has a hard time getting to sleep it’s helpful to keep lights dimmed near bedtime, and get into bright light as soon as possible in the morning. It’ll help signal the brain that bedtime is near.

Rem Cycles

This is the third and last major part of understanding sleep. REM stands for rapid eye movement, and your body will ideally cycle through these three:

Begin Sleep

First stage when you have your eyes closed but can wake up easily. Usually lasts 5-10 minutes.

Rem Cycle

Typically happens about 90 minutes after you fall asleep and ranges anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. Eyes move rapidly during this phase. You are in a light sleep while your heart rate slows and body temperature drops. Your body is getting you ready for deep sleep.

NonRem

This is your deep sleep stage. It would be harder to wake you up and if someone did you’d be groggy and disoriented for a couple of minutes. During this stage the body repairs and regrows tissue, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. As you get older you may sleep more lightly and get less deep sleep.

Interesting fact: Your most intense dreams are during REM sleep since your brain is more active.

Eat a Handful of Cherries

There are dozens of factors that go into not sleeping well: stress, environment, medical conditions, age, anxiety, depression, etc etc. With bad insomnia it is recommended to visit a sleep specialists who can work with physical disorders, common sense tips, anxious or negative thought patterns.

For the rest of us it’s a matter of recognizing that our bodies are actually set on a clock that requires us to sleep, and that we can’t take as many liberties as we want with this on a regular basis. Following the list of common sense tips at the beginning of this blog post may go a long way toward helping us to sleep better and repair our bodies from the damage we’ve done by losing too much sleep.

  • Sleep in a dark room
  • Avoid caffeine after late afternoon
  • Shut-down screen time 1 hour before bedtime
  • Go to bed before midnight (varies from person to person)
  • Don’t exercise intensely a few hours before going to bed
  • Eat a handful of cherries 



And now for the Kauffman’s kickback: cherries have one of the highest levels of melatonin known in fruit. Remember melatonin? It is the hormone that signals our body to sleep and sleep better, and Montmorency cherries especially have high levels of melatonin coming in at about 13.5 nanograms (ng) of melatonin per 1 gram of cherries.

Note: Montmorency cherries at Kauffman’s ripen around June 23rd.

However we don’t recommend it with chocolate in the evening, because it may undo all the sleepiness. This is a perfect snack for the dip mid-afternoon when you need something to perk you up. Or you could make these delicious bars.

Chocolate Cherry Blondies

 

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ tsp salt (opt)
  • ¾ - 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup cherries ( we cut them in half to de-pit them

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line 8 x 8 pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Melt butter, in microwave about 60 seconds.
  3. To the melted butter, add the brown sugar and stir to combine.
  4. Add the egg, vanilla and stir to combine. Add the flour, salt and stir until just mixed, taking care not to over mix or brownies with turn out tough.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips, cherries, and pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing it lightly over top. 

Bake for 27-32 minutes or until the edges pull slightly away from sides of pan and center sets. Baking time will vary depending on type of cherries used, whether they are fresh or frozen, and whether or not you like your blondies gooey or set. Toothpick might not come out clean either way because of chocolate and cherries. These brownies can be stored in airtight container at room temperature or in fridge for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.

Enjoy!

Recipe sourced from Averiecooks

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