Winter is a great time to get some extra beauty sleep. With the longer nights and cold temperatures, our bodies are designed to slow down and regenerate. Sleep and meditation compliment each other. Meditation helps us slow down so we can relax and experience deeper sleep, and sleep helps our meditation by optimizing our ability to focus and thus reach that magical silent peace of deep alpha and theta brain waves.
How well balanced are your circadian rhythms? Meaning, do you sleep deeply and wake up refreshed? Is your metabolism working? Body weight at a good level? Most likely not. Because the modern lifestyle has thrown off the basics of circadian biology.
Here are some tips that help you balance your Circadian Rhythms and improve your sleep and meditation.
1–Eat a pro-thyroid diet, which means a diet native to the climate you live in. This includes high quality fat and protein and less carbs during winter. The reason is this regulates blood sugar and makes your body generate the heat it needs to stay warm. According to Dr. Lita Lee, chronic insomnia or lack of quality sleep is one symptom of a major health condition called hypothyroidism which leads to all the major degenerative diseases and aging. By understanding this problem, one can reverse the aging process, restore quality sleep, and get off of sleep medications.
2–Turn down the heat in your house, especially during sleep. Studies show we sleep best at lower temperatures. Also, expose yourself to outside air regularly. This practice, also called Cold Thermogenesis, has proven to enhance sleep quality dramatically. In other words, cold exposure has a dramatic calming effect on the body. Cold exposure is also part of the equation of synchronizing our circadian rhythms.
3–Get natural sunlight every day…at least 20 minutes. But an hour or more is even better. For many of us we need to be creative to incorporate this into our busy lives with the short daylight hours of winter. This sunlight exposure on the skin and retina causes the body to produce more serotonin which converts into melatonin when it gets dark. Make sure you have no glasses or sunglasses when trying to get the maximum sun (these block the beneficial rays which set circadian rhythms). The most effective time is first thing in the morning at sunrise. Another option is during lunchtime. So try to plan your day around your needs for these essential and powerful nutrients. Take a break as often as you can and get outside with as much skin exposed as possible.
4–Low Lights. Artificial light (meaning flouescent, incadescent, ) causes under production of melatonin which makes it harder to fall asleep as well as hampers sleep quality. Use Blue Blocking Goggles or Amber Colored light bulbs three hours before you want to fall asleep. Another option is beeswax candles.
Your body produces the important hormone melatonin, the so-called sleep hormone. Increasing your body’s melatonin production can improve your sleep.
Melatonin is produced by your pineal gland, normally only when you are in darkness. Using artificial light in the evening before going to bed shuts down melatonin production. Blue rays in ordinary light are the problem.
Only the blue component of light shuts down melatonin production. Using Blue Blocking Glasses for one to three hours before retiring allows melatonin to be produced naturally. While using them, the remaining colors of light allow you to read, watch television, etc.
5–Avoid exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (EMF’s) as much as possible. Especially during sleep. Turn your bedroom into a sanctuary from EMF’s as well as toxic chemicals. There are many ways to mitigate EMF exposure but some of the simple things you can do are to turn the circuits off in your bedroom at night, ground your computer during the day, and create a Faraday Cage by various means, such as painting shielding paint in your bedroom, creating a bed canopy with EMF Shielding Fabric, or putting metal siding and roofing around your house.
6–Optimal Circadian Timing of daily activities:
a–Go to bed early. This means at least by 10pm but even earlier if you can. The trick is…you don’t need to force anything. You should be so tired that sleep just happens naturally. The way to get to this point is to follow these principles.
b–Wake up with the sun. Ideally don’t set an alarm but let your body get whatever rest it needs. When you can greet the sunrise outside with exposure to cold and light on the retina. You can have your breakfast on the porch or yard. Morning sun is extremely important because it tells your brain to get moving.
c-Make breakfast the big meal of the day. The digestive juices are the most abundant during that time, which is about 30 minutes after waking up. Include lots of fats, proteins to fuel your metabolism throughout the day and keep blood sugar even.
d–Get movement during the day. Our DNA is programmed for movement…meaning it is an essential NUTRIENT. This recent discovery has birthed the new Movement Culture and books like “Sitting Kills, Movement Heals”, by NASA Scientist Dr. Vernikos. Create a movement friendly office environment and get some walking or other fun activities in. Play in the snow!
I spent 30 years wondering what to sleep on for optimal sleep and health. When I finally realized through personal experimentation and research that the best mattress is no mattress, I could never look at the world the same. We are asleep when it comes to which bed is the best bed.
A Gebusi woman in New Guinea, decked out in her dance costume, catches a few winks on a woodpile during a male initiation ceremony. (Eileen Knauft) From “Slumber’s Unexplored Landscape” cited below.
I discovered that the mattress is creating and/or masking the body’s current structural imbalances, impeding circulation and hampering the body from realigning itself during sleep. Sleeping on a hard surface can reshape the back and realign the body. A firm sleep surface helps the body’s relationship with gravity, with the earth. This is a therapeutic practice available to all of us, which works while we sleep.
The bedding industry relies on bold claims that one mattress or pillow will outperform another. Some of the claims are tempting, promising a good night’s sleep like you’ve never had before–for only a few thousand dollars.
Where are ‘they’ getting this information? Sleep and health are intricately related. There is no scientific definition of ‘comfort.’ Sleep and especially deep sleep with theta and delta brain waves is known to restore health. How does the actual bed or surface upon which one sleeps affect the quality of sleep?
When I researched for months trying to find an intelligent, scientific article on what type of bed will provide deep, rejuvenating sleep, I could not find it. None of the research seems to know specifically anything about this. The statements are not definitive and claims are not backed up, or are backed up with dubious studies. Even the terms ‘comfort,’ ‘soft,’ and ‘healthy’ are not defined. No studies measure the important health indicators, like pulse, heart rate, levels of stress hormones as related to the type of surface being used.
Side sleeping on a firm surface is comfortable using the technique shown–hips slightly rotated forward, head supported by firm pillow to expand shoulders. See Pillow Therapy for more comfortable tips.
Most ‘authorities’ seem confused and baffled. For instance the Mayo Clinic says: “If you have chronic low back pain, you may benefit from sleeping on a medium-firm mattress. Consider trying out a medium-firm mattress before you buy. However, you may find your back pain is reduced with a softer mattress.” (1)
There is no stated cause of low back pain. If the cause is unknown, then the cure must be too. Second, the terms ‘medium firm’ and density are not defined. How can the Mayo Clinic be satisfied with this recommendation, based on absolutely nothing?
I found other statements such as: “a bed shouldn’t be too hard or too soft” or “What works for some people doesn’t work for others.” Sleep science research seems to have completely left out the body and how it interacts with the sleep environment.
What is the specific density of a ‘medium-firm’ mattress, or any other mattress for that matter? Why–in physiological terms–does one surface have a different effect on the body than another surface? What about respiration and air flow through the mattress? Or synthetic vs. non-synthetic? But even more fundamentally: Do we need a mattress at all?I had some hunches–pardon the expression–which started the whole search in the first place. From restorative yoga I got the paradigm that certain positions could induce specific calming responses, relaxing the autonomic nervous system. The New Ergonomics believes the bones need to have some resistance (i.e. a hard surface). From science I knew about the different stages of sleep and how rejuvenating sleep happens during the third and fourth stages. From nutrition I knew that certain vitamins and minerals were needed for the best sleep, and heavy metals in the body can disrupt deeper stages of sleep. Yet the truth of what specific mattress would be optimal for comfort and rejuvenation remained unanswered.
One thing I knew, everyone is dealing with the same thing. Hardly a day passes that I don’t overhear some conversation about sleep, and generally the problem with getting a good night’s sleep.
Typical American beds, complete with decorative pillows.
I am skeptical of technological fixes, which are usually touted as the answer to society’s sleeping problems. The extent to the complexity of the bedding industry has become absurd. It is not uncommon for a couple to spend thousands of dollars on the ‘perfect’ mattress system. If this really worked, it would seem that by now, most people at least in America would have solved the sleeping problem and be wide-eye-and-bushy-tailed ready to start the day. But this isn’t the case at all, as anyone who picks up a magazine or watches a few minutes of TV will soon see, with advertisements for sleep aids, sleep drugs, better mattresses, orthopedic pillows, and stimulant drugs.
The assumed paradigm is that a mattress is essential to good sleep just like a chair is essential to sitting. But why did mattresses become mainstream? When did the buffalo robe and pile of leaves go out of fashion? Could a good night’s sleep be had if, for instance, we slept on a sandy beach or the equivalent? Why did ‘they’ start saying a firm bed is best, and still provide a two to three foot thick ‘system’ of mattresses just to get you to that ‘firm bed’ effect?
A traditional Japanese Futon ready for sleeping.
Some of the questions came up as I experimented napping and sleeping on different surfaces, including beaches, boulders by the river, grass, and just the bare ground. My conclusion was that almost anything seemed to work, and the best surfaces were those most removed from the modern box-spring bed, the waterbed, or the memory foam bed.
Finally I started turning up some information. A former Japanese health pioneer Katsuzo Nishi published a book in 1927 detailing a system of exercises and practices which include sleeping on a hard surface such as a board, to help with spinal alignment and circulation. Here is an excerpt from the Nishi website.
His theories are characterized by the idea that, in spite of the fact that the human bone structure and positioning of the internal organs are basically the same as those evolved for the mammalian species that ambulate on four legs, human beings’ upright, two-legged life style places certain structural strains on the human bone structure, resulting in problems like obstruction of the flow of food through the intestines (constipation) due to the unnatural (vertical) positioning of the organs. As methods to compensate for these structural defects, Nishi conceived and encouraged the use of treatment through exercises such as the goldfish (movement) style spinal column rectification exercise and the Nishi-shiki health fortifying technique( (lateral vibration exercise know as the “Haifuku Undo”).
The Paleo Pad™ is a 1/2″ thick wool felt sleeping mat.
Furthermore, based on the structure of the human network of arteries and veins, Nishi refuted the heart-driven blood circulation theory of William Harvey, proposing instead a theory that the capillaries provided the true driving force of the circulatory system. And, in order to compensate for the obstruction of circulation in the four limbs resulting from the human species’ vertical posture, he proposed the Capillary Action- Inducing exercise (Mokan Undo), which involves lying on the back, raising the arms and legs and applying a slight vibrating motion.
Besides these exercises, Nishi also recommended methods making use of implements like a hard, half –cylinder pillow, design to keep the cerebral vertebrae in the ideal position from a structural standpoint and a flat sleeping platform (flat board) designed to do the same for the vertebrae of the spinal column. (2)
This is at least anecdotal evidence that mattresses in general are bad for our health from a structural and metabolic perspective. Whether they are brand new or worn out makes no difference. My hypothesis is that mattresses insulate us from our experience of our body. They do not allow the resistance that we need to keep us in alignment and optimize breathing and circulation. When it comes to a mattress, more is not better. Less is better.
The whole concept of a mattress, a deep, soft place to rest our tired bones, is mistaken. More rejuvenation comes from less fluff. It doesn’t take something two feet thick to provide the hardness of a simple cot or a pallet on the floor. The traditional Japanese had it right with their sitting as well as their sleeping. Their mattresses (futons) are about the thickness of a typical quilt. No doubt, Nishi’s recommendations had something to do with the reason that some Japanese people still use traditional Japanese sleeping habits, even though Western furniture is available.
Japanese men making traditional tatami Mats around 1900.
Yet again I was experimenting–this time sleeping on a thin cotton blanket folded in half. I could hardly believe it. After all these years of troubling over having a good bed, even what was considered a hard bed, to my surprise, I actually slept at least as well on practically nothing. I’m not saying it felt luxurious or soft, but I slept well and felt even better upon awakening. I could see what Nishi was saying about improved circulation to the extremities. When the surface is very firm like a board, there is nothing to push up against the muscles. The bones take the brunt of the pressure so the muscles with arteries and veins and free. I also wonder if perhaps this resistance against the bones might encourage bone density while we sleep, and soft mattresses therefore might influence bone loss. This would make a great study but I can’t find any already performed.
Here is a travel log written by a recent traveler to Japan
Although many Japanese sleep in beds these days, it is still common to sleep on a futon mattress spread on the floor. Westerners call the small couch which turns into a bed a futon, but that is very different from the traditional Japanese futon. A traditional Japanese futon set includes shikibuton (under futon), kakebuton (comforters), and makura (pillow)… Shikibuton is usually stuffed with cotton batting and is wrapped in shikifu (sheets). Japanese uses different types of futon, depending on the season, such as light ones in summer and heavy ones in winter. Futon made from down feathers is light and comfortable but is most expensive. Kakebuton is covered by kakebuton cover. The traditional Japanese pillow (makura) is filled with red beans or buckwheat chaff… Futon is usually put away during the day in the closet called oshiire. The oshiire closet has sliding doors and usually divided into two shelves. It is best to keep the futon on the upper shelf. Japanese houses are usually small and do not have many rooms, so a room is used for dual purposes. During the day, a room can be used as workroom or guestroom after futon is stored in the oshiire. It is very convenient… It is important to sometimes dry futon under direct sunshine. You may ruin your futon if you keep them in the closet or spread on the floor all the time. Remember that Japan is very humid especially in rainy season. There is a product called futon kansouki (futon dryer) in Japan. Just place the dryer between kakebuton and shikibuton while it is spread on the floor. Airing your futon really helps you sleep well… Also, it is commonly said that sleeping on futon is better for the back than sleeping on a soft bed. The hardness of the floor seems to be good for people who have back problems.
In an article in Science News called “Slumber’s Unexplored Landscape: People in Traditional Societies Sleep in Eye-opening Ways,” Bruce Bower explains why I have had such a hard time finding real information on sleep patterns, behavior, and biology—because—according to Bruce Bower–it has been an ’embarrassingly’ overlooked area of anthropology.
“Adult sleepers in traditional societies recline on skins, mats, wooden platforms, the ground, or just about anything except a thick, springy mattress. Pillows or head supports are rare, and people doze in whatever they happen to be wearing. Virtually no one, including children, keeps a regular bedtime. Individuals tend to slip in and out of slumber several times during the night. In these unplugged worlds, darkness greatly limits activity and determines the time allotted to sleep. Folks there frequently complain of getting too much sleep, not too little.” (3)
My instigating hypothesis that modern beds (mattresses) are not needed and possibly counter-productive was starting to prove plausible. The article also says that a single stint of total sleep–that is the accepted norm by today’s sleep ‘experts’–was not normal for pre-industrial societies and that the advent of artificial lighting has altered the body’s natural circadian rhythms. From reading the few studies conducted on native people’s sleep patterns, one can easily surmise we are barking up the wrong tree when we think a NASA designed mattress will solve our sleep problems.
According to an article on WebMD, there are no independent studies showing any bed or mattress has healing powers. “Consumers shouldn’t be lured by claims of therapeutic benefits for beds,” says Charles Cefalu, MD, spokesman for the American Geriatrics Society. He says that “the only beds that can claim to be therapeutic are prescribed by physicians for home use and have the same technology as therapeutic beds used in hospitals to treat burn victims.”
This article goes on to say that firm surfaces may be problematic, especially for older sleepers or those with arthritis. It does say, however, that most of these problems can be alleviated with propping and bolstering pillows– especially a pillow under the back of the knees when sleeping on the back.
A mattress in any true sense of the word causes the hips to sink in and the lower back to collapse, which interrupts natural alignment. Ironically, this is the same effect that chair sitting has on the body. When the back collapses in on itself, whether sitting or lying down, the lungs cannot hold as much oxygen and breathing is immediately hampered. When the body does not get its optimal amount of oxygen, the parasympathetic nervous system which induces relaxation is impeded. When breathing is shallow, the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol are overproduced–which keeps the body from fully relaxing.
The viewpoint of followers of the New Ergonomics is that chair sitting causes ‘front loading’ of the body (see Challenges to Natural Sitting). Since the muscles are tighter in front, the body feels better hunched over to some degree. Likewise, sleeping on a modern mattress causes slumping. Then when we lie down on a firm surface, tight muscles are stretched, which feels uncomfortable. Therefore, we have gotten dependent on a soft bed to maintain the out-of-alignment position, or posture of flexion. It may feel better and even help some people sleep better, because they aren’t being distracted by the body’s attempt to stretch and realign itself. But without the feedback a hard surface offers, deeper problems develop and we don’t reach our full potential.
If the mattress does play some role in improving sleep, the best mattress is not a mattress at all, but something more like a pad or a pallet on the floor–something that comes the closest to mimicking the very ground from which humans evolved.
How to Sleep on a Firm or Hard Surface
Of course when first lying down and sleeping on a hard surface, you are probably going to feel uncomfortable. And what is meant by a ‘hard’ surface?I have personally tested various beds, futons, and natural surfaces over several decades and have come to the conclusion that what mattress manufacturers call ‘firm’ or ‘hard’ does not even come close to the traditional Japanese futon. What describes this quality best is a thick quilt on a floor or board. That bit of padding (about one to two inches of compressed padding) won’t let the hips sink in to mis-align the spine, yet it buffers the body somewhat.
From my own experimenting and interviewing people, I have come to the conclusion that this amount of firmness is what works for most Americans who are changing their lifestyle and sleeping habits.You will need to experiment for yourself to see what works. You can start with napping and later try sleeping this way. It may take more than one night to get used to it. You can gradually go to a harder surface and compare the results.
The modular platform bed the author designed using a blend of traditional Japanese with modest western touches.
The interesting thing I have found upon informally interviewing people who have tried sleeping on firm surfaces is that they complain about it being hard and less comfortable, and yet they sleep very well and feel refreshed upon awakening.You can sleep on a ‘platform bed’ or the floor. A ‘platform bed” is a simple raised surface where your mat goes, but does not have a true mattress. The platform bed is best for those who don’t want to get down to the floor level. It’s disadvantage is it can’t be put away during the day.
The Japanese use a tatami mat under the futon. This provides ventilation underneath which helps regulate body temperature as well as keep the futon from becoming damp with the body’s persperation. It also keeps the futon, blanets, and pillows off the floor which might be dirty and drafty. This is a great invention, but is expensive and doesn’t always fit in with a person’s interior design. A simple tatami mat imitation can be easily handmade from lumber. All that is needed is a slatted surface raised a few inches off the floor. Or the platform bed can serve as a tatami mat if it has a slatted surface.
People with health issues such as arthritis, scoliosis, rheumatism, or weak capillaries will need to use common sense and not go to as hard a surface as healthier individuals.What you are aiming for is a ‘spine-neutral’ position. Neutral spine is the natural position of the spine when all 3 curves of the spine — cervical (neck), thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower) — are present and in good alignment.
The type of comfort one feels on a hard surface is more of an acquired taste. It is similar to the difference between Wonder Bread and old fashioned sourdough bread. One is soft and empty, one is solid and wholesome. You will feel your hips and shoulders rubbing against the surface and you won’t sink in as before. Unfamiliarity is not comfortable. It is comforting in the way it helps you breathe more fully, the way it grounds your body, the way it reassures you that there is something solid somewhere in life that you can always count on.
At first you may feel like it’s impossible to relax, because it contradicts all your ideas about relaxation. You are feeling your life energy, the place your body comes up against the earth. You will know where you are out of alignment. Give it some time. Common sense and a spirit of adventure go a long way.
Sleeping in this way resembles restorative yoga, and props can be used in much the same way. The goal is to position the body so it is relaxed and comfortable. There are several supports, bolsters, and pillows which can be propped in any number of ways depending on individual needs. For instance, for lower back pain, place a small support under the lower back (when lying on your back). A rolled up sock will work, but a flax seed eye pillow is the ultimate size and shapes just the right amount. Or alternatively, place a bolster behind the knees.
When side sleeping, hug a large pillow and put a pillow between your knees–or use a body pillow. Also, make sure your head pillow is tall enough. It should be about 5 inches (for most people) when compressed–your head should not be pushed up or down but paralell with the bed.
I believe the reason mattresses have become ubiquitus is mainly due to these reasons:
1–The perceived comfort is an adaptive response. The body becomes ‘front-loaded’ due to facters such as chair sitting and mattresses. When the body stretches and lengthens on a firm surface, those tight muscles and ligaments are stretched and noticed, causing discomfort.
2–The psychosomatic aspect of a mattress: It looks thick and plush, therefore it MUST be comfortable.
3–Since mattresses have been around for so long, no-one even questions their usefulness. Therefore no studies are performed.
4–The propaganda of a century of advertising.In reality that mattress is creating and/or masking the body’s current structural imbalances, impeding circulation and hampering the body from realigning itself during sleep. Sleeping on a hard surface can reshape the back and realign the body. A firm sleep surface helps the body’s relationship with gravity, with the earth. This is a therapeutic practice available to all of us, which works while we sleep.
(1) The Mayo Clinic’s recommendations on buying a mattress http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/buying-a-mattress/AN01641 (As of 07/29/09 the article appears to have been removed. Sorry for the searing critque.)They now have a nice article on tips for better sleep here.
(2) Nishi Hard Surface
When the body is placed this flat on a hard leveled bed, the weight is most equitably distributed, the muscles are given he maximum relaxation; and any subluxation or deflexure of the spine caused by the upright posture during the daytime is easily corrected; furthermore, the very hardness of the bed secures the functional activities of the skin and prevents the liver from becoming sluggish and moreover stimulates the veins distributed superficially all over he body so as to promote the return of the blood towards the heart. This in turn leads to the inversing activity of the liver, with the result that all the waste matter which have been deposited during the daytime will be swept away from the body and the motor nerves will be kept from any undue pressure or strain. Moreover the intestines will be secured against constipation or stasis. This you will be sure to get a good sleep and awake the next morning quite refreshed mentally or physically.
Hard Half Cylindar Pillow
When using the solid pillow you should lie flat and place the neck on the pillow so that the third or fourth cervical vertebra may be properly rested on it. Needless to say that one who is not accustomed to such a pillow would find it painful. In that case, a towel or some other soft piece of cloth may be laid over it. It is to be remembered that you should, however, take the piece of cloth off now and then and try to gradually accustom yourself to he hardness. Thus you would in time become accustomed to it and sleep comfortably without using any such softener. Effects: The use of the solid pillow has the beneficial effect of preventing or correcting any subluxation of the cervical vertebrae and helping to prevent headaches, meningitis, as wall as diseases of the ear, nose and throat. Moreover it keeps the brain and spinal cord in a normal tone necessary for their proper function and thus keeps off any sluggish or paralytic disorder in the body, especially in the nerves and limbs.
How to get started? Click here for part Two of Sweet Dreams on a Hard Surface
(2) Nishi Hard Surface When the body is placed this flat on a hard leveled bed, the weight is most equitably distributed, the muscles are given he maximum relaxation; and any subluxation or deflexure of the spine caused by the upright posture during the daytime is easily corrected; furthermore, the very hardness of the bed secures the functional activities of the skin and prevents the liver from becoming sluggish and moreover stimulates the veins distributed superficially all over he body so as to promote the return of the blood towards the heart. This in turn leads to the inversing activity of the liver, with the result that all the waste matter which have been deposited during the daytime will be swept away from the body and the motor nerves will be kept from any undue pressure or strain. Moreover the intestines will be secured against constipation or stasis. This you will be sure to get a good sleep and awake the next morning quite refreshed mentally or physically.Hard Half Cylindar Pillow When using the solid pillow you should lie flat and place the neck on the pillow so that the third or fourth cervical vertebra may be properly rested on it. Needless to say that one who is not accustomed to such a pillow would find it painful. In that case, a towel or some other soft piece of cloth may be laid over it. It is to be remembered that you should, however, take the piece of cloth off now and then and try to gradually accustom yourself to he hardness. Thus you would in time become accustomed to it and sleep comfortably without using any such softener. Effects: The use of the solid pillow has the beneficial effect of preventing or correcting any subluxation of the cervical vertebrae and helping to prevent headaches, meningitis, as wall as diseases of the ear, nose and throat. Moreover it keeps the brain and spinal cord in a normal tone necessary for their proper function and thus keeps off any sluggish or paralytic disorder in the body, especially in the nerves and limbs. Click here to visit the Nishi Wiki page.
(3) Here is the link to the Bruce Bower’s article: Slumber’s Unexplored Landscape:
*The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA. These statements and the suggestions mentioned are not intended to diagnose, prescribe for, treat or claim to prevent, mitigate or cure any human disease. As always, please consult a trusted and knowledgable health care provider before beginning any new activity.
One characteristic shared by practically all the ‘modern’ or ‘neolithic’ diseases like obesity, diabetes, hypo thyroidism, sleep apnea, etc.– is poor quality sleep. Whether this is causative or indicative has been a question. The reality is more complex. The cause and effect interact with each other. For instance, the poor sleep adds to the problem but is also a symptom of the problem. And our quest has been searching for ONE thing–like diet OR the right bed or hormone supplement.
Just looking at the human organism won’t do it. The human organism is intricately connected to the earth and cosmos which includes things we have taken for granted and disregarded as unimportant and not related. The cycles of the seasons, timing of sunrise and sunset, temperature, diet, and the Earth’s Magnetic Field are completely left out in the search for a better sleep. Recent rock solid (pardon the pun) breakthroughs in science are now revealing beyond a shadow of a doubt, the missing key to optimum functioning lies in re-linking our own internal Circadian Clocks with the environmental triggers that keep it running ‘on time’.
It should not be hard to relate to this. We know that computers of any sort have a ‘chip’ that is akin to the DNA of an organism. The chip sets the rules. Everything must fall into alignment or ‘synch up’ with the program on the chip. Even a car needs proper timing or it will ‘mis-fire’.
Our Circadian Clocks are currently interrupted by manmade obstacles–ironically what we call ‘conveniences’ and ‘improvements’ that have been introduced mostly in the past 100 years. While technology has ‘advanced’, sleep and health has gotten worse for the majority of modern humans. And we keep looking for a technological fix as if the human body could be ‘re-programmed’ to adapt to the modern world and industrial agriculture.
A new group or ‘camp’ of scientists is trying to match the environment to the DNA. What preserves cellular energy, coherence, homeostasis, genetic integrity, also creates the most generative sleep possible. Quality of sleep is both an indicator as well as a generator of health.
According to Dr. Ray Peat:
The ability to sleep deeply decreases in old age, as a generalized inflammatory, excitatory state of stress develops. With progressive weakening of restorative cellular relaxation (inhibition), cells become more susceptible to disintegration. (“sarcopenia”) of aging is also probably a process that occurs mostly during the night. Mediators of inflammation are at their highest during the night. (2)
The question has been, what are the significant aspects of the natural environment that make a difference. Or put another way: what IS the original blueprint for homo sapiens? Or “where is the fountain of youth?” In a nutshell, modern humans are out of synch with genetic code or the ryhthms that establish calm, homeostasis, cellular energy, brain power, metabolism, and strong immune function.
A circadian rhythm ( /s-r-ke-di-n/) is any biological process that displays an endogenous, entrainable oscillation of about 24 hours. These rhythms are driven by a circadian clock, and rhythms have been widely observed in plants, animals, fungi and cyanobacteria.
It is now known that the molecular circadian clock can function within a single cell; i.e., it is cell-autonomous. At the same time, different cells may communicate with each other resulting in a synchronized output of electrical signaling. These may interface with endocrine glands of the brain to result in periodic release of hormones. The receptors for these hormones may be located far across the body and synchronize the peripheral clocks of various organs. Thus, the information of the time of the day as relayed by the eyes travels to the clock in the brain, and, through that, clocks in the rest of the body may be synchronized. This is how the timing of, for example, sleep/wake, body temperature, thirst, and appetite are coordinately controlled by the biological clock.
Mark Sisson of the Primal Blueprint says,
Tens of thousands of anthropologists, evolutionary biologists, paleontologists, geneticists and others have worked for over 100 years to piece together a fairly detailed picture of all the elements that helped influence our development as a species. Ironically though, when we examine all of the many environmental influences and behaviors that shaped our genome, we arrive at a very simple list of general things our early ancestors did to become what and who they were and which allowed them to pass 99.9% of those genes down to us. In essence, this list is the original “Primal Blueprint” since it provided the only set of behaviors they knew – the exact behaviors that enabled then to shape their bodies into healthy, robust, happy beings…( 3)
Optimal sleep is achieved when the body’s circadian rhythms (preprogrammed DNA–or genetics) are synchronized with the environment (epigenetics). This is an example of where structure and function are intricately co-dependent. Metabolism has to be set right for the circadian rhythms of the organism to synchronize with the natural cycles of the sun (both the day cycles and the season/climate cycles). But metabolism itself is determined by these very natural phenomenon. So a metabolism out of whack will mess with sleep and regeneration, and yet sleep and regeneration are part of what sets metabolism.
There isn’t JUST ONE thing that resets the human circadian clock. Rather, there are FOUR primary factors–or dimensions–that need to be in place all at the same time. Let’s look at the significant factors that will match our environment to our DNA to supercharge our sleep and vitality.
1—EXPOSURE TO SHUMANN’S RESONANCE (Earth’s Electromagnetic Field)
2–LIGHT (TIMING of DAILY ACTIVITIES corresponding with sunrise and sunset) of sleeping, eating and exercising) and exposure to natural light.
3–TEMPERATURE (stay close to what is happening outside).
4–DIET (type of food, basically food which allows the optimal sensing of the master hormone leptin which regulates temperature, cellular energy, and metabolism),
Dust mites are microscopic insects, found living in soft furnishings throughout the home, which feed on dead skin cells. In fact, an incredible one million dust mites can happily feed on the amount of skin shed daily by an average adult!
While these tiny home invaders aren’t harmful in small numbers, larger mite populations can cause problems for some people.
We have the illusion that clothes and bedding made from synthetic fibers are safe, but the materials are in fact full of invisible chemicals the clothing/furniture industry prefers we don’t think about. A hundred years ago, bedding and clothing was made of natural fibers like cotton, flax, wool, and silk. In the early 1900s synthetics were developed. Although rayon was introduced in 1924, the first truly synthetic fiber was nylon, made by DuPont from the petro-molecule, toluene. Nylon became a popular material for women’s panty hose.
Other synthetics followed: Acrylic (1950), aka, “wash-and-wear” fabrics – a “revolutionary time-saving leap” for homemakers. Polyester (1953) are “wrinkle free” fabrics developed from xylene and ethylene. Spandex and olefin (1959), became the mainstay of sportswear, swim suits, and thermal underwear. Olefin is produced by “cracking” petroleum molecules into propylene and ethylene gases. Today’s clothing (a $7 trillion/year industry) is manufactured using an astounding 8,000 synthetic chemicals.
Nowadays, clothes also contain toxins like formaldehyde, brominated flame retardants, and perfluorinated chemicals (Teflon) to provide “non-iron” and “non-wrinkle” qualities. Insecticides are even applied in the name of good health! For half a century, skin and chemicals have been interacting and creating problems like infertility, respiratory diseases, contact dermatitis, and cancer. The more synthetic clothing you wear, the greater your risk of absorbing toxic chemicals that harm your health. When toxins are absorbed through your skin – your largest organ – they bypass your liver, the organ responsible for removing toxins. You also may not realize that your skin keeps you healthy by venting toxins up to a pound per day.
Petrochemical fibers restrict and suffocate your skin – shutting down toxic release. Meanwhile, they contribute to your total toxic burden and may become the “tipping point” for triggering the onset of disease. Two contributing factors are:
(1) Toxic buildup in your body
(2) Multiple chemicals that interact together to create even worse problems than the individual chemicals by themselves.
Skin rashes, nausea, fatigue, burning, itching, headaches, and difficulty breathing are all associated with chemical sensitivity. If you have mysterious health symptoms that you can’t seem to get control over, it’s worth checking out whether your clothes could be the problem. The Chemicals You Wear Every Day. With a “mere” 8,000 chemicals used in clothing manufacture, it’s a sure bet you’re wearing many as you read this. Let’s highlight some of the worst. These kinds of fabric finishes “scream” chemicals…
Water Repellent — Fluoropolymers (as in Teflon) are used to repel oil and water
Bacterial and fungicidal chemicals –Triclosan and nano-particles are used for this.
Formaldehyde is linked to a 30% increase in lung cancer, plus skin/lung irritation and contact dermatitis. It is found in fabrics claiming to be: Anti-cling, anti-static, anti-shrink Waterproof Perspiration-proof Moth-proof and mildew resistant Chorine resistant It’s also used in dyes and printing to fix the design and prevent “running”.
Most governments restrict formaldehyde levels in clothing, but not the U.S. One of the worst offenders is China. Beware of “Made in China” labels. Use of formaldehyde in clothing is extremely widespread. There have even been lawsuits alleging high levels of it in Victoria’s Secret bras.
High temps and humidity make “poison clothes” even worse — they open your pores and increase chemical absorption. And you absorb formaldehyde from multiple sources daily, so don’t be fooled by manufacturers’ reassurances. Disperse Blue Dyes may look gorgeous — even regal — but they put you at high risk for contact dermatitis especially dark blue, brown, and black synthetic clothing.
It’s important to note — laundering does not reverse that risk. Worse, Disperse Blue 1 is classified as a human carcinogen due to high malignant tumor levels in lab animals. Incidentally, you might be interested to know that this dye also shows up in cosmetics and semi-permanent hair dyes.
Fire and burn hazards: The Marine Corps now prohibits troops in Iraq from wearing synthetic clothing while off baseÉ after too many unfortunate burns from soldiers wearing polyester, acrylic, and nylon , which readily melts in high heat and fuses to the skin. (Dudes, what did you expect? The stuff is a first cousin to plastic. Both are products of the oil industry.) Of course, that begs the question of whether flame retardants are safer.
Flame Retardant use began in 1971, when government required children’s sleepwear to be self-extinguishing. The solution was to add brominated Tris. Studies measuring urine samples showed that this chemical is readily absorbed. Brominated Tris is a mutagen, and causes cancer and sterility in animals. (Mutagens cause inheritable mutations by damaging DNA.) They also cause testicular atrophy and sterility.
Tris was banned in children’s clothing in 1977 (but lives on in upholstered furniture foam, baby carriers, and bassinets). Today most synthetic fabrics contain a new generation of flame retardants bonded into the fabric, which must survive 50+ washings. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Burn Center, only 36 children a year suffer serious injuries from sleepwear catching fire.
Is the toxic contamination of millions of children worth protecting 36 children per year from burns? This sort of regulation is a product of the “precautionary principle” Ñ the notion that there should be no limit to the amount of money spent or the amount of inconvenience inflicted on millions of people when it comes to preventing rare dangers that affect a tiny number of people. The mania for making our society risk-proof and accident-proof actually increases danger in many cases.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission exempts certain sleepwear from flammability standards. Two companies selling kids’ sleepwear without flame retardants are L.L. Bean and Lands’ End. But it’s not just children’s sleepwearÉ Demand is high for fire-retardant uniforms and civilian clothing. Lab studies show that flame retardants (PBDEs) can cause a slew of health issues, thyroid problems, brain damage, ADHD symptoms, and fertility problems. The insecticide permethrin is now in civilian outdoor wear and military uniforms even though no long-term studies have assessed its safety.
Silver nanoparticles in name-brand clothing create anti-odor, anti-wrinkle, and anti-stain clothes. “Nano” means “really tiny”, super-microscopic. Nano-particles in clothing can create easily absorbed toxins that, due to their minuscule size, are transported into all your organs, including your brain, consequences unknown. Other scary toxins include sulfuric acid, urea resin, sulfonamides, halogens, and sodium hydroxide.
The Health Hazards of Built-Up Electrical Charges, Electrostatic charges accumulate in synthetic clothing. There are stories of shocking mini-explosions from mixing layers of synthetic clothing with synthetic carpeting. And get this: synthetic undergarments contribute to infertility in men.
A24-month study of male dogs wearing either loose-fitting polyester underpants or loose-fitting cotton ones showed that wearing polyester created significant decreases in sperm count and degeneration of the testes. The animals wearing cotton suffered no side effects.
Scientists think polyester traps body heat, encourages chemical absorption, and creates electrostatic build-up, which all affect sperm count.
Hazard Number Two–EMF’s ( Electromagnetic Fields, a.k.a ‘electrosmog’) :
These are really just another form of toxin.External sources (outside your home) of non-thermal electromagnetic radiation (EMR) are ubiquitous: microwave towers, high-power lines, electrical transfer/relay stations, Smart Meters, cell phones and Smart Phones. (Smart Phones are especially noxious because microwave towers use phones that are not powered off as relay devices for their signals, regardless of whether the phone is in use placing or conducting a call).
It is vital to note that the above sources of EMR are non-thermal: they do not generate heat, and therefore provide you with no early warning, no physiological means by which most people can recognize that they are causing harm at a biological and metabolic level.
Because there are no government standards (in North America) that establish safe human exposure limits for non-thermal radiation a person can not assess their exposure level without specialized equipment.
Furthermore, while telecommunications companies insist that the levels of EMR their products and towers radiate fall well within government limits, they are referring of course only to the limits for thermal radiation.
There are three forms of electromagnetic radiation that emanate from manmade devices: static electric and magnetic fields, AC electric and AC magnetic fields, and radio frequency radiation. The potential risks they pose to human health vary in accordance with field, field strength, voltage, current, charge, grounding, frequency, wavelength, and power density.
There are countless scientific studies that portray the ability of EMR to adversely affect humans (as well as plants and animals) at the cellular level, studies that show they diminish the ability of cells to defend themselves, and disrupt a cell’s natural ability to produce healthy new cells. Cellphones, for example, when carried in immediate proximity to the body, have been shown to result in the production of ineffectual sperm cells and impenetrable ovum, catalyze rogue cells in breast tissue, and cross the blood-brain barrier.
Fortunately, standards that set limits for acceptable levels (there is no such thing as safe levels) of human exposure to non-thermal radiation do exist. And there are ways to mitigate personal exposure, without sacrificing the conveniences of modern communication – many of them are free and easy to incorporate into daily habits.
We also address Sick Building Syndrome or Indoor Air Pollution. Flame Retardant Chemicals (PBDE’s) leach out of furniture into house dust and we breath these in. Watch this video explaining the dangers. Health begins at the cellular level and we offer a major step in detoxifying your home and creating a sanctuary. This branch of building science is the place where body, culture and design intersect.
Flame retardant chemicals are in almost everything: Not only in our TV’s, clothing, furniture, carpets and electronic equipment; they are also in our air, water, food and our own bodies. Their levels are especially high in our babies and children, because children eat, drink and breathe more than adults. These chemicals disrupt our thyroid function, immune systems, brain development and can possibly cause cancers. Human blood and tissue levels of these toxins have been doubling every two and a half years in the USA. What are these chemicals and what can you do to protect yourself and your family from their effects?The manufacturers aren’t required to put the fire retardant chemicals on the label. The most commonly used chemicals, and their health hazards are:
* Boric acid – Inhaling the dust can cause headaches, coughing, dizziness or difficulty breathing. Prolong contact may cause skin sensitization.
* PBDE’s – are prohibited in the European Union after high levels were found in breast milk. California has decided to phase out the use of two of these, penta and octa PBDE by 2008. PBDEs accumulate in the body tissues and cause thyroid hormone disruption, permanent learning and memory impairment, decreased sperm count, fetal malformations, behavioral changes, hearing deficiencies and possibly cancer. U.S. women have levels in their body tissues 50 times more than European women. (For more eye-opening information, click on the link at the end of this report to “Our Stolen Future” Website containing results of a study of PBDEs).
* Formaldehyde – the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission states in a report on urethane insulation, “Many health complaints, including irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin, headaches and shortness of breath, have been reported to CPSC over the last several years by consumers who have had UFFI in their homes. Less frequently reported symptoms include chest pain, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, and sleep disturbance. Studies have shown that formaldehyde in liquid solution (and possibly formaldehyde gas) can, through repeated exposure, cause sensitization in certain individuals. When exposed to formaldehyde gas, sensitized individuals may exhibit allergic dermatitis or mild-to-severe asthmatic reactions.” This was talking about formaldehyde outgassing from insulation. The same effects would occur from exposure to formaldehyde outgassing while you are sleeping in your bed. CPSC considers formaldehyde to be a potential human carcinogen.
* Decabromodipheyl Oxide – is a developmental toxicant. Exposing mothers to it during pregnancy can cause the death of or disrupt the development of the fetus. It causes birth defects and low birth weight. Behavioral or psychological problems can appear as the child grows.
* Melamine – is a reproductive toxicant, which can cause premature menopause, decreases in male and female fertility, onset of puberty, and changes in menstruation, gestation time, and lactation. It is a development toxicant with all of the hazards of Decabromodiphyl Oxide mentioned above. It is a cardiovascular and blood toxicant. This affects the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen, white blood cells to fight disease, abnormal heartbeat, decreased blood flow, and elevated blood pressure.
* Antimony – The Australian Government Department of Environment and Heritage says of antimony,” Antimony compounds show toxic properties similar to those of arsenic. This depends on how much antimony a person has been exposed to, for how long, and current state of health. Exposure to high levels of antimony can result in a variety of adverse health effects. Breathing high levels for a long time can irritate eyes and lungs and can cause heart and lung problems, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach ulcers. Ingesting large doses of antimony can cause vomiting. When eaten by mold or mildew, antimony releases a poisonous gas called stibine. This gas has caused epidemics of deaths in the past. These are a few of the chemicals used as fire retardants. Polyols, toluene diisocyante, amines, siloxanes, styrene, limonene, benzene and many others are also used. If you find any chemicals listed on your mattress label, you can search the web for more information. Write the chemical in the search box adding a comma, then write “health hazard.” But you can’t trust the label, because by law therre is no requirement to list any or all of the ingredients. Click here for more information on the chemical hazards of modern mattresses.
If you’ve had a big day and you need some time to unwind and read a book or watch a movie–chances are it’s not going to be sitting at a desk or table. Who doesn’t love to cuddle with an interesting book and cup of tea on the bed or couch? And chances are you haven’t really found a comfortable position. You can prop yourself with pillows all you want, but at best, some part of your body–neck, back, arms–is crunched and you can’t really relax 100%. At the worst, you can develop injuries from repetitive strain.
I found an interesting struggle happening on a reading blog, where serious readers were talking about their favorite positions
1–propping oneself in a sort of lounge position with pillows against the wall or headboard
2–on the side
3–on the back (a–holding the book straight up with arms or b–propping head forward with pillow, bending knees and putting book on knees)
4–on the tummy(a–with elbows propping head up or b–with head hanging over edge of bed and book on floor)
Not a ONE of them felt like they had found it.
I have discovered outside-the-box solutions for this age-old dilimna, by incorporating principles from restorative yoga, Alexander Technique and other modalities. It often looks like I’m not working when I’m busy on the computer, writing, or reading something because I am SO COMFORTABLE.I find myself apologizing sometimes, but there’s no reason why anyone can’t adopt these life changing habits which bring relief and make reading and writing, and using the laptop more fun.
The blog I reviewed had dozens of comments from frustrated people who could not find a comfortable position for reading in bed. The dozens of comments can pretty much be summed up in this one:
“I read for long periods, so I suppose it’s natural I do a combination of all the positions mentioned above. I lie on my stomach first until my lower back begins to hurt, then gingerly roll onto my right side until my arm hurts, then on my back until my hands get sore from holding the book up, then onto my left side. By that point, I’m usually numb enough to fall asleep.”
The fact that this person is changing positions is a good thing. But the fact that he is changing positions because not ONE of the positions allows and promotes good alignment, circulation, breathing and comfort is an issue.
F.M. Alexander–in his book Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual–gives primary reading directions.
I wish to free my neck so that
my head can go forward and up
so that my torso can lengthen and
my legs can move away from my torso
and my shoulders can release out the sides.
Mark Josefsberg-Alexander Technique Teacher in NYC further explains:
“When you look down, think of pivoting your head from the top of the spine, which ishigher up than we usually imagine. Think of a rod going through your head at the level of you ear holes, and pivot your head down and up from there, without collapsing your neck forward. Don’t forget to use your eyes to look down.
An Alexander teacher will help you understand these, both intellectually and kinesthetically.
Reading and using the laptop for more than a few minutes, while laying down or reclining, can create problems for our bodies. The media loves to promote images of people doing so without props, however, the truth is: props are necessary to prevent damage to the body. These props can be simple or more complex, but the difference is like night and day.