Sleep Deprivation effects our entire physiology, especially our brains. In the most comprehensive study I could glean, findings showed that glucose tolerance was lower in the sleep-debt condition than in the fully rested condition, as were thyrotropin concentrations. Evening cortisol concentrations were raised and activity of the sympathetic nervous system (flight/fright response (mine)) was increased in the sleep-dept condition. The interpretation of this study is that sleep debt has a harmful impact on carbohydrate metabolism and endocrine function. The effects are similar to those seen in normal aging and, therefore, sleep debt may increase the severity of age-related chronic disorders. Decrements in cognitive performance were reported in other studies.

The brain runs on glucose, not fat, not protein. If glucose levels are off, the brain suffers.  People who suffer with migraine and migraine-associated vertigo need sleep!  As well, those who are in the 24/7 migraine state of migraine-associated vertigo are chronically fatigued, making sleep especially important.

More interesting facts about sleep deprivation in our society:

The captain of an Air India Express Plane carrying 166 Passengers woke up from a nap and took over the controls. As his Boeing 737, carrying 166 passengers, approached Mangalore, his co-pilot warned him that he was coming in at the wrong angle and repeatedly shouted at him that he should try over.  Listening to the cockpit recorder, the last sound heard was the co-pilot screaming that they didn’t have any runway left. Only eight people survived, as the plane burst into flames, having overshot the landing.  The official investigation found that the captain was suffering “sleep inertia.”  There have been other near-misses as well as a case of the bizarre ranting of one psychotic pilot which may have been caused by sleep deprivation.

Let’s come out of the sky and talk about automobiles.  Some 20% of auto accidents have been due to drowsy drivers according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  As well, U.S. military researchers admit that sleep deprivation is one of the leading causes of friendly fire.

What is the reason for this phenomenon in our society?  Because our circadian rhythms are out of balance.

There are many circadian rhythms.  For humans, and for sleep, there are three classic body markers, melatonin secreted by the pineal gland, core body temperature, and cortisol level.

When morning comes we open our eyes and light hits the retina, sending a signal to the pineal gland, causing melatonin to be secreted.  The level of melatonin peaks during the night and is absent during the day. Melatonin starts to show up in our bodies in dim light, at dusk, and has a soporific effect.  Core body temperature and cortisol level come down with rest and relaxation.

Since the invention of electricity, more people are out after dark, keeping their body temperatures and cortisol levels high longer than their natural rhythms would.  If we are home, many of us are either in front of a TV, reading with lights on, or in front of a computer, right up until bedtime.  And then we cannot fall asleep.

In essence, we have forgotten how to fall to sleep.

According to the CDC, in 1990 24% of US workers were getting less than six hours of sleep a night.  By 2010 30% of workers were getting less than six hours of sleep at night.

According to Marketdata Enterprises,  Americans are spending 60 billions of dollars on prescriptions, at sleep labs on mattresses and for medical devices. There are even, for people who can afford it, “sleep coaches.”

Our ancestors had two “sleeps,” one after the sun went down until after midnight and a second sleep which would last the rest of the night.  In between these two sleeps they would be awake for an hour or so.  This hour or so was a very product time.  It was a time for praying, reading, writing, art, artisen work, contemplation of dreams and having sex.  Indigenous cultures today are also said to sleep this way and we know that the indigenous elders grow very old and very healthy.

In summary, technology has brought us great things and opened our lives to great possibilities. However, we have paid many prices, one of them is a good night’s sleep, another is our health, for us, migraine and/or migraine-associated vertigo.  We cannot think straight, we are fatigued, our moods are not stable, our relationships are not stable, we are not productive and our bodies are aging faster.  Yet, looking at the number of new prescriptions for sleeping aids written each year, new high-tech mattresses, new sleep devices on the market, the mass solution seems to be for more technology.  In other words, we keep fighting our body’s natural circadian rhythm with more of what has put us out of balance.

What sleep specialists suggest is this and this is especially important for those who suffer with migraine and/or migraine-associated vertigo.  Do not exercise up to three hours before bedtime. (This allows your body’s core temperature and cortisol levels to come down.) Do not nap during the day. (This will throw off your circadian rhythm.) Have a warm bath before bedrime. (This will help you relax and also bring your core body temperature down.) Establish a bedtime routine. (This will help relax your mind and body, teaching your mind and body that it is bedtime.)  Go to bed and wake up at the same time every morning, with some leeway for seasonal changes. (This will also train your mind, until your circadian rhythm comes into balance and takes over.)  A low level light is ideal just before sleep, followed by a total blackout during sleep.  Specialists suggest covering a digital clock at night for total blackout.  Use your bed for two things only – sleep and sex. (no reading in bed, no laptop in bed. This will train your mind that when you get into bed, you are going to go to sleep.)

There are other things you can try, CDs which put your brain into theta waves. There are also websites where you can download free hypnosis sleep aids.

Eventually, you will find yourself in a normal circadian rhythm, falling to sleep like a baby, back to nature, not dependent on technology, and feeling well rested each morning.  And hopefully, your migraine and/or migraine-associated vertigo symptoms will have eased.

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