Sleep and The Zone Connection

Scientists still are not exactly sure what goes on during sleep, however, research is revealing that what we assume is a time of tranquil and blissful rest is anything but for the brain.

Sleep is now considered a critical factor in wellness, and even survival. The body takes this time to repair and rebuild itself, and the brain controls this well orchestrated symphony of tasks. Lack of sleep causes an array of problems including, being drowsy and not able to concentrate, inability to do math calculations, physical fatigue, mood swings, impaired response time and immune system breakdown. According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Highway Safety Administration, approximately 100,000 motor vehicle accidents, resulting in 1500 deaths per year are attributed to driving fatigue.

Let’s look at exactly what causes these problems occur. If the brain is not allowed time to repair and replenish, the neurons (nerve cells) which control body responses, become starved and suffer from the effects of built-up byproduct waste from normal cell functions. This causes them to malfunction. During sleep, human growth hormone (HGH) is released. Children who do not get quality sleep often are smaller than their peers. The amount of HGH produced declines with age. Without proper sleep, this amount is further diminished resulting in accelerated aging.

The brain switches on and off different hormones which control different enzymes and chemicals, which in turn control different emotions. Without proper balance, this leads to emotional upset, mood swings, and depression. The brain also uses sleep time to re-create nerve-signaling patterns. A time when things learned during the day can be reprocessed and stored during sleep thus enhancing memory encoding and learning.

Quality sleep is the key to health. There are five stages of sleep. The average person cycles through the five stages of sleep several times through the night. It is when this cycle is interrupted that problems occur. The deep sleep stage is when HGH is released and increased protein production takes place. During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the regions of the brain responsible for learning are stimulated. Infants spend more time in REM sleep, suggesting the importance of brain development on learning.

What is the Zone Connection?

More than 60% of the brain’s weight is made up of fat. Specifically, that fat is comprised of mostly DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid). This DHA is present in Omega-3 fatty acids. Zone nutrition advocates the use of good fats, primarily Omega-9 and Omega-3.

Proteins are necessary to rebuild the cells. Proteins are broken down into amino acids, which are the building blocks. Zone nutrition advocates the proper amount of protein necessary for this process.

Carbohydrates are necessary to fuel the body and brain. Carbohydrates break down into glucose, which fuels the cells. Zone nutrition advocates the use of low glycemic carbohydrates to supply glucose in a slow and steady release rate.

Zone nutrition advocates eating a balanced bedtime snack to provide the three macronutrients (fats, carbs and protein) to sustain the brain over the course of the night to allow it to carry out the important tasks it has been delegated to do.

One of the things that people following the Zone report is that the quality of their sleep has improved. They wake up less frequently or sleep through the night, they feel refreshed upon awakening, they require less sleep. They report increased mental focus and clarity. This is a result of the brain being able to replenish and repair because it has been given the opportunity to get a good night’s sleep.

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