Those really bad days…

Have you ever had those bad days? Those days where everything feels a bit shit, and you’re worn down and irritable, so you eat like two cheese toasties because your energy is low. They used to say "you got out on the wrong side of the bed."

That’s broken sleep. And it means something.

It actually means a lot. The impact of significantly reduced sleep time or broken sleep is massive on both your physical and mental wellbeing in the short term and in the long term.

Why? 

Sleep is our regeneration palace; it is our sanctuary for hormonal balance, learning and memory consolidation, and immune system.

Mentally, sleep deprivation not only impairs attention and working memory, but it also affects other functions, such as long-term memory and decision-making. Physically it can increase the risk of obesity by nearly 55%. Poor sleep directly affects Ghrelin and Leptin hormones. Leptin monitors hunger (it’s the thing that controls our feeling full), Ghrelin is a hormone that released from the stomach tells the brain, "more food-eat now." After a poor night's sleep, the body increases Ghrelin levels and reduces leptin levels making us more hungry and less likely to stop eating. Because we are generally unaware of our hormone balances we never really consider our appetite being the result of a hormone imbalance. We might say "I’m exhausted" but we’ll never say "my cortisol levels are so high today." Instead, we just become stressed and overwhelmed.

What can this mean in the long term? Immune system deficiencies, increased risk of mental health issues such as depression, neurological issues such as Alzheimer’s.

We have all been there: tired, overwhelmed, depleted. As a trainer for the better for part of ten years, 5 am wake ups and late evenings come with the job leaving a regular sleep schedule a constant struggle. You would think that over the years it would become easier. However, instead, my sleep became even more interrupted with fears of missed alarms and clients waking me hours before the alarm was meant to sound.

I tried all the usual suspects: teas, magnesium, melatonin. For a moment, I thought magnesium was the answer as it seemed to always help me fall asleep, however the quality of sleep varied.

Enter CBD oil. As with any supplementation, I was sceptical. But I tried it.

It is hard to describe the feeling of calm and wakefulness when I awoke after CBD oil the first time I took it.

This was TRUE SLEEP.

I am always interested to know how people feel when they walk and move around with poor posture and limited mobility. It must come to a point where it becomes totally normal, but it must feel great regaining that space within joints and removing so much tension in the body.

This is how I felt after CBD oil. I’d found space in my brain.

Intrigued, I looked into the science around sleep.

Firstly, sedation. In the past, due to a lack of technology, science has had a quite poor understanding of the brain and degenerative brain illness and its links with mental health trauma. Instead of treating,  we numb. Numb the patient to some echo of their former selves and hope that they don’t get addicted to or depressed from mind-altering drugs.

Sleep is included here. Instead of solving the problem, we numb it. Ambien and many other drugs related to improving sleep are designed to sedate the sleep-deprived, not to improve the system of the sleep-wake cycle. Therefore sedation is not sleeping.

The cycles of sleep—REM and slow-wave sleep— are key elements in the regeneration process; without them recovery is not happening. Rapid eye movement sleep is the most important part of the cycle. It is the 4th stage of the sleep cycle and first occurs around 90 minutes into sleep and lasts approximately 10 minutes. You continue to wave in and out of REM sleep over the course of the night, but with each new peak, its length increases.

The results of CBD seem to go beyond simply helping ease sleep. CBD oil has shown great results in improving REM behaviour disorder in people with Parkinson’s disease. Recent studies have shown that CBD oil promotes blood flow to the brain and specifically the hippocampus. The hippocampus’s role in the brain is long term memory consolation and learning. During REM sleep it shows electrical activity in the form of sharp-wave ripples.

There have been studies to suggest that CBD does not increase the length of REM sleep, but these studies come with the assumption that a longer REM cycle is better. We believe, theoretically, that the sleep cycle length does not change because it has been ingrained in our DNA since our evolution. However, the performance of certain parts of the brain is slightly improved through increased blood flow and the ability of the endocannabinoid system to affect balance. The goal is not a longer REM cycle, but a better REM cycle.

More commonly discussed and clearly defined is the anxiety around sleep. Stress and anxiety are some of the most common causes of poor sleep. CBD oil is known as a therapeutic that can reduce anxiety; feeling calmer and relaxed before sleep can be powerful for people that struggle to turn off their minds.

In summary, sleep is vital for your regeneration practice. When we workout, we prepare for the event by warming up your body. We should also prepare the body for sleep; a good bedtime routine must limit screen time (including phones and TV). We must bring our attention to something more calming: a book or audio tape. However, we live in a society in which our optimal health is not always a priority. So if, even with a great routine you're struggling to get in those solid REM cycles CBD might be the guiding hand you need.

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