We are supposed to sleep for approximately one third of our lives, for about 8 hours out of each 24 hour day cycle. In fact, it is an integral part of our circadian rhythm, (the sleep wake cycle). Why is that? Why do we need rest when we get sick or hurt or troubled? There is very good reason. Our bodies are not just lying there dormant, when we sleep. There is a lot of activity going on. Sleep is rejuvenating and restoring, but it’s even more than that, it is detoxifying. This is when our body's clean up crew gets to work. While we sleep, our entire body, including the brain is actively removing toxins and waste products from the day.
We have several organ systems associated with cleansing and detoxifying the body. According to several circadian rhythm charts, we can see that the gall bladder, liver, lungs and large intestine are all doing their part to clean and maintain our wonderful bodies. Our skin – allows us to release toxins through sweat, the lungs – allow us to breath off toxic waste, our liver, gall bladder, kidneys, spleen and lymphatic system are all part of the body’s internal cellular and digestive waste removal system.
In 2012, it was discovered that the brain had its own detox system to remove cellular waste while we sleep, called the glymphatic system. While we are sleeping the brain cells actually shrink which opens up the space between the cells and allows the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to flow more easily, increasing the ability to wash away cellular waste products from the brain. The CSF carries the waste to the blood, which takes it to the liver to be processed and removed through the colon. While there is still a lot more to be learned about this system, what we do know, is that the glymphatic system is only active during slow wave sleep (deep sleep).
In today’s society, we are inundated with toxins in the air we breathe, the processed foods we eat, even in the products we use on our skin and hair. Our bodies are being overloaded with toxins, that interfere with and disrupt our hormones, cause obesity, disrupt our microbiome (the bacteria that live in and on us), and disrupt our sleep. On average most Americans are now getting 1 – 2 hours less sleep than we did 50 years ago, and many of us have some form of a chronic sleep disorder. If we are not getting adequate sleep, that could mean our body’s cleaning system is not able to work adequately.
But all is not lost, there are things we can do to try to control it. One of the most important things we can do is to make sure our body’s natural detoxifying pathways are open and functioning. When the natural path to detoxification is blocked, or not working adequately, that might lead to big problems. So we can help by making sure we are able to allow our bodies to function and detox properly for a good night’s sleep and better overall health.
- DEEP BREATHING BREAKS – at least 3-4 times a day, set your phone alarm to give yourself about 3-5 minutes to do deep breathing exercises. Try 5-5-10 breathing. Take a slow deep breath thorugh your nose, to a count of 5 seconds. Hold it for a count of 5 seconds. Then slowly release it for a count of 10 seconds through your mouth. Repeat 5 times per session.
- SWEAT – 3 – 4 times a week, do something for about 20 minutes that makes you sweat. Movement will help your lymphatic system, and the flow of your cerebrospinal fluid.
- HYDRATE – make sure you are drinking enough good clean water, not soda or coffee, but water. A rule of thumb is to drink approximately 1 liter of water for every 50 pounds of weight. So if you weigh 100 pounds then you should try to get in 2 liters of water per day. This helps your kidneys filter out toxins.
- DAILY BOWEL MOVEMENTS – If you are eating food every day, then you should be having at least 1 good, well formed, bowel movement every day. Not rabbit pellets, not watery loose stools, but at least once a day, you should be releasing a well formed turd approximately the length of your hand, that is easy to pass (no straining or pushing). By increasing the amount of water and non-starchy vegetables and fruit in your diet, this can be achieved. Here is a link to the Bristol Stool Chart for your reference. https://www.education.sa.gov.au/sites/default/files/bristol-stool-chart.pdf
5. SLEEP - You need at least 6-8 hours of sleep to allow your brain and other organs to detoxify and remove toxins and waste products. Good sleep is rejuvenating and vital to life.