Saturday, January 14, 2012

Heads Up! The Way You Are Sleeping May Be Killing You!

Every one of us has a mysterious duplicate life.

For about two thirds of the time we are known beings, thinking about the world within and without, and negotiating our ways straight through the obstacles of life. For the other one third of the time we are nearly lifeless lumps of flesh, unconscious to all things but our own fantasies, as we lie flat in bed asleep. We all know that sleep is prominent for health. But for an operation that consumes about 8 hours of daily of life, surprisingly limited is notion about the act of sleeping, or the way our culture teaches us to sleep. Sleep behavior, like all human activities, is defined by our culture.

Sensitive Stomachs

Sometimes, the practices taught by our culture can impact on the way our bodies function. As medical anthropologists, we study ways our cultural practices may be affecting our health. And we have found that the way we have been trained to sleep may be one of the most prominent causes of various diseases plaguing our society.

Of course, when you reconsider the culture of sleeping, it includes such isues as the length of time to sleep, and time of day for sleep. Do you take frequent naps or do you sleep 8 hours straight? Do you sleep at night or while the day?

Other issues concern sleepwear. Do you sleep nude, or with pajamas or lingerie? Do you sleep in your underwear? Should the sheets be natural fabrics, such as cotton or silk, or is polyester okay? What about the detergent and fabric softeners used in the sheets, pillow case, and pj's?

Should you eat before you sleep? What is the impact of watching television before sleep? Should you take sleeping pills to help you sleep?

These are some of the culturally defined issues that help decree how we sleep, all of which may have some possible impact on health. However, there is one cultural issue that tops the list of importance, and which may greatly decree your health status. It has to do with your sleep position. Are you sleeping on a firm, flat bed, face down, with your nose and eye compressed against the bed and pillow? Or are you on your back with your head slightly elevated, as is the case for many native cultures that use hammocks or other non-flat surfaces for sleep?

The reckon we ask this last inquire is because the circulation to the head and brain is wholly connected to your body position when sleeping.

We all have had a time of experiencing dizziness or lightheadedness when getting out of bed too quickly. This supervene is called orthostatic hypotension, and results from the fact that blood pressure falls when you lie down, and sudden raising of the head may temporarily deprive the brain of enough blood pressure, resulting in the dizziness or lightheadedness. The blood pressure soon rises, increasing the blood furnish to the brain, as you feel normal again.

This phenomenon shows that the body's position, relative to gravity, influences head and brain circulation. You can also demonstrate this by doing a head stand, which many yoga practitioners do daily. Intracranial pressure rises dramatically, as blood rushes to the head, which becomes beet red, and the neck veins swell out, as blood pools in the venous system.

But apart from these examples, very little, if anything, is mentioned in medical physiology textbooks about gravity and its impact on circulation. Yet, you cannot fully understand brain circulation without inspecting gravity.

The supervene of gravity on brain circulation is purely mechanical, and relates to the position of the head relative to the pumping heart. When we are standing up, the head is above the heart, so blood must pump against the force of gravity -- from the heart to the brain -- lowering the effective pressure with which the arterial blood is delivered to the brain. Meanwhile, drainage of blood from the brain to the heart is facilitated by the pull of gravity.

In contrast, when we lie down and are horizontal, the heart and head are now on the same plane. This eliminates the effects of gravity on brain circulation. Blood from the heart pumps powerfully into the head without gravity's resistance, increasing intracranial pressure. And blood returning from the brain to the heart must do so without gravity's assistance, causing a back-up of blood in the brain.

Essentially, intracranial pressure increases, and overall brain circulation diminishes, when you are lying flat compared to standing up.

Of course, the body is bright and has mechanisms for controlling brain pressure under different gravity situations. When the brain gets pressurized from lying down, there are various pressure receptors in the head and neck designed to lower blood pressure, thereby preventing too much brain pressure and the possibility of blowing a blood vessel or creating a cerebral aneurysm. This is why blood pressure is lower when we are sleeping, and horizontal.

But these brain mechanisms for adjusting pressure have their limits. As we go straight through the day in a vertical position, gravity relentlessly pulls our body's fluids downwards, which is why many population have swollen feet and ankles by day's end. Once we lie down, the gravity supervene is lost, as fluid leaves the legs and returns to the head. So despite our brains normal defense mechanisms, throughout the night intracranial pressure increases and is top in the morning, after hours of lying flat, and lowest at the end of the day, after hours of being vertical.

What happens when intracranial pressure is high from long periods of lying flat? The increased arterial pressure causes extra cerebral spinal fluid to form in the brain's ventricles, increasing intracranial fluid pressure. The ventricles swell and the cells of the brain become bathed in excess fluid, essentially causing brain edema. This edema would lower the available oxygen and sugar for brain cells. The lack of gravity assisted drainage from the brain would cause a back-up of blood in the venous law and collecting sinuses in the brain. The brain's circulation would become relatively stagnant, as the only force bright blood straight through would be the pushing force of the arterial pressure (which is greatly reduced after going straight through the cerebral circulation) and the sucking force of the heart's right atrium. And in increasing to the brain swelling under the pressure, the eyes, ears, face, sinuses, gums -- the entire head -- will become pressurized and the tissues congested with fluid!

There is one field of medicine that avidly studies this supervene of gravity on physiology. That sub-specialty is Space Medicine. Astronauts in space are in a zero-gravity field, and it is known that this causes blood to shift to the head and brain, causing increased brain pressure and accompanying migraines, glaucoma, Meniere's disease, and other problems connected with a pressurized, congested brain. To study the negative effects of zero-gravity here on Earth, these space scientists have population lie down flat! However, since medicine is so wide a field, with sub-specialists learning more and more about less and less, there is limited change of ideas in the middle of space medicine and Earth-bound medicine. Otherwise, someone would have realized that lying flat is what we do when we sleep. If it causes problems for astronauts, then couldn't it cause problems for every person else?

We found out about this Space study while we performed our own study into sleep positions as a possible cause of migraines. We hypothesized that sleeping too flat for too long each night could lead to brain pressure and fluid accumulation (edema) within the brain tissue, with connected hypoxia and hypoglycemia. The brain cannot function well without permissible amounts of oxygen or sugar, and this health would be at its worst in the morning, which is when most migraines occur.

While migraines have been notion of as a pathological phenomenon, it is also possible that the migraine is the brain's defense mechanism to receive new blood along with sugar and oxygen. After all, the only way the brain can get what it needs is from the bloodstream, and while a migraine arteries to the head open up and send blood with force throughout the brain. Perhaps, we reasoned, the migraine is a type of crisis "brain flush", replacing old blood with new. If so, could we prevent migraines by having migraine sufferers sleep with their heads slightly elevated?

We tested our law by having about 100 volunteer migraineurs sleep with the heads of their beds elevated, from 10-30 degrees. Head elevation, we theorized, would improve the brain circulation by providing some gravity aid to drainage. Interestingly, we found that Space medicine researchers discovered that brain circulation (and heart pumping) is optimal at a 30-degree head of bed elevation.

To our amazement, we found that the majority of the migraineurs in our study experienced relief by this simple sleep position change! Many had no new migraines, after being migraine sufferers for 30 or more years! The results were very fast, within a few days. And there were very bright side effects, too. Our volunteers woke up more alert. Morning sinus congestion was significantly reduced for most people. Some reported that they no longer had determined allergies. Could we have discovered the real purpose and cause of migraines?

The implications of these findings were, frankly, overwhelming to us. So many diseases are connected to increased brain pressure of "unknown" cause. Sleep position was never studied as the cause of this increased pressure. The implications go far beyond the stoppage and medicine of migraines. Any health that is connected to brain pressure, and that is ordinarily worse in the morning after a night of horizontal time, can be potentially connected to this gravity and sleep position issue.

Keep in mind that the brain is the central nervous law controlling and modifying all corporeal functions. If determined centers of the brain are congested and pressurized daily by sleeping too flat for long hours, those centers can malfunction. Depending on the way a someone sleeps, the idiosyncrasies of their brain circulation, and other variables, different population might feel this brain pressure differently. For some, the respiratory centers of the hypothalamus might be particularly congested, resulting in Sudden baby Death Syndrome (which has been connected with head and body position while sleeping), sleep apnea, or even asthma. Sleep apnea has been shown to be treatable with changes in sleep position.

Strokes are clearly connected with brain pressure, and ordinarily occur at night or in the early morning, while sleeping. This is when brain pressure is highest.

Glaucoma is clearly caused by this mechanism. It is already known that eye pressure increases when the head is down, and decreases when the head is up. It is requisite to note the head position when taking eye pressure readings because of this sensitive relationship in the middle of intraocular pressure and head position. Eye pressure is also top in the early morning. Elevating the head while sleeping should be routine for glaucoma medicine and prevention.

Baggy eyes and sinus congestion seem to be connected to head pressure. Just as the brain gets extra pressure when lying down, the head and face are pressurized, too. population with these problems ordinarily find immediate relief by sleeping elevated 10-30 degrees.

Alzheimer's disease, we believe, might be the end disease caused by lasting brain congestion and pressure from flat sleeping. The cerebral ventricles of the Alzheimer's brain are expanded, suggesting a history of ventricular pressure, and generalized lesions along the ventricles may indicate areas of brain tissue that have deteriorated from this lasting pressure. Other study has already shown Alzheimer's is connected with increased brain pressure, but the cause has been thought about unknown, as is the case with approximately all brain pressure problems.

It should be noted that the blood-brain wall cannot function properly when pressurized. excessive intracranial pressure can cause leaks in this wall by increasing the basement membrane, allowing heavy metals, e.g., aluminum and mercury, as well as viruses and bacteria, to enter the brain that would have otherwise been excluded. This may be why heavy metals have been connected with determined brain problems, such as Alzheimer's.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is also known to be connected with congestion of the "impulse center" within the brain that helps operate behavior. We found some children with Adhd feel profound revision of self operate by elevating their heads while sleeping.

In increasing to head position relative to gravity, we also have found side or belly sleeping can originate problems. For example, we found some cases of carpel tunnel syndrome connected to sleeping on the hands or wrists, and shoulder pain from sleeping on the side. And keep in mind that head pressure increases, and drainage diminishes, when the head is rotated to the side. Sleeping on the back avoids compression of limbs and internal organs.

It is also bright to note that patients with asymmetrical problems will typically be worse on the side they sleep on. For example, eye determination will be worse in the eye on the side of the face that is slept on most. Ear infections will be worse on the "down" ear. You can also tell the side a someone sleeps on by observing the shape of the nose. Apart from injuries, the nose should be symmetrical, but becomes curved away from the pillow because of sleeping on the side of the face and pressing on the nose for hours each night. The nose will point away from the side that is most slept on.

Men should be told that side sleeping may supervene in testicular compression and possible dysfunction. And women who sleep on their sides or stomachs branch their breasts to compression and impaired circulation. Side sleepers may have more breast issue on the side they sleep on.

We should advise the practitioner, however, that, while the supervene of elevating the head while sleeping will be dramatic and transformative for many patients and should be thought about requisite to disease stoppage strategies, the fact is that many population resist changing their sleep behaviors. They have been conditioned to sleep a determined way since birth. And even when they want to change their sleep position, it's difficult to ensure yielding when the branch is unconscious! It takes gargantuan will power to alter sleep behavior. But it is well worth the trouble, as population ordinarily see within a week of sleeping elevated.

We found the best methods for head elevation comprise using more pillows, using a foam wedge, placing blocks under the legs of the bed frame at the head of the bed, or using an adjustable bed. While the ideal position is with the head from 10-30 degrees elevated, 10 degrees elevation is fine to start with. The legs should be slightly elevated, too, and the someone should try to stay on his or her back as much as possible. The ideal position is one you would be in if leaning back in a recliner chair. (Recliners would be fine to use, too, but they ordinarily give poor lower back support.) Also, be aware that some population will find one degree of elevation more comfortable than another. population with low blood pressure may need their heads lower than those with higher blood pressure. Others may have some neck and shoulder discomfort from the new position. However, by experimenting with pillows under the arms, underneath the buttocks (which prevents sliding down the bed), and under the feet and legs, the outpatient should find a comfortable solution.

Also, when taking in to supervene outpatient history, realize that neck injuries and tight neck muscles can impair venous drainage of the brain by compression of the jugular veins by the tight muscles. Neck massage and spinal adjustments may help improve overall brain circulation. We have had a few case histories where there was limited or no revision from head elevation, but the subjects had a history of neck injuries.

Of course, there will be times when population feel lightheaded and need to lie down to get more blood to the head. It might also be best for population to sleep less at night and to make up for lost sleep with a nap, or a siesta, while the day. That would avoid extremes of high and low brain pressure. But our culture makes it requisite for most population to do all their sleeping at once. Sleeping, after all, is a cultural issue. The point is to be aware of how you feel, and realize that your body position relative to gravity may be a key factor affecting health and disease.

We are lasting to study this supervene of gravity and sleep position on health, and encourage practitioners to report their patients' experiences with us. We also very encourage you to read our book, Get It Up! Revealing the simple Surprising Lifestyle that Causes Migraines, Alzheimer's, Stroke, Glaucoma, Sleep Apnea, Impotence, and More! (Iscd Press, 2001), where we discuss the profound implications of this theory, along with a lengthy list of references about brain pressure and various diseases and the supervene of gravity on brain circulation. After you see the evidence, you will probably be as amazed as we are that sleep study has been ignoring this requisite aspect of sleep.

Sleeping too flat each day may be the greatest lifestyle mistake population are manufacture in our culture. Some of the worst diseases of our time may be all in our bed!

Heads Up! The Way You Are Sleeping May Be Killing You!

Sensitive Stomachs


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