Counseling patients on how to slow aging includes meticulous preparation for sleep and reducing the many forms of stress throughout the day
This is Part II of a two-part series on how to slow aging and how doctors of chiropractic can help patients live longer and healthier lives by “hacking” the aging process. Part I of the series can be read here.
Jason Hamed, DC, clinical director and head of the chiropractic, rehabilitation, and regenerative services at The Wellness Connection, took time to answer our questions and give targeted information for these patients. In addition to being in clinical practice for 17 years, Hamed is a lifelong athlete who has finished the NYC Marathon as well as an Ironman triathlon.
How much sleep should patients get each night to slow the aging process? And can naps help or not?
The importance of sleep cannot be understated. However, like nutrition, I do not believe there is a set “number of hours” a person should get each night.
Some people may perform better on seven hours of sleep while others on 10 hours. Each person has their own unique set of stressors each day that will require appropriate recovery. This fact was highlighted in a study looking at sleep deprivation, and they found several factors that influence adequate volume of sleep each night to be “exposure to artificial light at night, lack of physical activity, caffeine consumption, and poor sleep hygiene.”
Other factors that could specifically be related to insufficient sleep among adults may include, but not be limited to work demands, social commitments, health and/or affective problems, and family dynamics (e.g., working mothers and children with full agendas). 1
A more effective place to begin the sleep conversation is how to slow aging by creating better quality sleep. When this is done correctly, oftentimes it naturally lends itself to the appropriate amount of sleep for that individual.
Creating an optimal sleep routine and environment is paramount to getting quality sleep. By decreasing stimulants — sugar, caffeine — in the hours prior to bed, as well as not watching television or being on the computer, we can put our brain and body in a more relaxed state that is ready for sleep. 2
When thinking of how to slow aging, why should the sleep environment be paid more attention to?
Our sleep environment will play a role in our ability to get into deep sleep as well as maintain that level throughout the night. Research has shown that artificial light like lamps, alarm clocks, televisions left on, will interfere with natural circadian rhythms necessary for the depth of sleep required to repair the body each day.
The reason is that the absence of light sends a critical signal to the body that it is time to rest. Light exposure at the wrong times alters the body’s internal “sleep clock,” specifically alerting melatonin levels.
Melatonin levels naturally rise during the early evening and will continue to rise throughout most of the night pealing around 3 a.m. After this time, melatonin levels will begin to fall and allow us naturally to wake as the morning brings the light from the sun. However, when the skin, eyelids, and eyes are affected by artificial light, the naturally timed rise and fall of melatonin are affected. creating premature wake times and or a lack of true deep sleep. 3
Simply put, keep the sleep area as dark as possible and let mother nature provide the light to help you wake.
Even with these strategies, life can create stress and fatigue throughout the day. I have been a “napper” for 20 years. Very few days go by that I don’t take a short rest in the middle of my day. Many of my patients have begun this practice as well and have found it very beneficial for their energy levels as well as decreasing the need to consume more sugar and caffeine.
Researchers have shown that a 10-20 minute nap can lead to demonstratable improvements in decision making abilities, memory, learning, emotional processing, and stress releasing and immune enhances effects. 4,5
Reducing stress helps us so much, but can it also help us slow aging?
In our day and age, we are bombarded by stress. Stress comes in many different forms — family stress, work stress, chemical (food) stress, body stress, self-expectation stress, time constraint stress — and all of these only speed-up our internal engine, or our nervous system. This perpetual “hamster wheel of life” keeps us running in circles all the while creating mental and physical fatigue, hormone burnout, and increased levels of inflammation.
No one will stop the hamster wheel for you or your patients. One of the easiest and most effective ways to begin to relax is meditation. By starting each day in quiet stillness, a person gets the chance to let their mind slow down. By practicing meditation, a person can create a time and place where they begin to improve their mental resiliency, decrease cortisol levels, and improve their ability to handle the stress that is in their life.
There are many types of mediation, and I openly do not advocate for one over another. The main key is to get still, get quiet, and allow a person to disconnect with the stress and connect with their mind and body. For many years, I have discussed this with our patients as well as the research that is available to support the benefits of meditation.
Once such research project looked at the effects of meditation and improving lifespan. The research team studied the effect of mediation on health when practiced over a course of a lifetime. They found those that meditated regularly were 30% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease and 49% less likely to die of cancer when compared to a control group. 6
- Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research. Colten HR, Altevogt BM. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2006
- Higuchi S., Motohashi Y., Liu Y., Ahara M., Kaneko Y. (2003). Effects of VDT tasks with a bright display at night on melatonin, core temperature, heart rate, and sleepiness. Journal of Applied Physiology, 94, 1773–1776
- Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood Christine Blume. Corrado Garbazza. Manuel Spitschan. Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood Somnologie (Berl)2019; 23(3): 147–156
- t Janna Mantua and Rebecca M. C. Spencer.Exploring the nap paradox: are mid-day sleep bouts a friend or foe? Sleep Med. 2017 Sep; 37: 88–97.
- Brice Faraut, et al. Napping reverses the salivary interleukin-6 and urinary norepinephrine changes induced by sleep restriction. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Mar;100(3): E416-26
- Schneider, R. H et al. (2005). A randomized controlled trial of stress reduction in African Americans treated for hypertension for over one year. American journal of hypertension, 18(1), 88-98.