Cells have their own minds and memories of what they are supposed to do as well as what is going on in the neighborhood. The brain may seem the central control room, but most autonomic functions occur with little or no directed brain activity.
The establishment and remembrance of bodily functioning is localized, just as mental operations are nominally localized. The information of events is relayed through energy pathways flowing throughout the body, only partly via the nervous system. The information flow involves cells of all types, all of whom work symbiotically.
Thus, blockage of information flow is itself a health problem. Acupuncture can heal some problems by manipulating the body’s energy pathways. It provides pain relief by locally blocking communication. Otherwise, acupuncture works to clear energy stops.
Massage also alters energy pathways by muscle stimulation, particularly in clearing blockages. These blockages are essentially bad muscle memories.
Muscles collect memories. The happiest ones come from exercise.
To keep the body in good health is a duty. Otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. ~ Buddha
Norepinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter central to concentration, motivation, pain, and stress response. Lactate provokes the adrenal gland to release norepinephrine (C8H11NO3), which is synthesized from dopamine (C8H11NO2), a similar neurotransmitter and hormone.
Astrocytes are the principal source of brain lactate. By releasing lactate to invoke norepinephrine, these glia cells regulate awareness level.
C6H12O6 is broken down for energy and oxidized to pyruvate (C3H4O3). With anaerobic exertion, lactate (C3H6O3) is produced from fermented pyruvate faster than tissues can flush it, and so accumulates. With moderate production, lactate is beneficial in ensuring continued energy production for physical exertion.
Meanwhile, the chemical chain of exertion – lactate → norepinephrine – maintains high awareness on the moment. Hence, from an evolutionary perspective, there is mind-body readiness for responsive action. This also explains how physical exercise keeps the mind fit as well the body.
More generally, physical exercise releases hormones throughout the body, including in the brain, that sharpen physical performance. Mental acuity is maintained by being focused at the task at hand.
A cousin of norepinephrine, also produced by the adrenal glands during exercise, is adrenalin (C9H13NO3). Adrenalin stimulates the immune system, most notably the production of natural killer (NK) cells. NK cells are especially effective at suppressing the growth of tumors. This is how regular exercise acts against cancer.
Regularly exercising the body is essential in maintaining health. It is a habit to be cultivated early in life. From a life cycle viewpoint, one either earns dividends for exercise or pays in the back end for sloth in the first half of life.
Physical exercise directly tones the muscles and positively affects the mind-body. Many types of tissue naturally deteriorate without physical exercise. Maintaining muscle tone is by no means merely a matter of bulking muscles.
The muscles are critical to integrated sensation and well-being throughout the mind-body. Muscles are exercised in groups.
Every exercise involves muscles and reflexes outside the muscle groups feeling immediate strain. Localized muscular intelligence and the mind-brain, particularly sense of balance, are involved in every exercise. A rounded program that exercises both core body and limb muscles is recommended.
At the cellular level, exercise induces autophagy in both skeletal and cardiac muscles. Exercise activates cellular cleaning, thus maintaining more than just muscles.
Exercise unleashes into the blood a flurry of proteins critical to metabolism and regulating energy. Many head to the liver, to assist in cleanup and improved physical functioning.
Long, moderate exercise is healthier than short, intense workouts. One reason is that intense exertion quickly invokes acidosis from rapid lactate buildup. This causes fatigue and muscle burn. Too much too quickly and the body insists on desisting. Overexertion results in a delayed muscle soreness, which is inflammatory-repair response to muscle tissue damage.
For overall health, long walks and repetitions are better than short energetic bursts of activity. Even small doses of vigorous exercise are beneficial.
The unity of mind-body is apparent by exercise. One of the best mental exercises is ambulation: walking and running. The regularity of physical exercise affects cognitive quality. Conversely, mental exertion can fatigue the body.
Mental stimulation is mental exercise. Rote routine is its antithesis: the mental equivalent of physically sitting still.
Novel situations and problem-solving challenges quicken the mind. Reading, learning new constructs, such as a new language, and all sorts of arts and crafts are mental exercise, as they create a concentrated focus for the mind, and present an explorative, interpretative experience.
Exercise in natural settings is especially mentally invigorating and mood-enhancing. In pleasant weather, the park provides a better workout than the gym.
Tension is a killer. ~ Verbal Kent (Kaiser Soze) in the movie The Usual Suspects (1995)
Stress is an organism’s sustained response to a stimulus, either environmentally or internally produced. Stress is a dysfunctional form of emotional memory.
There is no such thing as positive stress. Stress is the source of all self-induced maladies. Pathogens are the only other source of disease.
The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. ~ American physician, psychologist, and philosopher William James
Pressure, properly applied, has profound effects. ~ American massage therapist Candace Parmer
Our animal body exists to move. Motility is a matter of muscle.
The state of the body’s health is readily told by ease of movement. The muscles store both strength and stress.
The body feels like timber if it does not stay limber. Sitting is a form of atrophy.
Many joint pains are caused by muscular tension: holding the limbs in improper positions, and with twists that create and exacerbate muscular problems.
Massage unlocks the tensions of muscles and creates a cascade of positive benefits throughout the body down to the cellular level. The immune system perks up after massage.
Massage literally changes brain chemistry. ~ Candace Parmer
Massage releases endorphins that relieve pain and create a sense of well-being. Muscles unknot and relax under massage. Massage flushes lactic acid stored in muscles which inhibits movement. Pinched nerve pathways and blockages that engender inflammation are cleared.
Massage accelerates recovery from injury by stimulating collagen production. Collagen – the body’s structural repair material – is the primary protein of connective tissues. Collagen is the most abundant protein in mammals, comprising 25–35% of bodily protein content.
Massage eliminates energy blockages and improves lengyre flow throughout the body. Massage relieves stress. This is self-evident after a massage.
Sleep knits up the ravelled sleave of care; the death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath; balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course; chief nourisher in life’s feast. ~ William Shakespeare, in MacBeth (1606)
Sleep has hoary evolutionary roots. Plants sleep. Tree branches droop during the night. Keeping up internal water pressure (turgor pressure) takes energy, so trees rest after dark.
During the day, trees hoist their branches and angle their leaves upwards to catch more sunlight and reduce shading. At night, this effort serves no purpose.
All animals – invertebrates as well as vertebrates – have inactive respite. Rest as a balance to activity is a simple rhythmic system that serves an essential metabolic need. Sleep is one of the many biological processes under sway of circadian rhythm, primarily by exposure to light.
Many marine organisms have lunar clocks to keep track of the tides. Moonbeams also affect landlubbers.
Human sleep patterns click to a lunar tick. It takes longer to fall asleep as the moon waxes into a cheese-colored orb. People sleep ~20 minutes less and less deeply when the moon is full.
Roundworms cyclically enter a sleep-like state of repose. Insects sleep. They may well dream of hopes and fears as we do: of juicy treats, lascivious sex, and threatening harassments while simply trying to make it through the day. Flies deprived of sleep become bleary.
For safety rodents take short naps and are easily aroused. Lizards, birds, and aquatic mammals go one better: half the brain sleeps while the other half stays awake. Birds that fly non-stop for days can sleep in flight.
Different mammals sleep significantly different percentages of their lives away. Bats sleep 18–20 hours a day, while giraffes get by with only 3–4 hours per day. There can be major discrepancies in sleep durations between closely related species.
Sleep patterns vary partly owing to circadian clock durations. Flying squirrels have a 23-hour day; monkeys 24.5; humans 25. The body clock can vary among individuals.
Carnivores get a lot of sleep; omnivores less.
Herbivores need the least sleep, but many spend much of their waking time drowsy. There is a correlation between herbivore size, metabolism, and sleep duration. Large herbivores live slower lives and so need less sleep.
More generally, large animals have a longer sleep cycle than smaller ones. Smaller mammals tend to sleep more during the day, and for short snoozes: perhaps because they need to eat several times a day.
Mammals that are less developed at birth, including rats, cats, and primates, tend to spend more time dreaming than those born with well-developed regulatory systems, such as ungulates.
The durations that primates tend to sleep generally corresponds to body size, along with other factors, including the average number in a group. Humans are an outlier in sleep: exceptionally short and deep.
Monkeys sleep in the trees. Napping on a branch is anything but easy. A monkey may get roused by a breeze or the jostling of one’s fellows. But better light sleep than to become a snack for whatever prowls the trees at night, looking for prey.
Apes take great care in choosing their sleeping spot, and in the materials used in building a nest for the night. An ape aims for the best night’s rest it can get. Unsurprisingly, cognitive performance is impaired if an ape is not well-rested.
Part of hominin evolution was to garner more efficient sleep: to get to higher-quality sleep quicker, and so require less of it. Humans more quickly fall soundly asleep and spend more of it dreaming (22%) than other primates.
A good night’s sleep cannot be had in a strange place. In unfamiliar surroundings, the brain’s left hemisphere stays active while the rest of the brain slumbers. Thus, the first night in a hotel is not especially restful, regardless of fatigue.
While human sleep is unusual for primates, it is not so special among mammals. The platypus spends half of its slumber dreaming away.
Hibernation is a state of torpor, not sleep. Hibernation markedly moderates the need for sleep but does not banish it. Hibernation is interrupted multiple times so that an animal can get some sleep. The hypothermia of hibernation is interrupted for the euthermia of sleep. This energetically enigmatic transition highlights the importance of sleep.
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Human sleep comprises 2 states of consciousness: dreaming and non-dreaming. Sleep cycles between the 2 states, typically 4 to 5 times a night. The duration of these cycles usually varies during the night but is typically ~90 minutes.
Sleep varies throughout life. Dreaming is essential to infant mind-brain development, notably executive functioning that develops between ages 1–6.
From early childhood less time is spent dreaming until, reaching adulthood, it becomes a small fraction of daily life. Non-dreaming sleep also lessens with age.
The average person spends 25 years of life asleep. Most adults function best with 7–9 hours.
It is an irony of post-industrial societies that so-called prosperity casts so many on the shores of insufficient sleep. 1/3rd of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep a night.
Some try to catch up on sleep on weekends: a welcome but futile gesture for correcting the damage done from insufficient sleep during the week.
Sleep patterns owe to numerous factors, including culture and geoharmonic influences. Social zeitgebers, such as exposure to artificial light, are major determinants of sleep schedules for many people. A zeitgeber is an environmental cue that helps regulate circadian rhythm.
On average, people in Asia sleep less than those in Western nations. Asians tend to go to bed and wake up at later clock times than Westerners. This owes to social norms.
Sleep naturally follows the circadian clock, tempered by will. The body naturally wants to sleep in tune with proper zeitgebers. Resisting those cues can set up a biological cascade that disrupts the sleep cycle, with consequences for attentiveness and, in the longer term, health.
The body naturally tries to get the rest it needs. When mammals are deprived of sleep, parts of their brain spontaneously go into repose as best as they can. (Whether this occurs with other animals is not known.)
Sleep/awake timing differs among individuals by chronotype: the tendency to be a “morning lark” or “night owl.” Morning larks arise up early and are most alert early in the day. Night owls are most alert in the late evening and prefer to retire late. Most people are somewhere in between.
The hormone melatonin entrains the biological rhythms of alertness and rest. Melatonin is found in microbes, plants, and animals.
Sleep is an active state that is essential for the formation of lasting memories. ~ German psychologist and neurobiologist Susanne Diekelmann
Sleep cleans the brain. Sleep opens spigots that bathe the brain in fluids which sweep away potentially toxic buildup.
Sleep is essential to consolidate learning and memory. Implicit patterns become explicit knowledge through sleep, as glia process information gained during the day. This also applies in learning physical skills, such as playing the piano.
The subcortical regions are important in information consolidation, especially information linked to a motor memory trace. When consolidation level is measured after a period of sleep, the brain network of these areas functions with greater synchrony. Communication between the various regions of this network is better optimized. ~ Canadian neuropsychologist Karen Debas
Sleep is especially important for infant and child development. A child better transforms a day’s lessons into life experience via sleep than an adult.
When we are young, we have deep sleep that helps the brain store and retain new facts and information. But as we get older, the quality of our sleep deteriorates and prevents those memories from being saved by the brain at night. ~ American psychologist Matthew Walker
It is even possible to learn while asleep but doing so compromises memory consolidation. Memories are stabilized while snoozing via brain pathway replay. The hippocampus is especially active during memory replay.
Even a soul submerged in sleep is hard at work and helps make something of the world. ~ Greek philosopher Heraclitus
New memory-storing glia grow during sleep, with the greatest cell production during dreaming. Meanwhile, neural synapses are pruned.
Sleep on it. ~ proverb
Sleep facilitates problem-solving and decision-making. The more difficult the problem the more sleep helps. Part of this is allowing the unconscious to work things out, without the intrusion of bias that pervades the conscious mind.
A well-spent day brings happy sleep. ~ Leonardo da Vinci
Sleeping well is living well. Those with work to do sleep better than those out-of-work.
Artificial light can tinker with melatonin level. The light from computer screens can reduce melatonin levels by 22%. Melatonin suppression affects the sleep cycle and increases the risk of obesity and other disorders.
The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to. ~ American author F. Scott Fitzgerald
The quality of life depends the quality of sleep. The ease of falling sleep reflects the quality of waking hours.
Sleep has social implications. The more socioeconomically deprived a neighborhood, the more erratic sleep patterns are. The disadvantaged suffer from too little or too much sleep.
Besides being tired, people who are sleep-deprived look less attractive and less healthy: and they are less healthy.
Sleep deprivation stresses the immune system. Sleep loss wears the body down, accelerating aging and memory loss. Loss of sleep, and especially dream time, presages Alzheimer’s disease.
Sleep deprivation for 24 hours can create a schizophrenia-like state in otherwise healthy adults. Older adults with sleep disorders are more likely to commit suicide. Reliance on sleep for cognitive functioning is why sleep deprivation is universally used in torture to break victims’ will.
Brain deterioration, bad memory and bad sleep are not independent, but instead significantly interrelated. ~ American neurobiologist Bryce Mander
Lack of sleep, stress, depression, or obesity cause sleepiness during the day. The body is demanding repose. Awareness is diminished, and thereby functionality of every sort.
A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book. ~ Irish proverb
Don’t go to sleep. So many people die there. ~ Mark Twain
Insomnia is the sleep disorder of insufficiency: either inability to fall asleep, or to stay asleep as long as needed.
15–30% of the adult population suffers from insomnia. Prevalence is up to 65% for shift workers, who are chronically forced to be awake at unnatural times.
Insomnia is not a nighttime disorder. It’s a 24-hour brain condition, like a light switch that is always on. ~ American neurobiologist Rachel Salas
Stress often causes sleeplessness. Stress can lead to chronic insomnia, depending upon the mental response.
The healthiest response to stressful events is to realize that whatever is bothering you is not worth losing sleep over, especially considering that sleep is the best problem solver. But then, the healthiest attitude is to worry over nothing, as nothing is worth worry, as worry solves nothing anyway.
Don’t worry, be happy. ~ Indian guru Meher Baba
Chronic insomnia is a disruption of circadian rhythm and altered brain activity.
Various chemical treatments for insomnia have been tried throughout history: none especially successfully from a health standpoint. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks employed extracts of the opium poppy and the hemp plant. Even modern medications are unhealthy when taken for any duration, as they disrupt the intelligence system and have untoward side effects.
While science still struggles to understand insomnia, its roots lie in the mind. The cure involves a healthy lifestyle. The best and safest treatments for insomnia are meditation and a determination to set fearful thoughts aside for the worthlessness that they are.
The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep. ~ W.C. Fields
Meditation results in a rest for the body that is often deeper than sleep. ~ American physiologist Vernon Barnes
Meditation is a practice of profound repose that can lead to a unique state of consciousness: transcendence. While meditation is suffused with religious history, its practice is so ancient and natural that it is likely to have been instrumental in the cognitive evolution of humans.
The benefits of regular meditation pervade the system: improving mind-brain functioning, mood, and tolerance to pain; reducing anxiety and stress, both physiological and psychological.
There are many meditation techniques. The metric of effectiveness for meditation is how easily it facilitates transcendence.
Meditation techniques that employ concentration, such as extended prayer, are grossly inefficient and often ineffective, as they rely upon mental exhaustion to trigger a window of opportunity to transcendence. Mindfulness meditation is equally inane, as it requires attention to thoughts, which are the worthless meanderings of the mind.
The most effective meditation involves no concentration, no contemplation, no monitoring of thoughts. The technique is effortless, allowing the mind-body to transcend for extended periods as the natural form of rest that transcendence is. With daily practice, noticeable stress relief is attained with a very few days.
The best-known meditation technique is Transcendental Meditation® (TM), which uses a silent syllabic mantra as a point-of-focus to ease into transcendence. TM was developed by Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who deftly parlayed his meditation technique into a worldwide enterprise. (Meditation instruction selfsame to TM is provided in Clarity: The Path Inside, and more extensively in Spokes 8: The Hub of Being.)
Meditation’s efficacy and health benefits are beyond question. Meditation can be easier than falling asleep. It can even be helpful in quieting the mind to ease into sleep.