A while back Japanese researchers found out that just by laughing before bed, we could produce more melatonin in our bodies, which helps us to sleep more soundly, but what do you do if you are still sleep deprived? An estimated 50-70 million sleep-deprived Americans could benefit from knowing one little trick that is worth two hours of solid, restful sleep – and it isn’t a nap!
First off, a good 15-minute belly laugh can relax our muscles for up to 45-minutes! This translates to a relaxed body, and therefore a more relaxed mind as the two are inextricably linked.
More melatonin also helps the body’s cells set their clocks for future improved sleep-wake cycles.
“Yes, there are clocks in all the cells of your body,” explains Fred Turek, a circadian scientist at Northwestern University. “It was a discovery that surprised many of us.”
Melatonin is a natural hormone made by your body’s pineal (pih-knee-uhl) gland. Melatonin helps to tell you when you should get sleepy, and is also the precursor hormone for DMT (dimethyltryptamine) which allows the pineal to open to extra-sensory and out of body experiences.
The pineal gland is much more than a physical phenomenon; it’s considered a spiritual antenna, and in good health for instance, when we get good sleep or eat properly, it acts as a channel for accessing higher consciousness and connecting us with the divine.
Guess what laughter does? It triggers a release of endorphins which moves through the blood to the pineal, which then boosts the effects of hormones like melatonin, serotonin and DMT.
Just 15 minutes of laughter decreases our stress hormones so much so that a whole set of biochemical and physiological responses happen in the body, many of which are just like the reparative and restorative aspects of actual sleep:
- The immune system is boosted, and immunoglobulin A is released when we laughed, just like when we sleep. Erol Fikrig, a researcher who led a study at Yale School of Medicine found that there is a direct molecular link between circadian rhythms, proper sleep and our immune response.
- Cortisol, the hormone associated with stress, is neutralized and decreased when we have a good mirthful laugh. Sleep deprivation fries our hormone levels making it very difficult for the body to control stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. It’s a good thing you can just laugh that fact off with a decent joke. Try skipping the extra early morning workout for once. Sleep in a little, and maybe watch a funny you-tube instead.
- Natural endorphins are released. These are the body’s feel-good chemicals which have awesome anti–inflammatory properties. When we sleep hormones like oxytocin and serotonin are more readily available to our bodies, but if we’re running low on these feel-good chemicals, we can get a boost with just a few minutes of laughter.
- Muscle toning occurs in the face, and in hundreds of intercostal muscles, slowing the aging process. Obviously a good eight to nine hours of sleep slows aging, too, but hey, a little giggle AND Some good ZZZs are even better.
- When we laugh, and when we sleep, the production of lymphocytes containing T-cells that attack cancer are stimulated. In fact, Harold H. Benjamin, PhD says, “Laughter in and of itself cannot cure cancer nor prevent cancer, but laughter as part of the full range of positive emotions including hope, love, faith, strong will to live, determination and purpose, can be a significant and indispensable aspect of the total fight for recovery.”
- The blood gets increased oxygen from laughter which helps our bodies clear out toxins; when we sleep our brains get to take out the trash. A 2013 study in mice found that waste removal systems in the brain are more active during sleep. When we sleep we allow time to clear away toxic byproducts that would otherwise pile up and cause problems, like the trademark plaques of Alzheimer’s disease, but awesome – laughter does that too!
- Our tears of laughter are full of antibodies, acting as the first barrier to bacterial infection. As in sleep, all sorts of viruses and bacteria are kept at bay.
- Glucose is processed better when we laugh. This is the main energy of our cells. The same is true when we get a good night’s sleep.
- Blood pressure is lowered. This indicator of stress levels is reduced after a short, sincere laugh, but also when we get a lengthy nap.
Best of all, when we laugh more, we sleep better, so tickling our funny bones helps us in infinite ways, doubling the action of good sleep habits.
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