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  • Courtney Hunt, MD

Autophagy





On my page we spend a lot of time discussing autophagy, which literally means self eat or eat yourself.


It is the process by which we clean our cells and batteries (mitochondria) so that we can awaken refreshed and restored the next day with plenty of fresh protein and mitochondria ready to go to work for us to make energy.


In order to do this, our bodies need to be in alignment with the setting of the sun and the rising of the sun. Sunset is the trigger to make melatonin, the cyclic sleep hormone. Sunrise is the trigger to put the melatonin away, or as I like to say, unload the clean dishwasher.


Think of autophagy as running your dishwasher. You run your dishwasher best on a delay in the middle of the night between 2 and 4 AM when everyone is deep asleep. If you have a messy kitchen, it may take 2 or even 3 loads to get your kitchen tidy. Now,the process of autophagy happens when all of your muscles and gut are paralyzed and quiet (preferably not still digesting a late night snack). This is when you clean up best, and the trigger for this is melatonin. Melatonin is secreted from the magical pineal gland in a cyclic fashion at night. Note, we also have a basal melatonin secretion from almost every cell in the body. For example, it functions in a baby that’s just born as a free radical scavenger to clean up inflammation when the baby takes its first breath and gets a huge oxygen load to its mitochondria.


The eye sends a signal via your retina through your main brain clock called the suprachiasmatic nucleus to tell the pineal gland to secrete melatonin. It’s really not a magical gland, but when you understand the physics of how it is one of our connections to the light or code from the sun, you start to realize why the pineal gland has been given such a mystical name in history. Melatonin literally connects us to the code of light and darkness from the sun and helps clean up our inflammation keeping us healthy and out of cancer’s way.


If you watch the sunset and practice darkness around the house at night, meaning no screens, no bright lights, you will start to feel sleepy around 9-10 PM. This is what all the fuss is about with people wearing the blue blocking glasses. They block bright light so that you can make melatonin and yet still get stuff done. A major hack, even though I hate that word. Once you fall asleep, your body will then take what I call the elevator down through the various levels of sleep into deep sleep so that you can clean yourself and be energized for the next day. As we take this elevator down we are playing a forward and rewind version of what we did the day before so that we can store it or code it as memory. Our nerves are codifying memory so that we can wake up and perceive time (more about that in future posts). SInce self cleaning is happening at this time, this is one of the key components in reversing brain fog or dementia. Get your sleep right.


Every night you spend eating late, watching screens or bright lights, listening to your partner snore all night, staying up late working or doing homework, you disrupt your ability to self-clean, leaving you sluggish and tired the next day. If you think you or your partner has sleep apnea, it may be time to get evaluated by a sleep specialist. Sleep apnea is one of the biggest disruptors of sleep, memory, and overall health because it affects your body’s ability to deliver oxygen to your mitochondria all night long. Sleep apnea also interrupts the part of sleep when you store memory, and this is why night after night of sleep deprivation causes brain fog and eventual memory loss.


In general, when you are first trying to heal the goal is to get to bed after sunset and rise with the sunrise. After a period of time your body will start to adjust, and when practiced with the other things I discuss you will require less sleep.


A few key points:

  • Make the house dim after sunset- no screens, use incandescent bulbs or candles or salt lamps

  • Try amber colored blue blocking glasses after sunset but be prepared- you will get tired. Make sure you buy a quality brand like Swanwick.

  • Try to stop eating after sunset and for ladies especially, stop drinking so you aren’t up in the bathroom.

  • Check you and your partner for sleep apnea with a sleep specialist if either of you snore or wake up exhausted.

  • If you are menopausal, check your vagina. It may sound crazy, but a dry vagina can keep you up all night having to go to the bathroom and a little estrogen vaginal cream goes a long way.


Sources:


© 2021 by Courtney Hunt, MD, PC

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