What’s the big deal with sleep?
Turns out, it IS a big deal. And here’s why:
- New research shows that throwing off our body’s natural circadian rhythms over the long term can critically disturb the body and brain, causing weight gain, impulsive behavior, and loss of memory. 1 Increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and thyroid deregulation are also side effects of not getting the right amount of sleep at night.
- Natural production of leptin, a hormone produced that triggers our “fullness” or satiety feeling, is lessened when we are sleep deprived while ghrelin, a hormone which triggers hunger, is heightened. Results of one study conducted at the University of Chicago in Illinois showed that when sleep was restricted, leptin levels went down and ghrelin levels went up, appetite increased proportionally, and the desire for high carbohydrate, calorie-dense foods increased by a whopping 45%.2
- Sleep deprivation also can affect the thyroid. One study showed that after 6 days of only getting 4 hours of sleep, the normal nocturnal thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) rise was strikingly decreased, and the overall mean TSH levels were reduced by more than 30%.3 TSH stimulates the production of T4 and T3 which fuels the metabolism of almost every tissue in the body. Dr. Nikolas R. Hedberg, author of the book “The Thyroid Alternative”, expresses any patients who suffer from insomnia and sleep problems also present with low thyroid symptoms and abnormal TSH levels.5
- Lack of sleep can also result in difficulty recalling facts and information as well as reducing the ability to focus attention. Elizabeth Gould, lead researcher from a study done by the Princeton University concluded that sleep deprivation decreases neurogenesis by elevating stress hormones.4 The stress hormones accumulate in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which stops the growth of cells that lay down new memories.
So – we know it’s important, how does sleep priority so often get shuffled to bottom of the pile? Unfortunately, with the pressures of work and personal life – “being busy” is seen as a positive thing, and a booked schedule becomes something we strive for (knowing or unknowingly). Not only can this literally cut into our time for sleep, it also ramps up our mind space. Add some excess screen time (count the hours one day, it’s alarming) – and there we are, in bed, unable to power-down.
What can you do?
In addition to some biochemical and supplement suggestions (which will be detailed below), there are things that we can do throughout the day to set up the most ideal 7-8 hours of sleep that night:
From 1pm – 4pm:
- Get outside and move! Sleep patterns are influenced by the light you receive during the day and getting your body moving can help to set up deeper sleep cycles at night. It is best to exercise at least 4-6 hours before bedtime.
- No more caffeine! In the form of coffee or otherwise – after 3pm, caffeine consumption can affect your sleep quality later.
Dinner time and on:
- Keep your meals simple by prepping over the weekend and keeping recipes simple. Thereby keeping cooking time simple and stress free. Start to think of dinner as a daily ritual of slowing down from your day, calmly and consciously enjoying your food and company.
- Try to finish your evening meal by 7:45 pm. This gives your digestive system enough time before actually heading to bed to do its job.
- If you have a tendency to get up multiple times in the night – stop drinking liquids around 8pm.
- 12 hour Screen/Electronic detox begins NOW. We take in an incredible about of information and stimulation from our tablets, computers, and phones throughout the day. Taking a generous break will help your body and mind to truly relax in prep for sleep.
20-30 minutes before bed:
- Calm your nervous system with a short yoga sequence, a relaxing read on a non-electronic device, or meditation/breath work. Sounds simple but can be amazingly efficient at setting up your night’s sleep.
- One of our favorite ways to wind down: Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra “yogic sleep” is a guided relaxation that leads you into a very released state. It is PERFECT before bedtime. This one is one of our favorites (just audio): try it out! http://yogainternational.com/article/view/yoga-nidra-practice
- Vitamin D levels should be checked. Lower levels of Vitamin D have been linked towards depression and low serotonin levels.
- Magnesium and B-Complex. Lower Magnesium levels have been linked to anxiety. B-Complex can optimize Magnesium performance.
- Hormone imbalance can also play a part in quality and consistency of sleep. Check with your healthcare provider if this could be an issue and how to be tested.
We provide laboratory testing for nutritional deficiencies and hormone levels. Contact us to schedule an appointment.