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Sleep is Important!

When I start giving suggestions on how to improve sleep, I take the stance of do as I say not as I do.  I am a notorious night owl.  If the day would start around 9:30am that would be perfect for me, but it doesn’t. Now implementing a siesta like they do in parts of Europe would be amazing!  But us Americans have a go, go, no quit attitude that can be downright annoying. But if you start looking at it from a health perspective, it may change your mind.  The lack of sleep is the culprit in many health problems we can face, such as weight gain, detoxification problems, or immune deficiencies.

When it comes to weight gain there is growing research establishing a link between sleep disturbances and weight gain.  It can turn into a vicious cycle of lack of sleep leading to weight gain leading to sleep apnea, which causes even more sleep deprivation.  Those who get less than eight hours of sleep are more likely to struggle with their weight than those who go the recommended eight hours.  When you don’t get enough sleep, two key hormones become corrupt, ghrelin and leptin.  Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you that it’s time to eat and sleep-deprivation causes the body to produce more ghrelin.  Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, that you are full, when you are sleep-deprived you make less.  These two hormones not working as they should will cause overeating.  Once you get the recommended amount of sleep on a consistent basis or at least close to it, you can begin to reverse the results of the eating hormone imbalance.  Your body is no longer fighting against you and weight loss can begin.  When you get a good night’s rest, fatigue is lessened and exercising during the day is more likely, aiding in the weight loss.   It may take a little bit of time to right your equilibrium. 

This is all a technical way of telling you that you will get more hungry if you sleep less and likely to recognize when you are full. 

Your body tries to heal itself while you are sleeping. The body detoxes toxins, hormones are released to help your body heal, your body makes more while blood cells to combat any bacteria that is lurking in your body. When you sleep your body can heal sore muscles and repair blood vessels.  If you are not getting enough sleep, you’re not able to repair your body like it should and your immune system can suffer.  Your not giving your body the down time it requires to maintain a healthy you. So if you are in training as an athlete, sleeping is just as important as the training you are receiving from a trainer.  Your body needs the sleep to heal and recover. 

I hear a lot of people say they have a hard time sleeping and it really is a very common problem in today’s society.  It can be really hard to decompress and turn off your mind enough to fall asleep.  Or you pop up wide awake at 2am. Sleep can be an elusive thing for a lot of people and I hope something I suggest may resonate with you.  The internet is full of ideas, so if you don’t like my ideas you can find something else!

There are strategies to help you get a good night’s sleep.  The first start is diet, when you eat healthy during the day, you sleep better at night.  Poor nutrition can cause heartburn or blood sugar drops, which can lead to waking up several times throughout the night. Making sure you eat a diet filled with mostly vegetables, with healthy fats, and quality proteins. It goes back to the advice of cutting out processed foods and artificial sugars. A lot of people have found that when they practice intermittent fasting it helps regulate their sleep because it helps regulate your blood sugar and gives your body the rest it really craves.

Stress could be another factor to having a sleepless night.  Relaxing stretching and meditation can help calm the mind and help you go to sleep and stay asleep, see my blog about meditation. There are some pointers in there that can help start you on your way to meditation.  Putting down the phone and picking up a book will help send messages to your brain that it is time to end the day.  The bright screens on electronics can lead to alertness due to changes in your eyes and brain. Giving your brain a break is extremely helpful in signaling it is time to sleep.  

Daily exercise can be a really great tool in helping you sleep better.  Sounds counter intuitive, but it does help. You may feel too tired to get to the gym or exercise, but even spending 30 to 60 minutes walking can help you feel calmer and help promote sleep. Find what works best for you, working out at night, at lunch, or waking up early to get it out of the way.  Just make it a schedule you can stick to, because that way it will be easier to stick to and  less likely to quit.  Being very intentional about it will be the key to consistency. 

Exposure to natural light during the day can be very helpful in righting your circadian rhythm (your sleeping rhythm). Sunlight helps balance the waking hours with those spent sleeping.  It’s linked to your eyes transmitting the light versus the dark to your brain, helping with this regulation. It tells your body when to start making melatonin to aid in sleep.  So when the seasons allow it, spend some time outside, without sunglasses (yes it’s hard, but it isn’t

for the whole time) to get the exposure you need. By doing the opposite at night will help aid in sleep. 

My last suggestion is to create a bedtime routine.  It sounds simple enough, but our bodies thrive on routine and when you create a routine that your body recognizes each night it knows to start shutting down.  I know it’s something that works for me.  Changing, washing my face and brushing my teeth is my very simple routine that really does signal it’s time for bed.  If I do these things and go try to watch a movie, I will go to sleep every time.  It can be annoying sometimes, really.  

I hope these suggestions help you find some relief and sleep.  If you just stay up too late like I do, I can’t help you there!  If you need any more help, don’t hesitate to let us know at your next appointment.  

Niki Claybrook holistic nurtitionist