When I start giving suggestions on how to improve sleep, I reiterate, “Do as I say, not as I do.” I am a notorious night owl. If the day could start around 9:30am, that would be perfect for me, but it doesn’t. 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, you might rethink this ingrained lifestyle we practice. A 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 to sleep disturbances. 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 sleep 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 and that you are full. When you are sleep-deprived, you produce less. These two hormones not working as they should will lead to 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 these hormone imbalances. 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 be less likely to recognize when you are full.
Your body tries to heal itself while you are sleeping. The body detoxes and hormones are released to help your body heal. Your body makes more white 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 you should, and your immune system can suffer. You’re not giving your body the down-time it requires to maintain a healthy you.
I hear a lot of people say they have a hard time sleeping. It really is a 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.
There are strategies to help you get a good night’s sleep. Here are just a few:
Consider Your Nutrition Intake
The first start is considering your diet. When you eat healthy during the day, you sleep better at night. Poor nutrition can cause heartburn or a drop in your blood sugar, which can lead to waking up several times throughout the night. Make sure you eat a diet filled with mostly vegetables, 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 intermittent fasting helps regulate their sleep because it helps regulate your blood sugar and gives your body the rest it really craves.
Monitor Your Stress Level
Stress could be another contributor to having a sleepless night. Relaxing, stretching, and meditation can help calm the mind and help you go to sleep and stay asleep. Check out some tips here on meditation. It’s easier than you might think! There are some pointers in there that can help start you on your way to meditation. Try putting down your phone or tablet and picking up a book. This will help send messages to your brain that it is time to end the day. The bright screens on electronics can trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime and lead to alertness. 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 counterintuitive, 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 fits your lifestyle best, whether that’s 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 so you’re less likely to quit. Being intentional about it is the key to consistency.
Spend Some Time Outside
Exposure to natural light during the day can be very helpful in balancing 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 producing melatonin to aid in sleep. So when the seasons allow it, spend some time outside without sunglasses (yes it’s difficult, but it can help even if it’s just for part of the time) to get the exposure you need.
Embrace a Bedtime Routine
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 winding down. This is something that definitely works for me. Changing into pajamas, 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 then attempt to start 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 anymore help, don’t hesitate to let us know at your next appointment. And as always, contact us with any questions!