Let’s talk about catching some Z’s, shall we? Believe it or not, adequate sleep is hands down one of the most important aspects of your health, happiness, hunger & overall vitality!
Research has shown that not only is the number of hours you sleep imperative, but your sleep quality and what hours you sleep are too.
I know how it goes…
You’re on a roll with getting things done, and you want to just keep pushing through. The temptation to stay up just a little bit later to get more done is constantly pulling at you. Or, it’s the only time when you get a little quite time to yourself.
However, while cutting back on sleep may seem like it will boost your productivity, the opposite is true. You see, sleep is the only time your body gets to rebuild, replenish and rejuvenate.
It’s no wonder, why disrupted sleep or lack of quality sleep, has been shown contribute to weight gain, increased belly fat, increased cravings, fatigue, accelerated aging and depression!
Without deep restful sleep, your HEALTH, BODY, and SANITY suffer!
Below is a dramatic image of what happens when you don’t get enough rest.
Shocking right? A study published last year showed that just one week of sleeping fewer than six hours a night resulted in changes to more than 700 genes.
That’s alarming news, considering nearly half of Americans don’t get the recommended seven or more hours of per night.
Here are a few of the recent shocking discoveries about how sleep impacts your health.
Have you ever noticed after one night of poor sleep you’re…
hungrier, tend to eat more and reach for your bing foods more often? Of course, when you’re tired, you’re more likely to try to use sugary, calorie rich foods and caffeine-laden drinks to try to keep your energy levels up.
But, what people don’t realize is that you’re more susceptible to cravings for unhealthy foods because your hunger hormone, Ghrelin, and less likely to overeat hormone, Leptin, turn against you. Studies have linked short-term sleep deprivation with a propensity to load up on bigger portions, a preference for high-calorie, high-carb foods and a greater likelihood of choosing unhealthy foods.
Your Diabetes & Obesity risk goes up.
Did you know that your ability to metabolize starch and carbohydrates is dramatically diminished, if you get less than 7 hours of sound sleep? A 2012 study found that less than 7 hours of sleep per night was tied to decreased insulin sensitivity by up to 75 % which is a huge diabetes & obesity risk factor.
Sleep aids called “as risky as cigarettes” and increases rates of mortality.
Insomnia has reach epidemic proportions. Sadly, the only solution that is offered is prescription sleep aids. But is the solution is worse than the problem itself?
Shockingly, prescription sleep aids do not allow you to get into deep restful, restorative REM sleep. REM sleep is where your body gets to balance hormones, rebuild bones and muscle, replenish brain function, and keeps you feeling and looking youthful. Instead, most sleep aids drive up GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter & your body’s natural tranquilizer, which sedates you but does not restore you. The results? Your body misses out on performing vital nightly functions it needs to keep you happy and healthy.
It should be no surprise than, that sleep aid usage has been shown by three separate large-scale studies to increase mortality risk by 2.5 to 4.6 times, even when using as little as 20 sleeping pills per year.
To make things worse, people are rarely told that prescription sleep aids have never been approved for long term, regular use. They were approved based on no more than 6 weeks of regular usage.
Lack of sleep increases belly fat.
Lack of sleep boosts your body’s production of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is not only your belly fat storage hormone but it’s also your awakening hormone. When cortisol levels are raised it causes your body to store fat, particularly around your midsection and wakes you up. Such a catch 22!
So, what’s the solution? Instead of relying on pills, lets get to the bottom of why insomnia is occurring in the first place.
Here’s the good news: whether you have difficulty falling asleep, wake up between 1-3 am and have difficult falling back to sleep, there is HOPE!
Here are the 2 most elusive causes of insomnia and what you can do to resolve them quickly.
Cortisol imbalances/adrenal fatigue is one of the most unknown causes of Insomnia.
Cortisol best known as the great ”belly fat storage” hormone as well as a “fight or flight” stress hormone. However, what is less known and understood is that cortisol is primarily responsible for waking us up and regulating sleep. When cortisol is too high it can make it difficult to fall asleep and it can also wake you up in the middle of the night, preventing you from falling back to sleep.
The best strategy to properly identify if high cortisol is the culprit, is to find a Functional Medicine Practitioner or Integrative MD who is familiar with salivary cortisol testing. This is the type of testing that I am offering during FLC rehab. Traditional medicine does not recognize & rarely tests cortisol unless they suspect Cushing’s syndrome or Addison’s disease. Learn more here>
Salivary cortisol testing not only identifies what your total cortisol production is, but also pinpoints when your cortisol is too high or imbalanced. I have run hundreds of these tests and am amazed how a simple test can provide clients with much needed direction and relief from insomnia and fatigue.
Symptoms of High Cortisol:
Tired but wired Increased belly fat/weight gain
Second wind at night Difficulty winding down/ inability to relax
Difficulty sleeping High Blood Pressure
Poor memory Low Sex hormones
How to balance cortisol naturally and get some Z’s
Avoid all caffeine and minimize sugar after 2pm. If that doesn’t make a difference. You may have to wean off caffeine altogether. Here’s the issue, caffeine increases cortisol, restricts blood supply to the brain and is linked to anxiety due to its effects on GABA, the body’s natural tranquilizer.
Avoid exercising in evening especially more than 40 minutes of cardio. Exercise increases cortisol output – natural energizer.
Avoid artificial lights and blue lights from electronics such as ipad, TV and phone 1½-4 hours before bedtime. Learn more about it’s effects on health and solutions here>
Practice breathing/ meditation/ RestorativeYoga (Yin Yoga)
Meditation and yoga have been shown to lower cortisol by up to 63%.
They both turn on your parasympathetic nervous system “restorative nervous system.”
Download an APP. Free Pranayama Breathing App
Try the Sauna. Infrared is the best, but dry sauna works too. Spend a minimum of 10-20 minutes, and make sure to drink water.
Stop skipping meals. Low blood sugar causes cortisol to spike.
Get your cortisol levels tested by an Integrative MD or practitioner.
Identify food sensitivities.
Look to the GUT- I have found that gut infections and overgrowth especially in the digestive tract–such as bacterial overgrowth, yeast, and parasites are a significant cause of high cortisol at nighttime and in the morning.
Reduce pain caused by injury or structural imbalances.
Herbs and Supplements to help induce sleep and balance cortisol.
Magnesium -Magnesium glycinate helps to relax muscles especially if you feel tense during the day and/or before bed. 400mg is a place to start. If you have gut issues, I suggest using a gel or lotion for better absorption.
Epson Salt Baths are a great way to get magnesium each night and induce relaxation.
Calming herbs: valerian root, passionflower, lemon balm, and chamomile reduces the “tired and wired feeling” – induces relaxation. My favorite blend is Catecholacalm for help falling asleep and unwinding or Neurocalm for boosting GABA, mood, satiety and relaxation.
L-Theanine or Taurine- helps with relaxation.
GABA (gamma-Amino butyric acid) (short term use only) has a sedating effect.
Cortisol lowering supplements like this one are available but must ONLY be used if you have tested and confirmed HIGH cortisol. Must be monitored closely by a practitioner.
Could it be Imbalanced Hormones
If you find your hormones are out of whack & insomnia is cyclical or became worse around the time of big hormonal changes/fluctuations, then hormonal imbalances and/or low progesterone and estrogen may be the cause.
Low Progesterone Symptoms:
PMS – 1-7 days before period
Heavy cramping and/or bleeding
Racing mind at night
Low Estrogen Symptoms:
Low estrogen in itself does not cause insomnia but what it does cause are uncomfortable symptoms that cause you to wake up.
Induces sleep apnea
Slows down intake of magnesium in the body
How to balance your hormones and get some Z’s
1) Exercise has been shown to be helpful. Try 20-30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, 5 days per week.
2) Acupuncture can be incredibly helpful to help get your hormones balance and improve your sleep.
3) Supplements: B 6 plus calcium & magnesium.
4) Work with an Integrative MD or practitioner to get hormone & cortisol levels tested & help balance hormones naturally.
5) Support Adrenal glands and cortisol levels since this regulates your hormone levels.
6) Eat fat- fats like coconut oil & butter. Fat nourishes all hormone levels. Also, make sure your cholesterol is not too low. Below 150 can contribute to low hormone levels and energy too.
Supplements that can help:
There are several highly effective supplements and herbs that I use with clients to help them balance their hormones. However, I strongly recommend working with a practitioner to get a hormonal baseline and then, carefully monitor your progress and hormone levels.
1) FemGuard Balance is amazing blend of hormone balancing herbs and nutritional co-factors. This supplement is a life saver for women who are experiencing perimenopause or menopause. 2 caps, 1-2 times daily is usually a good place to start.
I also love this one which includes FemGuard plus a multi-vitamin plus bone support.
2) Chasetree – 500-100mg daily. It’s only effective if you’re still cycling and have your ovaries.
3) Sublingual hormones amazingly effective and may be necessary for menopause.
4) L-tryptophan (500mg-2000mg) or 5-htp (100-300mg) and melatonin (3-9mg) may also be helpful if your hormones are low.
*Please note that L-tryptophan and 5-htp should not be taken if you are on an antidepressant and have several other contraindication. Should work with your MD or trained practitioner before taking.
Need support? FLC Rehab helps not only get your vitality and energy back but you will have the ability identify & correct the hormonal imbalances that may be responsible for your years of sleep trouble Learn more here>
Simple Sleep Hygeine Tips
Best Hours to Sleep
The best hours of sleep for your body are the hours of 10pm – 6am. These hours and what your body is programmed to do during these hours are governed by your relationship to the sun and the 24-hour circadian rhythm – all of which are out of your control! During this time the body is designed to replenish, repair, detoxify and restore. If your body is busy digesting a heavy late meal, or you are up late working, playing, or watching TV, your body misses out on vital recovery time! Making sleep a priority is one of the best ways to RECLAIM your HEALTH, HAPPINESS, VITALITY, and SANITY!
Make Sure your room is DARK
It is also important that your room be as dark as possible and that all electronic devices be a minimum of three feet away from the head of your bed. Some people find that even the color readings on their digital clocks are enough to keep them from a deep sleep. Consider covering the clock to assist you in attaining a deeper sleep.
Avoid being over-‐stimulated at bedtime:
Caffeine -‐ avoid completely.
Alcohol – it may help you fall asleep, but all the sugar in the alcohol will cause a rapid rise and then decline in your blood sugar which will cause you to wake up.
TV, computers & texting – stop use 2 hours prior -‐ blue light inhibits melatonin production.
Mental activity -‐ stop doing active mental work at least 1 hour prior.
Exercise -‐ at least 60 minutes every day.
Eating -‐ avoid being too full at bedtime, no food for at least three hours before sleep.
Meditation techniques help slow the mind down and prepare for sleep.
Develop a bedtime ritual that includes Epsom salt baths and lavender essential oil.
Frequent nighttime bathroom breaks may indicate Dysglycemia
If you are up during the night to go to the bathroom frequently, it is most often an indicator of skipped meals, going too long between meals and frequent blood sugar spikes during the day caused by coffee, alcohol, sugar, starch, and processed foods. The more balanced your blood sugar is during the day, the more soundly you will sleep at night.
Also, paying attention to your sea salt intake will also be of assistance in your nighttime urination patterns. If our bodies do not have the proper levels of sodium and trace minerals (provided by sea salt), the body flushes water rapidly instead of using it to properly hydrate the body.