Why is sleep important?
Your body and your brain require sleep. You literally will die without sleep! While you are sleeping your brain is working to form new pathways helping you learn and remember information. A poor night's rest doesn't just cause poor work performance the next day, it can also contribute to all chronic diseases. Long term sleep deficiencies are linked to heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even strokes. Without proper sleep you can actually become hungrier too, so to lose weight you actually need good sleep!
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, "Reducing your sleep by a single hour per night increases the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk, and stress."
While you sleep, your body is rebuilding, repairing, detoxing, and creating hormones. If you don't get enough sleep these important processes don't happen! Lack of sleep literally leads to premature aging.
Most healthy adults really need 7-9 hours of sleep to be at their best. How much sleep are you getting? Many of my patients have been using various devices to monitor their sleep and become surprised they aren't even getting 6 full hours of sleep!
So, if you are one of these individuals, here are some recommendations to help you improve the quality of your sleep pattern:
Six lifestyle changes can you make to improve your sleep.
- Limiting caffeine and sugar are important especially towards the evening hours. This also includes chocolate. I’m one of those people who doesn’t do well with caffeine, period, and I also need to be careful to not have too much sugar late in the day or early evening as it can keep me awake at night taking away time from my important sleep.
- Don’t exercise at night. Exercise in the daytime can actually help promote better sleep at night, but exercise at night raises cortisol and adrenaline which can interfere with sleep, so don’t exercise too late in the evening.
- Try calming exercises like yoga poses instead!
- Avoid blue light at night. Did you know that computer screens are designed to look like the sun? Computers and electronic devices like our cell phones emit blue light which keeps us awake. However, this blue light blocks melatonin production which can make it difficult to sleep at night.
- Avoid night time EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies). e. Don’t charge your cell phone by your head! Turn the WiFi off on your phone and charge your phone in another room. Electromagnetic fields emitted from these type of technologies also block melatonin production. Naturally, I wonder if the very devices designed to track sleep are part of what is interfering with our sleep?!
- Keep your bedroom cool. The optimal temperature is less that 68 degrees for sleep.
- Magnesium is a calming mineral great for sleep and relaxation!
- L-theanine is a calming amino acid which helps to increase alpha waves in the brain. It’s great for anxiety and sleep. It works to boost GABA.
- GABA is another calming amino acid great for mood, anxiety, and sleep.
- 5-HTP is another calming amino acid that helps to boost serotonin which converts to melatonin.
- Melatonin is a hormone and antioxidant. Its levels are highest at night to help facilitate sleep. In low doses of 1-3 mg, supplementation can also help to promote sleep.
- Calming essential oils like Lavender, Chamomile, Cedar Wood, Lime and Lemon can be diffused or applied to the skin for fast acting calming support as well.
Lastly, as always finding a functional medicine provider who can help you determine the causes of poor sleep is also important. What if the cause of poor sleep is low hormones, like progesterone? Rather than guess on what supplements are needed, a provider can test your cortisol to see if it’s high at night and also test your calming neurotransmitters to see if they are low, helping to personalize the supplements to what you actually need.
The best treatment is a combination of lifestyle changes, incorporating supplements to enhance sleep, and guidance from a provider!
Cheers to better sleep this year!