Sleep is actually a key foundation of health, perhaps even the most important one. Our bodies run on a circadian rhythm, basically a daily cycle. All of our cells have an internal cycle as well. It is imperative that we are able to follow this rhythm so our hormones stay balanced and we remain in good health. Therefore, getting enough quality sleep is super important for overall health. This is why improving sleep is my first priority with all of my clients.
Did you know that sleep deprivation causes lower body temperature and fatigue and this usually leads to increased food consumption to boost energy and help your body stay warm and increase your temps? Just one night of poor sleep can make you as insulin resistant the next day as a diabetic! Many women with low body temperatures may find they crave carbohydrates and notice it helps raise their body temps. This is not necessarily the answer because consuming excess carbs also raises insulin levels and often cortisol levels which may create a vicious cycle of sleep disruption.
Women are probably the most sleep-deprived creatures on earth. . . . the average woman aged thirty to sixty sleeps only six hours and forty-one minutes during the workweek. . . . Most people need at least eight hours of sleep to function at their best. ~ Joyce A. Walsleben, Ph.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the New York University School of Medicine.
Ask yourself the following questions….
- Do you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow?
- Do you rely on an alarm clock to wake you up?
- Do you feel tired during the day?
- Do you tend to sleep more on the weekends?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you are probably sleep deprived.
Shorter sleep or not enough consistent sleep can cause weight gain, specifically abdominal weight gain. Restful deep sleep restores energy levels and balances hormones. Poor sleep depletes energy and wreaks havoc with your hormones.
Growth hormone is released when we get quality sleep – deep REM (rapid eye movement) restful and long enough. Growth hormone is responsible for repair processes in the body. Therefore, poor sleep and shorter sleep for any length of time can result in inflammation, chronic pain and more. It also causes lower body temperature, fatigue, increase in fat tissue and reduced muscle mass. Your body essentially rebuilds itself during deep sleep. That’s why we call it ‘beauty sleep.’
Hormonal Benefits of Sleep
Following is a list of hormonal benefits you can enjoy from deep quality sleep (take from the book; ‘The Hormone Diet’, by Natasha Turner, ND).
- A calm nervous system and controlled cortisol
- Replenished DHEA, the antiaging hormone
- Reduced insulin and subdued inflammation
- Increased GABA and serotonin, the relaxation feel-good hormones
- Better testosterone status and protection from the harmful effects of excess estrogen
- Increased melatonin and growth hormone for greater nighttime repair and fat-burning benefits
- Increased thyroid hormone to maximize your metabolism
- Enhanced appetite control through increased leptin and suppression of the appetite-stimulating hormones ghrelin and NPY
- More acetycholine to keep your muscles moving and your mind and memory sharp.
Healing any hormonal issue, such as adrenal fatigue is virtually impossible if you are not getting adequate nightly sleep.
10 P.M. – cortisol levels diminish to their lowest levels of the day (or three hours after sunset). This is the optimal time to go to bed or be falling asleep by.
6 A.M. – Cortisol levels peak, approximately 8 hours later.
These are the optimal hours for us to be sleeping.
Unfortunately, many people have out-of-sync circadian rhythms that affect their ability to secrete cortisol properly, in the right amounts at the right times of the day. There are numerous reasons for this. When circadian rhythms are disrupted, often more serious health implications result.
Reasons we have poor sleep include; busy schedules, heavy workloads, excess time in front of ‘screens’ (computer, TV, cell phones), poor diet, excess sugar/carbs, caffeine, new born babies or children who keep us up, shift work, overseas travel and many more.
The hypothalamus gland regulates our circadian rhythm, and this in turn dictates our natural sleep wake cycle. The hypothalamus gathers information about body temperature and light exposure thereby impacting our natural sleep habits as well as our hormonal balance. Dysfunction of the hypothalamus affects our sleep patterns.
Cortisol levels are higher in sleep deprived individuals. This makes it hard to function optimally as one should throughout the day and can even make it hard for one to fall asleep. Elevated cortisol in the evening will impact one’s ability to fall asleep. It is critical to try and attempt to manage this through lifestyle and diet. If you aren’t sure what your daily cortisol rhythm is, I highly recommend asking your holistic practitioner for an adrenal salivary index test to find out. Better yet, a hair analysis will show a better picture into how the entire body is operating currently and give more clues as to why someone is dealing with sleep disturbances.
There is much much more that could be discussed and shared when it comes to the topic of sleep. I’ve written several posts previously on the subject; 5 Keys To Keeping Your Adrenal Glands Healthy: #1-Sleep, Trouble Falling Asleep? 7 Tips To Better Sleep, Bedtime Rituals & The Importance of Sleep For Kids.
(1) ‘From Fatigued To Fantastic!’, Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D.
(2) ‘The Fat Flush Plan’, Ann Louise Gittleman
(3) ‘The Perfect Health Diet’, Paul Jaminet, Ph.D., Shou-Ching Jaminet, Ph.D
(4) ‘The Hormone Diet’, Natasha Turner, ND
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