“It is useless to get up early and stay up late in order to earn a living. God takes care of his own, even while they sleep.” Psalm 127:2
Sleep is truly an amazing thing. I had no idea so much went on while our head was on the pillow. Again I find myself sitting here thinking, “Holy cow.” I can’t help but wonder how someone can say we are not intelligently designed.
Healthy adequate sleep is essential to good health. We need at least 7 hours of sleep. 7-9 hours for healthy adults is best (8-10 hours for teens). Studies show health risks begin take hold when you receive 6 or fewer hours of sleep. Right now, I am up to about 5 hours a night so there’s some progress. Still not enough though.
In today’s society, sleep is generally not respected. Many believe it interferes with success. It is considered a waste of time and people prefer working endless hours to show they are valuable employees. It’s almost like a badge of honor. If you sleep less than the other guy, you must be better.
The truth is your sleep hours are just as valuable as your wake hours.
60% of people in the U.S. say they have trouble sleeping. Women are more affected by lack of sleep than men. Children can become hyperactive when sleep deprived.
Studies are mixed but tend to indicate that you can make up some of the effects of lost sleep, mainly short term within a day, but not all of the effects such as during long term sleep loss.
One of your biological clocks controls circadian rhythms which in turn control your sleep cycle. This action is based in your hypothalamus in your brain. Circadian rhythms regulate sleep and wake times during a 24-hour cycle of day and night.
Rhythms rise and dip as a response to light and darkness. When the sun comes up light hits around our eyes, our brain raises cortisol and that wakes us up. When it begins to get dark, cortisol falls and melatonin productions starts which makes us sleepy.
It causes your body to release different hormones during different parts of the day as well as control body temperature, cell regeneration and brain wave activity.
Types of Sleep Loss
- Don’t go to sleep intentionally
- Can’t fall asleep
- Can’t stay asleep
- Wake up too early
What Your Body Does During Quality Sleep
Your body and brain are very busy keeping you healthy while you are sleeping. This occurs during deep sleep.
- Restorative sleep happens during deep sleep
- Every system is being fine tuned, reset, cleaned up and restored to optimal health
- Rejuvenates all cells in the body to repair themselves
- Produces protein to help repair cells
- Tissue growth and repair
- Blood supply to your muscles increases
- Brain cells clean out toxins and waste products
- Cognitive maintenance
- Neurochemical cleaning through the glymphatic system. The brain allows for easier movement of fluid during sleep.
- Short term memories are converted to long term memories
- Memory processing, consolidation and organizing happens
- Newly learned things are processed
- Growth hormones are secreted. Growth hormone during sleep tells the body how to break down fat. It is also essential to tissue repair and regeneration
- Recover from physical stresses
- Immune system builds new cells and strengthens
- Physical healing of wounds is increased
What Causes Lack of Sleep
▶︎Lack of adequate sunlight impairs your rhythms and hormone production.
▶︎Artificial screen light (blue light) causes your body to make more daytime hormones and keeps your body from preparing for sleep. Studies show iPad readers took longer to fall asleep, produced less melatonin and were less rested the next day.
▶︎Shift work. Working the graveyard shift. Jobs where you work some days and some nights.
▶︎Low blood sugar. Eating before bed causes a blood sugar drop which tends to wake you up.
▶︎Sleep apnea. Apnea is linked to depression, cardiac problems , weakening of the blood brain barrier keeping bacteria and chemicals from entering the brain. Snoring a symptom of sleep apnea, but not everyone that snores has apnea.
▶︎Alcohol. While you will fall asleep faster, alcohol keeps you from achieving rejuvenating sleep. This affects women more than men. Alcohol also exacerbates sleep apnea due to the reduced muscle tone in the throat.
▶︎Sleep position. This affects your blood flow, spine, hormone production, breathing, heart and blood pressure.
▶︎Poor nutrition. Low iron, magnesium, calcium, low-carb diets. Carbs send tryptophan to the brain making your sleepy.
▶︎Lack of exercise. This messes up your hormones.
▶︎Racing mind. You can’t shut your mind off.
▶︎Certain medications can cause sleep problems.
▶︎GI problems such as acid reflux.
▶︎Pain. Any type of pain during your sleep.
▶︎Smoking. Smoking is a stimulant. It raises your heart rate and blood pressure.
▶︎Light or noise in your environment.
▶︎Allergies causing congestion or discomfort.
▶︎Mental disorders cause insomnia and insomnia makes mental disorders worse.
Results of Being Sleep Deprived
Abnormal circadian rhythms are associated with various disorders.
- Leads to decreased brain function
- Increased suggestibility
- Under performance
- Lower brain activity
- Poor concentration
- Less vigilant
- Less creative
- Impaired decision making
- Affects judgement
- Affects impulse control
- Affects learning
- Many wonder if they have ADHD
- Impaired memory/ memory loss
Emotional/Mental Health Issues:
- Sleep connected to mental health. Circadian rhythms are regulated by dopamine. Sleep disturbances interfere with dopamine levels leading to imbalances associated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders
- More stressed
- Mood becomes irritable, irrational, feelings of hostility and anger
- Decreased motivation
- Mood swings
- Increase negative moods
- Increased risk taking
- Your heart works harder because it doesn’t get night time rest.
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Lowers leptin (hormone that tells you you’re full)
- Raises ghrelin (hormone that tells you you’re hungry)
- Inability to lose weight/tendency to gain weight
- Orexin, a neurotransmitter, is reduced.It stimulates physical activity
- Less likely to exercise
- Linked to obesity
- Insulin production rises and you store fat easier
- Hinders glucose metabolism
- Poor decisions lead to poor eating habits and skipping exercise
- Slows metabolism
- Speeds onset of type 2 diabetes
- Increase rate of metabolic syndrome
- Poor and insufficient sleep makes your body store fat not burn it
- Alters hormone levels
- Decreased libido
- Lowers testosterone which is produced at night in men (and women) causing ED. Also affects hormone production and sperm count leading to infertility
- Lowers growth hormone production
Other Health Issues:
- Changes the expression of more than 700 genes
- Increased accidents- 100,000 crashes per year due to lack of sleep. Likely it is more since it is under reported.
- Impaired athletic performance
- Faster aging
- Look older/ skin aging/ less repair at night
- Cancer. Working the graveyard shift. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies shift work with circadian disruption as a group 2A carcinogen. Being up late is a strong enough cancer causing agent to be lumped with lead and UVA radiation. Melatonin is an anti-cancer hormone.
- Higher rate of headaches
- Compromised/faulty immune system- cold hold on longer and are likely to return; contributes to chronic conditions 3x as likely to get a cold.
- Stomach distress- linked to stress
- Increased mortality/reduced life expectancy by 15%
- Increase body pain and aches in young people. Lowers your pain threshold, because of reduced serotonin production
- Female hair loss (from the stress of it)
💊 Don’t start with taking sleep drugs. You are not treating the issue and you are likely to become dependent on them making matters worse. Start with gentle solutions and work your way up. White educated women are the biggest users of sleeping pills. Pills become addictive and don’t actually promote restorative sleep. This is not a cure for sleeplessness. Sleeping pill use can cause an increased risk of Alzheimer’s by 32% after 3-6 months of use. As few as 18 doses of sleeping pills a year and give a 3x higher risk of death.
☀️ Your circadian rhythm is impacted by the amount of sunlight you received during the day. Get more sunlight during the day to sleep better at night. Morning sunlight is important. Get 1/2 hour of morning sun. Take a walk. Use less artificial light at night. This helps regulate serotonin and melatonin production to help give you a better quality of sleep. Get 15 minutes of sun a day to reset your clock and increase melatonin production.
💤Cortisol manages your bodies daily rhythms. Keep your adrenal glands healthy.
🖥 Stop using blue light screens 90 minutes before bed. If you must use screens late, get a blue light blocker.
⏰ Have a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up the same time each day to synchronize your biological clock.
💤Don’t miss your window of sleep before your second wind hits.
💤Create a bedtime ritual so your body prepares itself. Train your internal body clock.
💤You can’t make up sleep. Trying to sleep in on weekends just disrupts your sleep cycle even more.
💤Adjusting your sleep-wake cycle can take several weeks.
☕️ Cut caffeine early in the day.
🍵 Chamomile is mildly sedative. Have tea before bed.
💤Valerian root is moderately sedative. Have juice, powder, tea or take supplement. Give it 2-3 weeks to work.
🍗5htp or tryptophan. 90 minutes before bed.
💤L-theanine is a supplement I first heard of for the racing mind of those with ADHD. It slows (calms) down the mind without sedating, enabling better attention. (works best along side caffeine) Also helps with anxiety. Relaxes the mind promoting sleep if racing thought are what is keeping you up.
💤Eat foods that support your gut and encourage good sleep. Foods that contain selenium, vitamin C, tryptophan, potassium, vitamin D, omega 3, melatonin, vitamin B6, probiotics and magnesium.
🍌Foods with tryptophan include milk, cheese, bananas, turkey, fish, yogurt, dates, avocado.
💤Be careful taking melatonin hormones. It keeps your body from making it’s own naturally. Don’t take it if your have cardiovascular disease. It constricts your arteries. It doesn’t affect length of sleep anyway, only how soon you fall asleep. Many people take too much and take it incorrectly.
🌙Create darkness. Artificial light in the bedroom delays the start of melatonin production and reduces melatonin production by 50%. Cover the alarm clock light too.
🏋 Exercise, but don’t exercise right before bed. Lift weights 2 days a week. The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine states that those who do moderate exercise sleep better. But not within 4 hours of bed.
💤Lose weight. Excess fats disrupts hormones. Eat more protein and healthy fats.
💤Work with your doctor on sleep apnea.
🧀No snack before bed is best, but if you must snack it should be high fat-low carb to keep blood sugar stable. Don’t eat within 90 minutes of going to bed.
🍲Keep your insulin down the first part of the day. Don’t eat dessert for breakfast. Fruit smoothies, pancakes, toast, oatmeal, cereal will all raise your insulin.
🍸Cut back on alcohol.
💤Slow, deep breathing. Focus on your breathing. Put your hand on your belly. It should rise and fall, not your chest. Breathe in slowly, hold it briefly, breathe out slowly.
😴If you have heartburn/reflux raise your mattress 8 inches.
Do you struggle with poor sleep?
What do you find helpful in combating insomnia?
If you have been intentionally short on sleep, do you find the health risks enough to make a point to get more Zzzs?