There are more and more studies coming out showing how important sleep is for us, yet at the same time more and more people are not getting enough sleep …. so what can we do about this?
It’s estimated that 30-50% of people either have trouble getting to sleep or have a restless sleep several times a week. For other people they are getting good quality sleep but just not getting enough of it, missing just one hour of sleep a night may not seem to be a problem, but over a week you are missing an entire night of sleep …. over a year you’re missing 52 nights of sleep and that is a big problem.
Without knowing the importance of sleep it’s not always easy to have the motivation to implement the “how to get good quality sleep tips” that are coming up. Good quality sleep and good digestion function are the key’s to good health so it is important to get them right.
Healthy brain function – Sleep is important for neurotransmitter function so poor quality sleep can affect mood leading to depression, anger, anxiety and brain fog. This can also lead to memory problems and a lack of mental clarity which can affect work, studies, and athletic performance. Even reaction time is impaired leading to increasing risk of car accidents, accidents at work or other injuries.
Immune System – Even having 3 or 4 sleepless nights can lead to a drop in immune function. At night when your cortisol levels drop different types of immune cells increase, this helps to fight off infections and reduce inflammation. People who lack sleep have higher amounts of C Reactive Protein which is an inflammatory marker, high levels of chronic inflammation is the driving force behind all chronic health problems.
Digestion Problems – There is a myth that your body does not digest food while you sleep which is not true, in fact, the body does need to rest to digest …. that does not mean that you should have a huge meal before bed. A lack of sleep also affects the digestion hormones called leptin which tells us that we have had enough to eat, and Grhelin which helps to stimulate our appetite. This is the reason why a lack of sleep leads to an increase in weight as it affects the hormones that control metabolism. Lack of sleep can also exacerbate inflammatory bowel disease and IBS, a healthy digestion relies on a good night’s sleep
Hormone Issues – A lack of sleep can cause adrenal function problems which can lead to fatigue, weight gain, reduced thyroid function, hair and skin problems. Other hormones that are affected are the sex hormones which includes progesterone, estrogen and testosterone. A lack of sleep can cause low testosterone in men, while a lack of sleep in women often leads to excess estrogen issues which affect PMS.
Hair Loss – Lack of sleep is known to cause hair loss. Visit Hair Loss Revolution for more information
A lack of sleep will affect nearly every health condition, so what can we do about it?
While a trip to the doctor will often lead to a pill to treat insomnia, this can cause a variety of negative side effects, and not lead to good quality sleep. There are a variety of natural options that can also help with sleep and while sometimes these can be great to help improve sleep, especially for people with chronic sleep problems the first thing you should do is to try and improve your sleep habits, and not reach for a pill.
1/Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
2/Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
3/Hold your breath for a count of seven.
4/Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths
Weil emphasizes the most important part of this process is holding your breath for eight seconds. This is because keeping the breath in will allow oxygen to fill your lungs and then circulate throughout the body. It is this that produces a relaxing effect in the body.
If you have tried “everything” and still have trouble sleeping then I recommend getting an adrenal function test to measure cortisol and Dhea plus a test for melatonin to identify a circadian rhythm problem, knowing what is happening with these hormones will help with supplementation.
The best test is the DUTCH hormone test which assesses the adrenal and sex hormones, plus melatonin and neurotransmitters, all of these can influence your sleep.
There are a number of different supplements that can help with sleep, but there is no “magic formula” for everybody, some supplements may work well for someone but not for everybody and this is due to the hormones cortisol and melatonin.
One nutrient that many people lack which can help with sleep is magnesium, there are many different forms of magnesium and I recommend the magnesium bisglycinate for optimal results.
Other herbs that can help with sleep include Passionflower, Zizyphus, Magnolia, and Valerian, a really good formula is Metagenics Neurocalm (in Australia) or iDoze sleep formula from Amazon
Other nutrients that can help include GABA and 5HTP, or if you wake in the middle of the night take 3 grams of glycine before you go to bed.
Sleep is vitally important for optimal function of every aspect of health and there are many lifestyle tips and strategies that can help improve the quality of the sleep that you are getting. Even implementing 1 or 2 tips at a time can help improve sleep, don’t get overwhelmed by trying to do everything.
If you’re still having trouble sleeping you can get a DUTCH hormone test or a Sleep study test that measures Melatonin through Planet Naturopath.
Along with the lifestyle tips supplements can also help, before self-prescribing with poor quality supplements I would recommend a consultation to help work out the best options for you.
Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen