“Sleep is the best meditation”. -Dalai Lama
Who loves sleep? ME, ME!
I don’t know about you, but I am appreciating sleep more and more the older I get. Not only do I feel the impact of sleep deprivation more these days, but scientific research supports the benefit of adequate sleep.
Sleep is not only important for our energy levels throughout the day, but it is essential for our overall wellbeing. Adequate sleep helps with hormone balance, mood, weight loss, and decreases our risk of several chronic diseases.
And guess what, our society is NOT getting enough sleep!
Did you know 50-70 million Americans have a sleep disorder? And 35.3% of adults report getting less than 7 hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period according to the Sleep Association.
Do you fit into these statistics?
Its hard to get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep every night, but lets breakdown why its important.
Hunger hormones: Leptin and Ghrelin
During periods of sleep deprivation our appetite hormones leptin and ghrelin become imbalanced.
Leptin is a hormone produced by our fat cells that tells the brain we are full.
Ghrelin is a hormone produced by our stomach that stimulates hunger.
When we are sleep deprived, leptin has been shown to decline and ghrelin has been shown to increase. This makes us more hungry during the day, which increases our total caloric intake.
Cortisol, Thyroid, and Insulin Connection
Cortisol is our stress hormone produced by our adrenal glands. Cortisol should be highest in the morning and gradually reduce by bedtime. When chronic sleep loss is an issue, evening cortisol levels become too high. High evening cortisol not only makes it hard to fall asleep, but it makes it hard to get good quality sleep. This is often reported as feeling “tired and wired”.
This cortisol dysfunction causes our blood sugar levels to increase. Overtime, this can cause insulin resistance. Insulin is an important hormone produced by the pancreas that helps get sugar into our cells to be used for energy. When blood sugar levels remain elevated our cells start ignoring insulin’s signal to get sugar into our cells. This is called insulin resistance. Overtime, insulin resistance leads to weight gain, especially around our abdomen. It can also cause us to crave carbs and get hangry! This is a risk factor for pre-diabetes and diabetes.
When our adrenals are stressed, our thyroid can become sluggish. Two primary hormones adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) are produced by our pituitary gland in our brain. When these signals are off it impacts the hormones our adrenals and thyroids are able to produce. Excess ACTH production overtime can cause the thyroid to become sluggish leading to fatigue, dry skin, constipation, hair loss, depression, and more.
The CDC has studied sleep deprivation and the role on chronic disease. The biggest chronic diseases linked to sleep deprivation include the following:
As previously stated sleep deprivation causes hormonal imbalances including insulin resistance. Overtime, insulin resistance can lead to diabetes. Diabetes causes our blood to become like maple syrup which can damage our nerves, vision, heart, and kidney function.
The CDC assessed people with sleep apnea, which is basically periods of not breathing well throughout the night and heart disease. Individuals with sleep apnea have a higher risk of high blood pressure, strokes, coronary disease, and irregular heart beats. Therefore not getting good quality sleep puts stress on our heart and arteries!
The obesity epidemic almost mirrors the sleep deprivation statistics… is that a coincidence? Maybe or maybe not. I think we covered why sleep deprivation leads to weight gain under the hormone section.
If you suffer from depression, assess your sleep habits. Those with poor sleep tend to have more depressed episodes according to the CDC.
Steps to getting better sleep
- Keep a consistent bedtime and hold yourself accountable. If you have to wake up at 6 AM, make sure you are in bed by 10 PM to get the recommended 8 hours of sleep.
- Turn off all electronics 30-45 minutes before bed and start dimming the lights
- Add cortisol lowering exercises to your nighttime routine: meditation, deep breathing, or take an epsom salt bath with lavender.
- Invest in a good mattress and pillow so you are comfortable
- Keep your bedroom cool so you do not wake up in a night sweat
- If you are still having trouble, add some supplements to help get you back on track. I have two favorites: Luna Sleep Aid and Magnesium Calm.
- If the supplements did not help, get your hormones evaluated especially cortisol trends and progesterone. Make an appointment with us at STAT Wellness and we can get to the bottom of your sleep troubles!
So next time your trying to decide whether to skip on sleep to hit the gym or late night bars, you might want to choose sleep!