As you prepare to ring out the old and bring in the new, you may feel a little short on sleep these days. Maybe it’s a pattern that has been going on for several months. Holiday cheer, family gatherings, travel, getting packages under the tree before morning, wrapping up work projects, preparing for the new year…the list of reasons for lengthening your day goes on.
How is the lack of sleep affecting your life? Are you feeling more anxious and distracted of late? Do you find yourself reaching for extra dessert? Adding a bit more sugar to your coffee? Skipping meals? Worrying that your to-do list is getting longer rather than shorter?
According to Dr Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, “Too little sleep swells concentrations of a hormone that makes you feel hungry [ghrelin] while suppressing a companion hormone that otherwise signals food satisfaction [leptin]. Despite being full, you still want to eat more.”
Not only does lack of sleep affect weight, it suppresses the immune system and contributes to depression and anxiety.
More from Dr Walker:
“Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease…and disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic. Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure.”
Sleep is highly undervalued in our society. The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night for optimal health. Sure, we can get by on less but at great cost over time.
Here are a few tips to help you get the nourishing sleep you need for your health.
- Eat meals at regularly scheduled times. This includes finishing your last meal of the day at least 2 hours before going to bed. Keeping a consistent schedule is one of the best ways to balance blood sugar. When blood sugar levels get out of control, it can result in hypo- or hyperglycemia. Left unchecked, blood vessels that support the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves can become damaged. Each meal should hold you to your next meal; roughly 4-5 hours apart.
- Consume optimal amounts of macronutrients at each meal. The body needs a blend of fats, carbohydrates and protein for energy, growth, to regulate metabolism, make hormones, support the immune system, and balance blood sugar. Skimp on one, and the body needs to compensate, throwing off optimal functioning.
- Limit caffeine to morning hours. Caffeine has been shown to stimulate production of cortisol, a primary stress hormone in the body. Cortisol should be highest in the morning and gradually taper off throughout the day. When production is stimulated later in the day, it can lead to elevated levels when the body should be moving into its rest phase.
- Sleep in a completely dark, cool room. Temperature matters, and the cooler the better. Likewise for darkness. Remove night lights, unplug illuminated clocks, install blackout shades or wear an eye mask. Keep computers, phones and tablets out of the bedroom, too. The short-wavelength blue light of electronics can disrupt production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep/wake cycles.
- Create and stick to a nighttime routine. The body prefers consistency. Decide when you need/want to get up in the morning and count back 7-9 hours. In general, getting to bed by 10:00 p.m. is best to allow the organs responsible for digestion and cleansing to complete their cycle when the body is fully at rest. For example, our two primary housekeeping organs, the gallbladder and liver, go through their cleansing and regeneration phases starting about 11:00 p.m.
- Physically tire yourself out enough so that your body WANTS to sleep. Here’s where daily exercise fits in. Exercise depletes energy stores. When stores are depleted, the body will do what it can to conserve its remaining energy. Hence, sleepiness. Sleep positively impacts the central nervous system, too, resulting in elevated mood and stress reduction. In addition, sleep supports and helps regulate circadian rhythms.
As you put 2017 to rest, resolve to get more nourishing sleep in 2018 by implementing the tips above…for your health.
Here’s to your health and vitality!
I believe good health is as close as your kitchen. My nutrition practice is based on nutrient-dense, whole food and lifestyle choices that support health and wellness, especially during times of high stress and transitions. My role is to educate, guide and support individuals who want to break the stress-induced cycle of depletion and regain control of their health. I am Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition® and look forward to helping you create a vibrant life. To learn more, contact me at 303-594-4401 or by email.