Missing out on your zzzz's is NO JOKE! Some of us have experienced it first-hand, while we watch our health decline. Some of us know we need sleep or we'll be cranky (Lucky for everyone else that we're aware! HA!). And others of us think we're Super Man or Wonder Woman and don't require much sleep to function. Keep in mind that drinking caffeine and eating sugar all day to keep you going isn't functioning. Besides, we were made to THRIVE, not just "get by!" When we experience weight gain that won't budge, get infections, catch a cold, or start to see new symptoms that are unexplained, it could easily be tied to a lack of sound sleep. Both quantity and quality are important here.
Sleep is so important that it has a bearing on every system in your body! This is the case because of the regeneration that happens during your sleep. All systems and organs are being repaired, down to a cellular level while you sleep, but only during the necessary phases and minimum length of sleep. Studies show that whether we sleep or not and the quality of our sleep determines everything about your health: your hunger and how much you eat, your metabolism, your immune system, your ability to cope with stress, your memory, and even your intuition and ability to make sound choices!
Not getting at least seven hours of sleep can wreak havoc on your health:
· Cardiovascular disease
· Diabetes (30% decrease in insulin response = 30% more fat and 30% less energy from the same food!)
· Learning and memory problems
· Weight gain
Because it’s been said that not getting enough sleep has a similar effect on us as when we’re under the influence of alcohol, it definitely alters our minds and I believe it negatively impacts our spirit. Our spirits can become dampened by the blow of sleeplessness and can also become agitated so we don’t know how to express ourselves in meaningful ways. Its effects are truly far-reaching!
It’s important to understand the part that hormones play with your sleep. How can we be a true expression of the fruits of the Spirit without being filled with the Holy Spirit? How can we keep our heads up long enough to read God's word and commune with Him to be filled with Him if we're sleep deprived? This is an EASY way for Satan to attack us because we've made ourselves vulnerable!
· First, our circadian rhythms, which are like our internal clock for sleeping and awakening, are greatly dictated by our environments, including our hormones. If the stress-response hormone, cortisol is too high when it’s time to sleep, the hormone melatonin will be too low to help you get to sleep and stay asleep.
· Studies show that not getting enough shuteye can cause an imbalance of the two hormones that regulate your hunger and satisfaction. Ghrelin signals to your brain that you’re hungry and leptin signals to your brain that you’re full. If you’re not getting enough sleep though, they won’t send the signals at the right times, which is cause for your feeling hungry and having an increased appetite sometimes when you don’t otherwise know how to explain it!
· While you sleep, your body is working hard to produce and maintain appropriate levels of these hormones: growth hormone, thyroid, and sex hormones. If you don’t get enough sleep you’re just asking for hormonal imbalances!
Another scary outcome of insufficient sleep is increased daytime inflammation, especially for women. And this is noted for those who get less than eight hours of sleep, not even extremely limited amounts of sleep because once you dip under eight and especially seven hours, the effects are pretty much the same! For such levels of sleep loss for four nights or more, inflammation is lit on fire and completely out of control; the body can’t even regulate it. This then makes you more prone to sickness and infections. And it’s a two-way street: Inflammation from things like infection, food antigens, stress, and toxins can lead to insomnia, so it makes for a vicious cycle!
So now that you clearly see the NEED for getting sleep and enough of it, how can you make it happen? Here are a few ideas from several resources:
1. Try going to bed eight to nine hours before you need to get up for one week. That will help you to know about how much sleep you need each night and gives you enough time to actually fall asleep after getting in the bed. Note that “catching up” on sleep on the weekends is a bad idea. You need to maintain as consistent a routine as possible to keep your circadian rhythms in check and the endocrine system running properly to regulate your hormones and their balance. God is so good! He made our bodies to tell us when to sleep and when to rise. This is controlled by hormones that make up your the circadian rhythms which drive your sleep and wake cycles.
2. Don’t eat at least two hours before going to bed, with four or more hours being optimal. Your digestive system and especially your liver need as much time as possible to restore and renew for a new day of work ahead! Give them a much needed break so they can work optimally for you when you need it most. This is a great way to improve a sluggish digestive system as well as your blood sugar levels, preventing or reversing diabetes.
3. Power down! Turn off all electronics or if watching relaxing television, use amber glasses 30 minutes before getting in bed. The blue light from all of our electronics tricks our internal clock so it doesn’t get the signal of what time it REALLY is. You can also use an app called f.lux for your computer screen. You can get glasses at www.lowbluelights.com. Absolutely no TV in the bedroom and no TV to fall asleep with. You’re lying to yourself if you think you’re getting good quality sleep this way.
4. Wind down. About 30 minute to an hour before bed time, try to start relaxing and disengaging from your busy day by taking your mind and body to a relaxing state. You can take a warm bath in your favorite essential oil; read something relaxing; journal your thoughts on paper so there are no unresolved issues weighing down your mind before you try to sleep; listen to relaxing, calming, and soothing music; stretch; or breathe deeply. The last three on that list can be done all together if you like! This is a GREAT TIME for reading God's word or a Christian book to fill your mind with peace before you sleep.
5. Lights out by 10pm! The sooner you can get to bed the better! While eight hours is important, studies show that starting your sleep after midnight isn’t as good as starting before, even if you get a full eight hours. You get the most rejuvenating sleep hours in before the stroke of midnight.
6. Do anything you can to make your environment as comfortable as possible. Try dark curtains or an eye mask; you never know if just a little light is bothering you. Try a noise maker if that helps.
7. Exercising is actually really good for sleep, just not too intense right before you go to bed. You could even get moving in the morning; it still helps you to sleep better. Remember, high intensity exercise is better earlier in the day when your cortisol levels should be higher.
8. Cut out alcohol and caffeine. While alcohol might help you to get to sleep, it can cause sleep disturbance throughout the night. And caffeine can even disrupt your sleep when consumed as much as eight hours before you go to bed!
9. Sugar can also cause a lot of sleep issues, including night sweats, which are enough to wake you and keep you up. It’s like a kid knocking on your door to play in the middle of the night.
10. Get as much sun exposure as you can first thing in the morning and throughout the day. This will help to regulate your circadian rhythms so your internal clock knows when it’s time to work or play and when it’s time to sleep. Just be sure you don’t get sun-burned! Vitamin D is important for sleep too, so you’re getting it every time you get sun exposure without sunscreen.
11. Do what you can to wean yourself off of anti-depressants, as studies show they interfere with normal sleep patterns. This can even continue after coming off the medication, which is why it’s best to treat the root cause and not the symptoms of depression.
12. Treating the root cause of sleep disorders, disruptions, and levels is also of utmost importance. By taking some of the precautions I’ve mentioned here, most people can improve their sleep quantity and quality, with just a little investigation and effort on their part. You’ve just got to care enough about your health to make this a priority. It’s a major part of self-care as well!
Consider the following for added support. (all recommended by MDs: Kelly Brogan, Sara Gottfried, and Alan Christianson)
1. Magnesium- 200-400mg (with your last meal of the day) + 2,000 to 4,000 IUs of vitamin D
5. Chamomile (oral supplement or essential oil)
6. Gelatin -Add 1 tablespoon to your calming tea with any of the herbs from 2-5 on the list
8. Lavender oil (orally ingested)
9. Cedar wood oil on your big toes
10. Copaiba oil works better for some people (rubbed on your feet)
11. Melatonin only for short-term use: 3-10mg, depending on what works for you
12. Nux Vomica 30C for tension and feeling overworked
13. Ignatia Amar for feelings of distress and emotionality around insomnia
14. Kali Phosphoricum 30C for nervous fatigue (mental fatigue from demands)
15. Ambar Grísea 30C for sleepiness that disappears when you lay down
16. Arsenicum Album 30C for waking with anxiety between 1 and 3 a.m.
17. Peace & Calming Essential Oil Blend (Young Living Essential Oils)
18. Vetiver Essential Oil (Young Living Essential Oils)
19. Angelica Essential Oil (Young Living Essential Oils)
***Please reach out if you need a good source of supplementation or oils. My preferred brands are Young Living Essential Oils, Thorne, and Designs for Health supplements.
If you take or are taking sleeping pills, please think again. First, have you read the list of side effects that I call direct effects? Not only do they tend to be very addicting, most of them have a risk of death and cardiovascular disease, as well as many other symptoms. Studies show that they’re not even as effective as we’d like to think, as they’re not really improving the quality or quantity of your sleep.
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The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried, MD (page 379)
A Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan, MD (pages 181-188)
The Adrenal Reset Diet by Alan Christianson, NMD (pages 105-106)
Wired to Eat by Robb Wolf (pages 108-123)