by Carol Shwery DC, CCN
In today’s information age, you’d have to be living under a rock to not know how important sleep is. Just have to look on the internet, television news shows, magazines, or anywhere else, and everyone tells you how your health will decline without the proper sleep. We’re here today to confirm this is true, and help you find an answer to your sleep woes.
Do you sleep like a baby or do you sleep like a rock? As any new parent can tell you, sleeping like a rock is better. Babies’ sleep cycles are shorter than adults’. It takes some time for them to develop long sleep cycles and to learn how to fall back to sleep. How about you? Do you sleep “like a rock” for 7 to 8 hours a night and wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day? Or do you have trouble getting and staying asleep? Do you find that you are tossing and turning, or getting up multiple times a night?
The ideal amount of sleep varies for each individual, but the average adult’s basal sleep need (how much we need on a regular basis to perform optimally) is 7 – 8 hours. Most of us also have a sleep debt – sleep that is lost to poor habits, sickness, and getting woken up by the baby. While we can’t predict how much sleep you as an individual need, we can predict you will have health problems if you don’t sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body cannot rejuvenate and repair. You are at greater risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and car accidents. You probably knew that. The tricky part is finding the cause of your sleep deprivation.
One of the potential root causes of sleep deprivation is hormones. Cortisol is an adrenal hormone that operates on a circadian rhythm; it is synced up with exposure to light/dark and it’s intimately involved with how well you sleep. Levels are supposed to rise throughout the night, peak in early morning, then gently and gradually decline throughout the day so they are low at night while you sleep.
Cortisol gives you the energy to do the things you need and love to do during the day and then gently declines so you can be calm and relaxed and sleepy at night. If it doesn’t do that, and cortisol is low in the morning and elevated at night, your head can hit the desk during the day, but be ready to rumble at night while you’re trying to sleep.
Not sleeping is bad enough by itself, but it turns out it also makes you fat. Oh no! Research at The University of Colorado has shown that reducing sleep by even a couple of hours a night for one week will increase weight/fat gain! The participants in this study got five hours of sleep a night for a week. They actually burned an additional 110 calories a day, which may seem like a good thing. But it turns out that the study participants ended up eating more fats and carbohydrates; not so good. By the end of the week they had gained an average of 2 pounds each. The director of the study said that the weight gain was in part behavioral. ”We found that when people don’t get enough sleep they over eat carbohydrates. They ate more food, and when they ate also changed. They ate a small breakfast and a lot more after dinner. They ended up eating a lot more calories in after-dinner snacking than any other meal during the day.” Sound familiar? Furthermore, they found that sleep deprivation caused fat cells to become more resistant to insulin. Insulin resistance is the process that underlies Type 2 diabetes, the kind that you may recall is “an epidemic” . . . unless you’ve been hiding under that rock was mentioned earlier.
There are things that can change this process of insomnia, increased cortisol, nighttime insulin resistance, and fat production? Here are a few suggestions:
- Have a breathing exercise routine you do throughout the day.
- Be grateful.
- Do not eat three hours before bedtime. If you have a high carbohydrate meal, wait five hours before sleeping. This will reduce circulating insulin and decrease the chance of getting insulin resistance or diabetes.
- If there’s a chance you have sleep apnea, buy modafinil (provigil), get tested and treated.
- Magnesium glycinate may help you as well.
There are many other possible root causes of insomnia. Going to a qualified Functional Medicine doctor will help you find out if adrenal function is a problem for you, as well as investigating if there are other issues. Finding out what’s wrong with your sleep can help you on the road to better health and a more fulfilling life.
With over 37 years practicing functional and lifestyle medicine and chiropractic, Dr. Carol works with men and women who are struggling with declining health fatigue and pain to reset their body and age in reverse. She identifies the root causes of their health challenges, and offers treatment and tools to implement natural lifestyle and attritional solutions to restore and transform health and have a body in life without limits.