It’s World Sleep Day this Sunday!

Having a hard time losing weight? Concentrating? Struggling with your mental health? Feeling overly stressed, drained, and just overall depleted? IT COULD BE YOUR SLEEP! Did you know that humans spend 1/3 of their life sleeping?! If we spend that much of our life asleep, it must be important, right? Especially if it has an entire day dedicated to it! The answer is YES! Sleep supports every process in the human body. It supports our ability to develop immunity, regulates metabolism, impacts our daily mental and physical functioning, and affects our risk of developing a chronic disease. During sleep, the body replenishes its energy, and repairs cells, tissue, and muscles. The brain actually has a huge influx of cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid that flows in and around the brain and spinal cord, to wash away harmful waste products that build up during the day between your brain cells (called the glymphatic system). Think of it as sleep giving the brain a deep clean! This process can only occur during sleep. It’s no wonder that when we get a poor night of sleep, we have a harder time thinking clearly!

All of the things you are struggling with, including difficulty losing weight, fatigue, irritability, concentration, libido, hormonal imbalances, and even chronic disease, could be (and are likely) related to inadequate sleep. Cortisol, our stress hormone, starts off highest in the morning and decreases throughout the day. The hormone that offsets cortisol is melatonin. As cortisol decreases, melatonin is supposed to increase to help regulate our sleep-wake cycle. However, when cortisol levels continue to be elevated later in the day, due to things such as chronic stress, melatonin production is suppressed. When melatonin production is suppressed, our body loses its natural sleep-wake cycle. What else can suppress melatonin production? The biggest, most common factor we see in functional medicine, is that people are exposing themselves to screens within 2 hours of attempting to sleep. Unfortunately, there are some people who are unable to avoid screens within 2 hours of bedtime. What is the next best thing to avoiding screens you might ask? BLUE LIGHT GLASSES. By blocking the blue light that is released from screens, it can help reduce the impact of screen time on your night of sleep, and melatonin release is less suppressed.

Still struggling with sleep? Here are some additional tips that may be helpful:

  1. Avoid TV and screens for at least 2 hours before bed.
  2. Try to avoid any caffeine intake after 2 pm.
  3. Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can be extremely helpful in improving sleep patterns!
  4. Incorporate meditation or deep breathing exercises to help reduce stress and promote melatonin release.
  5. Avoid alcohol. Even though alcohol can help you fall asleep easier, it can lead to poor sleep quality and duration.
  6. Stop eating 3 hours before bed. When you eat later at night, it disrupts your body’s natural circadian rhythm. Eat at least 3 hours before bed to help promote a regular circadian rhythm.
  7. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  8. If you are unable to fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something calming in a room that is dimly lit.

Sleep difficulty can be caused by different reasons and can affect people in different ways. Some people fall asleep quickly but will have frequent nighttime awakenings. Others take hours to fall asleep, but once they fall asleep, they are only able to catch a few hours of zzz’s before their alarm clock goes off. Some people think they sleep great, but never seem to wake refreshed. If this sounds like you, come see our functional medicine team to help you figure out why you are having difficulty sleeping, and what you can do about it to improve your sleep and overall health!