When you don’t get enough sleep it will lead to inflammation in the body and high levels of cortisol (stress hormone) which can lead to insulin resistance, weight gain, diabetes etc. Cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic. It can also increase fine lines and dark circles under the eyes.
Getting proper sleep is essential for your health and well-being; preferably 7-8 hours nightly. The goal is to get to sleep by 10 pm and not get up before 6 am. I know for some this is simply not realistic. However, your body repairs itself physically between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am and from 2 am to 6 am it repairs itself psychologically. So, if your job requires you to get up at 5 am unfortunately you’re missing out on an hour of mental repair.
In addition, very important hormones are made while you sleep such as HGH (human growth hormone) the anti–aging hormone, leptin, FSH, LH and Melatonin.
HGH-human growth hormone is released during the night but, you must be in a deep sleep state. If you miss out on this hormone, you will miss out its benefits; reducing the amount of body fat in healthy older adults and maintaining lean muscle as well as protecting bone. It’s also responsible for repairing your intestinal lining/gut from food that you've eaten during the day. Without this healing process your gut can become damaged, won’t properly digest your food and in turn lower your metabolism and from there lead to issues with the thyroid.
Leptin is the hormone/chemical that tells your brain you’re full after you eat a meal. If you miss out on this hormone, there’s not going to be that signal to the brain from Leptin.
Ghrelin, the "hunger hormone" stimulates hunger while leptin signals satiety to the brain and suppresses appetite so when you have sleep issues there will be a decrease in leptin and a rise in ghrelin. Bottom line…over-eating! However, it doesn't stop there not only does sleep loss appear to stimulate the appetite, it also fuels cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods.
FSH and LH are also released while you sleep. They are responsible for testosterone and estrogen. So, if you’re not getting proper sleep there’s a good chance of a hormonal imbalance. Some symptoms of a hormonal imbalance are fatigue, irritability, lack of sex drive, skin aging, and weight gain to name a few.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps to regulate sleep. It has an influence on other hormones in the body such as growth hormone. Melatonin supplements have become quite popular as a sleep aid. However, I would not recommend using this on a regular basis simply because your body is a system and if you’re constantly feeding it melatonin it will stop making it on its own. Melatonin is good for jet lag and traveling but not for long term use.
Melatonin, is produced when there is complete darkness. So, blue lights, computer light, your TV, hall lights, street lights, any light at all is trouble for your production of melatonin. If are not sleeping in complete darkness I would highly recommend a sleep mask.
If you are having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep:
I would recommend high intensity short bursts (20-60 seconds) of activity during the day to enhance growth hormone release.
Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 20 seconds. You should feel like you couldn’t possibly go on another few seconds. Recover for 60 seconds, still moving, but at a much slower pace. Repeat the high intensity short burst exercise and then recover. Do this 6-7 times. No more than 10-12 minutes total.
If you exercise late in the day this could also be causing sleep issues. For some people, exercising within a few hours of bedtime isn’t a problem. I know for me, if I exercise late in the day, I’m definitely not getting a good night’s sleep. It may involve some trial and error to see how working out affects the quality of your sleep. Take note on how well you sleep with and without a late workout.
You also want to avoid smoking and alcohol consumption, check prescription drugs for side effects as they may contain caffeine. Avoid caffeine containing products, stimulant-containing herbs, and hypoglycemic conditions. (When your blood sugar (glucose) level falls too low from not eating for more than four hours)
Some dietary recommendations- you may want to eat a little turkey before bed as it contains tryptophan. Drink some chamomile tea. Calcium and magnesium at bedtime have a relaxing effect on the body and can aid sleep. Having quality protein is essential at every meal to stabilize blood sugar levels. Most definitely avoid sugar and sweetened products. Replace sugar with stevia. Avoid taking stimulating supplements late in the day like carnitine and B vitamins.
It may also be time to detox-cleanse- reboot your system for a fresh start!
Lastly, if you feel like you haven’t had good sleep in a while consult your health care practitioner. You may need to rule out hormone imbalance/deficiencies, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, and weak adrenal function.
In a previous blog, I posted a sleep quiz check it out here: