Sleep: Your Silent Partner in HealthMay 31, 2021 05:25PM ● By Joseph Condora
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), individuals who sleep less than seven hours per night are significantly more likely to develop/experience the following conditions:
- Heart attack
Sleep is the most overlooked aspect of health and wellness. Even one night of sleep deprivation can make an individual’s blood work look similar to a type 2 diabetic patient. With obesity and type 2 diabetes on the rise, inadequate sleep has become the topic of conversation because high quality sleep is a vital part of glucose control. Without proper sleep blood sugar imbalances may contribute to elevated insulin levels and potentially obesity and diabetes.
The Center CDC recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. However, a research review published in the Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America showed that up to 30% of middle-aged Americans sleep less than six hours per night. Over time, this leads to a sleep deficit that can severely impact health.
Sleep and Mistakes
Research published in 2019 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General examined the effect that sleep deprivation has on the number of mistakes made in a work environment. The researchers stated, “Our research showed that sleep deprivation doubles the odds of making place keeping errors and triples the number of lapses in attention, which is startling”.
With this research in mind, think of the harmful effect that sleep deprivation has on the test scores of students. One study published in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine concluded that poor sleep quality in college-level students resulted in the same test scores as binge drinking and marijuana use.
Whether in work, study, relationships or play, restorative sleep is key to being the best version of oneself. Adhering to a few simple guidelines to prepare for and protect quality sleep cycles can make a huge difference.
Quality Over Quantity
Before going to bed, many of us set our alarms for the next morning after factoring in how many hours of sleep we would like to get. However, sleep quality is far more important than the amount of time spent sleeping. Spending eight or more hours in bed does not mean we flowed through sleep cycles properly and got deep, restorative sleep. When we wake still tired, then we spent a night being knocked out, not sleeping. What good is sleep if we don’t wake feeling rested?
Four Tips for More Rejuvenating Sleep
Tip #1: Avoid Light at Night
Our addiction to technology, from smart phones to laptops to TVs, is wreaking havoc on our sleep. It is well established that the artificial blue spectrum of light emitted from common screens suppresses melatonin (the good sleep hormone), which prevents us from getting high quality sleep. Turning off the blue-light offenders an hour before bed is an important step in preparing for sleep. However, new research is beginning to show blue-light isn’t the only type of light that is causing health issues.
Constant exposure to light (artificial or natural) disrupts our biological clocks. When our body senses light, melatonin (the nighttime hormone) begins to decrease and cortisol (the daytime hormone) increases. Cortisol is meant to be higher in the mornings and lower in the evenings. These hormones are inversely related, meaning if cortisol is high, melatonin production will remain low. Continual exposure to light leads to overproducing cortisol and underproducing melatonin, and according to research, may contribute to weight gain and difficulty in losing weight.
To balance cortisol and melatonin production, it is vital that we allow ourselves to be in complete darkness for at least eight hours per day. Realistically, this can be best achieved during sleep.
Tip #2: Get Blackout Curtains
Preparing the bedroom for restorative sleep starts with reducing light. Investing in blackout curtains and keeping electronics out of the bedroom are the first steps to eliminating light exposure. These curtains also block light pollution from street lamps, headlights, and security lights. Blackout curtains are available online as well as in many retail stores for as little as $25 a pair.
Tip #3: Get a Magnesium Massage
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the human body as it is required for over 300 biochemical processes to take place properly. Unfortunately, some research suggests that up to 80% of the population may have less than optimal magnesium levels. Magnesium plays a crucial role in blood pressure management, maintaining proper vitamin D levels, and sleep just to name a few things.
Individuals with low magnesium levels may experience restless sleep, insomnia, and continue waking up throughout the night. Magnesium is generally not obtained in large enough quantities through diet, so supplementation is often necessary. Consider using a magnesium gel or spray and getting a massage from your significant other at night. Not only will you get the relaxation and sleep benefits as the magnesium absorbs through skin, but the massage offers additional relaxation benefits.
Tip #4: Exercise in the Morning
Exercise should be a part of every person’s daily routine. Researchers at Appalachian State University found that individuals who exercise in the morning get 75% more restorative sleep at night.
Exercising in the morning seems to reset the cortisol/melatonin cycle. When you exercise, your body releases cortisol. By exercising early in the morning, you are causing the release of “daytime hormones” and restoring the balance of the sleep/wake cycle, allowing for cortisol to be higher in the morning and taper off at the end of the day.
A full, intense workout in the morning is not required to receive these benefits. Performing a 4-minute tabata (high-intensity interval training) workout first thing in the morning is enough to reap the sleep rewards.
Joseph Condora is a nutrition and health coach at Valley Integrative Pharmacy, located at 75 Washington Valley Road in Bedminster. For information, call 908-658-4900 or visit ValleyPharmacyRX.com. See ad, page 3.
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