Last week we discussed some of the direct effects of a lack of sleep and benefits of getting more sleep – now we will look more in-depth at several tips to help you get more sleep and what this will do for your body.

Tip #1: Your body needs deep sleep in a very dark room.  Research shows that even a small amount of light on your skin or seen by your eyes—even through your closed eyelids—can halt your body’s production of melatonin, a natural sleep-aid hormone.  Consider getting an eye pillow and darkening shades to help. According to the study above you can possibly avoid certain types of cancer with this tip!

I just learned that many dentists and doctors are talking to their patients about Sleep-Disordered Breathing (SDB), which includes sleep apnea. It is another serious threat to health. SDB is characterized by intermittent airway obstruction or pauses in breathing. People with untreated SDB have 2 to 4 times the risk of heart attack and stroke. Obesity seems to be a significant risk factor for SDB, and weight loss has been shown to decrease SDB severity.

Tip #2:  If you want to lose weight or balance your weight… Get more sleep! Researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat—56% of their weight loss—than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass. (They shed similar amounts of total weight regardless of sleep.) The dieters who lost sleep reported feeling hungrier than the well-rested group.

It may seem like a catch 22 for some. You are overweight, so you can’t sleep well because you may suffer from SDB and a good night’s sleep can help you lose weight, but you can’t sleep well because of SDB.  I feel the frustration building! There are simple ways to lose weight and I have touched on these in past blogs. Everyone is unique, and to know exactly what is happening with your metabolism I would need to see a full, comprehensive lab panel called Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis. We can then individualize a plan specific to your body.

Sleep loss and untreated sleep disorders influence basic patterns of behavior that negatively affect family health and interpersonal relationships.  Have you noticed any of these?

Do you often feel crabby?

Does your spouse snore?

Does it feel like you have to walk on eggshells around certain people because they are so high strung?

Do you know anyone who is chronically under slept?

The time of night you fall asleep is also important. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we work with something called the Horary clock.   Every organ in your body has a time of day when the energy of that organ is at its peak. Every organ is associated with an element (fire, earth, metal, water, wood), meridian, body part, time of day, season, color, emotion, etc.  The gall bladder and liver are associated with the wood element, and their time-of-day begins at 11pm. If you are not asleep by this time, it can impair the function of those organs, which can impact many aspects of your biology, including the quality of your sleep itself.  In Western Medicine we don’t normally associate sleep with the gall bladder or liver, however in TCM it is said that the Hun (spirit) of the Liver will not come to rest unless you are asleep before 11pm, and if the Hun doesn’t come to rest then you will most likely awaken in the morning feeling tired. In this medicine, the liver helps govern menstruation, ligaments, tendons, sinews and your eyes. Women who go to bed after 11pm often have higher incidence of PMS, menstrual cramps, clots, irregular menses, breast tenderness, mood swings, hormone imbalances, digestive challenges, weight gain, visual challenges, brittle nails, and sleep issues.

Tip #3: Be in bed and asleep before 11pm. I recommend starting to get ready for bed by 10pm so you can be asleep by 10:30pm.

Tip #4: Work a day shift. If you work a swing shift, or even a graveyard shift, do your best to have it changed or get support to stay balanced. In the least, get on a regular schedule.  See if your employer will give you a few months on this shift and then a few months off this shift to give your body time to recalibrate. If you do sleep during the day, make sure it is absolutely dark (Tip #1).

As previously mentioned, it’s ideal to be in bed and asleep no later than 11pm, except for teenagers, whose internal clocks are actually different during these developmental years.  They tend to stay up later and need to sleep in longer.  Unfortunately, schools have not embraced the science behind this yet.

Rest is also an important part of a healthy lifestyle for all ages. It rejuvenates your body and mind, regulates your mood, and is linked to learning and memory function. On the other hand, not getting enough rest can negatively affect your mood, immune system, memory, and stress level.

Tip #5: Schedule rest time for yourself. You probably hardly ever do this. I found when I actually schedule some down time rather than using that time to “catch-up” on things, I feel energized, my thinking is clearer, and I have a greater sense of well-being.

It’s important to seek professional and often alternative help if you are reading this and questioning your sleep habits and health.  If you want answers, consider a Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis. This is a proven way to identify the root cause of your symptoms and provide accurate assessment of what is happening inside your body. It’s only after this comprehensive assessment that you will have the answers to move forward and heal. It can be as simple as making one or two changes in your life.

Chronic sleep loss can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system’s power.  Find out if any of this is happening to you and you don’t even know it.

Here is what the Harvard Women’s Health Watch suggests are six important reasons to get enough sleep:

*Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who had slept after learning a task did better on tests later.

*Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way your body processes and stores carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect your appetite.

*Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.

*Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.

*Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.

*Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.

Have I gotten your attention yet?  This sleep thing is actually shockingly more important than you may have originally thought. Don’t stress out about it and lose any more sleep. Rather take action with Tip #6 below.

Tip #6: Take Action. Know what your lab markers are. Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. Research indicates that people who get less sleep—six or fewer hours a night—have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more. In fact, a 2010 study found that C-reactive protein, which is associated with cardiovascular inflammation and heart attack risk, was higher in people who got six or fewer hours of sleep a night.

C-reactive protein and homocysteine are just two of the inflammatory markers I need to see on a comprehensive lab panel. The panel that I advocate for renders 5-6 pages of detailed results that I interpret using Functional Blood Chemistry ranges vs. the average Sick ranges on your regular lab report. Yes, the ranges on your annual lab are based on sick people, not healthy ones!

There is a lot of research done on sleep. Study after study has found a link between insufficient sleep and some serious health problems, such as heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity.

In most cases, the health risks from sleep loss only become serious after several years, however this isn’t always true. One study simulated the effects of the disturbed sleep patterns of shift workers on 10 young healthy adults. After a mere four days, three of them had blood glucose levels that qualified as pre-diabetic.

I think you’ve gotten the point. Sleep is very important for optimal health. And you may not be sleeping deeply, long enough or in the best environment, which can severely impact your health.

Implement my tips and let me know how it goes.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Blessings of Vibrant Health,

Kristin Grayce McGary

Health & Lifestyle Alchemist