Monday, April 16, 2012

Sleep: Do You Get Enough?

I can hear the collective answer - NO!
I'm going to get a little mean here, ready??

And may I ask why? Kids? Work? Computer/TV? Exercise? What? What is so important that you have to hijack your health to stay up until the wee hours of the morning and/or get up in the wee hours?

First, my one qualifier for this post: I understand that parents have a difficult time getting a good nights rest with kids getting up in the middle of the night and babies that need to be fed.
For the rest of you, I am pretty sure there aren't many excuses that will get you out of training yourself to sleep again! Isn't that what we have to do? This isn't just for infants anymore, us adults need sleep training! Sounds kind of pitiful doesn't it?

Are you one of those people who say, "Oh, I'll just sleep when I'm dead!" Well, let me tell ya, you will in fact be dead a lot sooner if you keep this lifestyle up! Sleep has so much more to do with how your body functions than you might think. Let me explain.

Why Sleep Is Important
Who has heard of the "stress" hormone, Cortisol? Cortisol is actually critical to life. Several functions include:
1) Regulating the immune system
2) Regulating connective tissue strength
3) Controlling how much sodium we have in our blood
4)* It releases glucose and fatty acids from the liver and lessens insulin sensitivity.

In a normal cortisol profile, cortisol is high in the AM and low in the PM. It works with insulin and glucagon to give us energy when needed and that is why it is low at night to help you go to sleep. When you are subjected to chronic stress (and less sleep), your body releases more cortisol than it should, therefore it is high all day. Abnormally elevated cortisol begins to disturb sleep, which makes us more prone to daily stress, which raises cortisol. Nasty cycle.

The consequences of chronically high cortisol include: suppressed immune system, elevated blood sugar, decreased insulin sensitivity, decreased sex drive, and the dreaded INCREASED Belly Fat!

If you are insulin resistant and have elevated blood glucose from cortisol, it causes you to store fat around your waist and to also not use fat for energy. So, while gaining more weight, you are also becoming so fatigued that your body can't operate properly to get you through the next day. You use coffee, alcohol, medicine to do so.

How is something artificial going to fix what is really wrong?

So, what can you do to sleep better and ultimately, live longer??
Well, I know we have all heard the tips on how to sleep better - like turn off all the lights in your room, stop using the computer an hour before bed, establish a nightly routine, don't eat after a certain time, etc. Do they work? Yes, they do, if you actually put them into practice! But it will take more than one or two nights of doing the same thing to make this routine. Your body will soon come to expect it and you will be tired at the same time every night. This is the time to take action and go to bed.

Eating a more "whole food" diet and exercising will also help balance your hormones to help you sleep.

I know it's a challenge to stop what you are doing and make yourself go to bed. If you are looking to improve your health and the way you feel, you HAVE to add more sleep to the equation.

Give me a shout out with your sleep tips!
~Leslie


RESOURCES:
Here is a good article about Insomnia treatment

Leptin and Ghrelin - the other two hormones that I didn't talk about, which are affected by lack of sleep



Source: The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf

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