What Your Sleep Patterns Say About Your Health
We’re continuing on the theme of sleep this week. Sleep is super, UBER important. Your body needs rest. Your brain especially needs rest. There are so many things that happen as you sleep. For example, your stress hormones decrease, your body goes into “healing” mode to repair any daily damage PLUS important hormones like melatonin, growth hormone and testosterone get secreted while you sleep.
That means…if you are not sleeping, you are not increasing your levels of the hormones that repair your body and keep you healthy, thin, and feeling energetic.
So what is the recommended amount of sleep…and is it really okay to only get 4-6 hours per night? More importantly, what does it mean if you are NOT getting the recommended minimum 8 hours of sleep required for regeneration. Most people not getting this amount would probably love more, but everything from “busy” brain to just not getting to bed in a timely fashion are responsible for this deficit.
According to major polls, half of the US population gets less than seven hours per night. Some people claim that they don’t “need” the sleep and actually feel nice and energized at night. Unfortunately, your body might be asking for sleep in different ways, your stress hormones could be keeping you up, and you aren’t getting the health benefits of sleep regardless.
How can you tell if your body is asking for more sleep? Let’s check out some sleep patterns and what they might be telling you.
1.Do you snore or breath loudly?
This can be a sign of sleep apnea. This is a condition wherein a person may inadvertently stop breathing during sleep because of throat muscle relaxation or windpipe collapse. People diagnosed with sleep apnea have lower levels of oxygen and this can affect the entire cardiovascular system. If you wake up tired or are obese, and/or your partner comments that you seem to stop breathing when you are sleeping, it is best to get a sleep study for diagnosis. Treating this is key to having more restorative sleep as well as preventing the health consequences of sleep apnea.
2. Do you fall asleep quickly when your head hits the pillow?
It should typically take about 10-15 minutes to start drifting into sleep. Anything less than that is a sign that you are experiencing sleep deprivation. For instance, if you literally fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, your body is absolutely sleep deprived. Also, if you find that you are nodding off or dozing during the day, this is another sign that you are sleep deprived.
3. Are you more forgetful?
Remember that the brain is one of the organs most impacted by the lack of sleep. During sleep, your brain processes information, consolidates that information and organizes your memory banks. If you are not sleeping deeply enough for this to happen, you may find yourself forgetting things more often, especially long term memories. It is also during sleep that toxins that may have accumulated in the brain are removed. If you aren’t getting good, deep sleep, then you are increasing your risk of Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain disorders.
4. Has your sex drive decreased?
Yep..you guessed it? Remember I said that testosterone, our “libido” hormone can decrease if you are not getting good sleep. In addition to that, testosterone is a “feel good” hormone so having lower levels means less energy and vitality. Add into the mix feeling sleepy, overwhelmed and cranky and your libido doesn’t have a chance!
5. Are you having a tough time losing weight?
There are several reasons why the lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain. First off, if you are not decreasing your stress hormones enough, you may notice more of a spare tire or muffin top. Our stress hormones always want to store extra fat cells for a “rainy day.” Also, lack of sleep can stimulate the hormones that trigger your appetite such as ghrelin. Leptin, an important hormone for signaling satiety, as well as growth hormone, is often decreased with sleep loss. The highest levels of growth hormone are secreted in deep REM sleep and this hormone helps keep you lean and young. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, then you’re more likely to age faster, have slower metabolism, and dull skin, hair, and eyes.
**Ultimately, if you are having these issues with sleep and nothing seems to work, you likely need deeper help. Follow up with your primary provider or email me for suggestions for your individual situation.
So how can we improve our sleep in order to maximize our health? There are a number of things we MUST do! Find the ones that work for you, but remember to make your sleep an absolute priority.
1. I repeat…MAKE sleep a priority. Consider the time that you need to wake up, count back 8 hours and aim to go to bed at that time every night. Stop work and other activities 30 minutes prior to bed so that you can unwind, relax, and start training your body that it is time for rest.
2. Sleep hygiene means making sure that your sleeping environment is optimally conducive to getting the rest that you need. Aim to keep your bedroom cool and dark. No working, no watching tv as you are drifting off, and no bright lights in the bedroom. Train your body to know that your bedroom is intended for sleep, sex, or rest.
3. Pick one nightly activity that will help you to unwind. Choose one that works for you and mix it up if you need to. It might be taking a warm bath (with lavender essential oil), drinking a warm cup of chamomile tea or golden milk, or doing a very relaxing bedtime yoga flow.
4. Move your vigorous body movement to the morning or during the day. Right before bed is not the time to pound it out in the gym. If you feel you don’t have time to do your exercise in the morning, focus on your sleep first. Get restful sleep so that you can set the alarm a little earlier for your workout. Otherwise, take a nice walk during your lunch break or right after dinner.
5. Meditation! Meditation is useful regardless but especially if you find that you have “busy” brain right as you are trying to go to sleep. Remind yourself that the most important things on your "to do" list will still be there when you wake up. In fact, getting deep sleep will allow your brain to process your “problems” and you’ll likely wake up with better solutions. I enjoy a type of meditation called brainwave entrainment. It requires earbuds but it literally meditates YOU! It’s great for beginners and seasoned meditators and is perfect when you are having trouble getting to sleep.
6. Try a natural supplement. Did you check out last week’s article? I offered some natural remedies to help with sleep. You can also try my favorite natural sleep supplement HERE. You can still use the coupon promo10 for 10% off anything in the store.
What sleep routines do you find most relaxing? Do you see yourself in one of the patterns above? Let me know…I’d love to hear!!