Gatekeepers of Your Gut Health

The Miracle of Sleep

By on January 27, 2015 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments

Ideally, it works something like this: During the day, the neurostransmitter adenosine increases, eventually causing sleepiness; the pineal gland secretes melatonin in response to darkness and under control of the circadian clock; the core body temperature drops and brain waves slip from alpha, to theta, to delta, back to theta, to rapid eye movement (REM, dreaming) sleep. Repeat four or five times and you awaken feeling rejuvenated and ready for a new day.

Miracle of Sleep

miracle of sleep

It seems so simple! However, a new documentary co-produced by the National Geographic Channel and the National Institutes of Health [Sleepless in America, 2014] indicates some 40% of Americans are sleep-deprived, getting less than six hours sleep at night. Less than six hours a night leads to cognitive impairment and has been associated with obesity, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and psychiatric disorders including depression and anxiety. Specifically, the documentary addresses what actually happens to us if we get less than six hours sleep:

-Reaction time slows.
-Both short- and long-term cognition suffer.
-Memory and learning decline.
-Emotions are heightened. Sleep deprivation causes a disconnect between the frontal cortex and the amygdale, which controls basic emotions like fear and anger.
-Immune function and health deteriorates.
Most of us are aware of at least some of the biggest factors influencing a good night’s sleep. Here’s a list to give you a few ideas you may have yet to consider for the miracle of sleep:

1) As best you can, go to bed around the same time each night, ideally 10:00-10:30, to best keep in touch with the circadian clock, and awaken at the same time each day, including weekends, using a gentle alarm clock, or ideally a sleep-stage monitoring alarm clock which will awaken you from light sleep,

2) If you wake up in the night and know you’re not going back to sleep, get out of bed and read or relax until you feel sleepy again,

3) Get some bright daylight exposure during the day,

4) Avoid caffeine, especially after 1 pm, and certainly in the evening, including coffee, tea, and dark chocolate,

5) Avoid alcohol, which is initially relaxing but can awaken you as it metabolizes,

6) Avoid the blue light from TV or your computer as long as possible before bed, at least one hour, and keep your room totally dark, using an orange, yellow, or red nightlight (not blue), if you need one,

7) Try to eat dinner at least two hours before bed and avoid drinking a lot of liquid right before bed,

8) Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime,

9) Have a hot bath, shower, or sauna before bed; and if you can make time for a bath, soaking in magnesium chloride will boost muscle-relaxing magnesium levels in the body,

10) Minimize electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom, at least by moving electrical devices away from your bed, turning off WiFi, or by using a gauss meter to detect and evaluate EMFs,

11) Keep your room cool, ideally between 60-68F, and quiet,

12) Keep your feet warm, by wearing socks in the winter if you need to,

13) Enjoy a relaxing cup of chamomile tea (it may wake you up to use the bathroom!)

14) Enjoy relaxing essential oil of lavender, in a diffuser or lightly sprayed on your pillow,

15) Allow fresh air in through a window, year-round,

16) Sleep on 100% cotton sheets, and avoid wrinkle-resistant sheets treated with chemicals,

17) White noise has been shown to help with insomnia,

18) Obstructive sleep apnea, where you actually stop breathing during sleep and wake yourself repetitively, has been shown to improve with even modest weight reduction. If you snore or feel less than rested in the morning and suspect sleep apnea, a sleep study is the best way to determine if you have it. As with all things, sleep included, losing weight and quitting smoking pay big rewards!

19) Another way to monitor for yourself how you’re sleeping is one of the fitness monitors, such as Jawbone’s Up band. It monitors micro-movements and can tell you how long it took to fall asleep, how many times you awakened in the night, how much deep sleep versus light sleep, and it will even wake you with vibration when you’re in a light sleep, so you wake up feeling refreshed.

20) If you’re a peri-menopausal or post-menopausal woman, sleep can become difficult due to decreased hormone levels. There are many beautiful herbs which can help with this (a google search finds too many to list! ashwagandha, licorice, black and blue cohosh, dong quai, many more). Talk with your healthcare practitioner about other natural ways to balance your hormones.

21) Tryptophan converts to serotonin then converts to melatonin in the brain, and the active ingredient in commercial herbicide is glyphosate, which leaches tryptophan out of the body. Buying organic and GMO-free foods is the best way to minimize your exposure to glyphosate, and maintain the raw materials to maximize your body’s natural melatonin production. Many people report supplementation with melatonin helpful on a short-term basis. Start with one mg. at bedtime. Tart cherry juice also boosts melatonin production and has a myriad of other health benefits. Drinking Restore™ liquid supplement protects against glyphosate exposure.

22) Eating a variety of foods and fewer calories was correlated with normal and long sleepers, versus short sleepers who ate more calories with less variety [Appetite, 1/29/2013].

Good night and good luck!

*Originally published for the Relay Foods Blog.

About the Author

About the Author: Dr. Zachary Bush is Relay Foods medical nutrition consultant, medical director of Revolution Health Center in Scottsville, VA, and founder of New Earth Dynamics. .


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