Tonight is the night - you got into bed earlier then usual like you wanted. You lie there for the next while checking your social feeds before finally turning in. Its now an hour later and you’re still tossing and turning because you can’t fall asleep.
This scenario is all too common and probably one of the most frequent conversations that I have with practice members - sleep!
True health is more than just being symptom free. It’s my belief that we are all designed to be healthy as long as we are give our bodies the requirements it needs.
Sleep is by far one of the most important requirements for health in our body. A lack of good quality sleep is often another core problem that many people suffer from.
Remember that the default state of your body is to be healthy. It’s what our bodies know best - trying to continually create a state of balance.
Interrupted or poor quality sleep has been linked to a weakened immune system, accelerated tumour growth, pre-diabetes, and impaired memory and cognitive function.
FACTORS THAT ARE DISRUPTING YOUR SLEEP
Our sleep is controlled by hormones and many of us disrupt our body’s natural sleep cycle. For example, screen time before bed causes our body to release cortisol. Excess secretion of this hormone can lead to insulin resistance, fat accumulation, systemic inflammation, a delayed secretion in melatonin (the sleep hormone). A lack of sleep hormone can also lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is very clear in the literature that good sleep is an essential part of our health and prevention of disease and injury.
Here are some things that may be affecting your sleep:
Bright Lights: These trick our body to think that it is day time (especially from the TV, computers and cell phones). In response we will often release more cortisol and suppress melatonin (as it naturally occurs with sunlight in the morning). This makes it more difficult to fall asleep and reduces repair while sleeping.
Stimulants: Caffeine, sugar and tobacco are all stimulants which excite your adrenal glands and trigger the release of cortisol. Caffeine has a half life of about 6 hours. So 300mg of caffeine at 3pm will break down to a 150mg by 9pm and then 75mg by 3am. This can affect repair hormones in your body while you sleep.
Dehydration: If you do not drink enough water, dehydration causes a stress response in your body which will increase cortisol levels.
Entertainment/Lifestyle: Staying up later on weekends and trying to “train” your body for less sleep are often disrupting your body’s internal clock.
4 WAYS TO FIX YOUR SLEEP
1. Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol and Nicotine 4-6 Hours Before Bed: These stimulants interfere with your sleep cycles. Although alcohol may help bring on sleep, after a few hours it will act as a stimulant increasing the number of awakenings. Caffeine is also found in lots of products like tea, cola, chocolate and even some pain killers.
2.Make Your Bedroom Optimal For Sleep: Your room should be cool (no more then 21C), dark and quiet. Try using white noise machines, blackout curtains or an eye mask.
3.Establish a Pre-Sleep Routine: Ease the transition to sleep with a period of relaxing activities before bed. TV and Screen time should be avoided. Try reading a book, journalling, meditate, stretching, a bath (the rise and fall in body temperature will promote drowsiness). Avoid stressful stimulating activities like work, discussing emotional issues etc.
4.Go to Sleep When You Are Truly Tired: Struggling to fall asleep just leads to frustration. If you haven’t fallen asleep after 20mins, get out of bed, go to another room and do something relaxing like reading or listening to music until you get tired.
Remember that with anything that is beneficial for our health - it takes time and practice. Be patient and turn bedtime into a ritual so that your body can get the rest and healing that it needs.
Dr. Alfredo is an health enthusiast who’s goal is to help people and families live healthier, happier lives. My philosophy on health is simple - our body’s have the amazing ability and potential to self-adapt, self-regulate and THRIVE in this world.