Improve Sleep to Improve Health
Never underestimate the positive health impact of good, restful sleep. Although a short-lived bout of insomnia is generally not worrisome, chronic sleep loss can contribute to health problems such as high blood pressure, weight gain, blood sugar imbalances, impaired learning and memory, mood disorders, inflammation, increased pain, and cardiovascular issues.
Recent research has shown there is a connection between sleep and the gut-brain-immune network, indicating that those who suffer from sleep disturbances have altered the composition of their intestinal microbiome. These findings may lead to new treatments to improve sleep through gut microbiome manipulation.
Sleep deprivation can also lead to chronic, degenerative diseases by weakening immune function. There is evidence that insomnia is linked to early death and serious declines in quality of life. Safety may also be a concern since sleep debt can cause lapses in alertness leading to mistakes, such as medical errors, traffic accidents, and other work accidents. Psychological factors such as depression, anxiety, and tension account for about 50% of insomnia. However, dietary and lifestyle factors can also play a major role.
Restful sleep has a major impact on many systems of the body. Research has shown that healthy individuals getting only 4 hours of sleep for several nights can impair blood sugar balance to such an extent that would classify them as pre-diabetic. The immune system also follows a similar pattern of impairment. Those reporting less than 7 hours of sleep are almost three times more likely to contract a rhinovirus.
Inadequate sleep can also alter hormones that regulate hunger. At the University of Chicago, researchers found that those who slept only four hours a night for two nights had a 28% increase in ghrelin, the body’s hunger hormone. The participants also noted a 24% increase in appetite with a preference for foods high in sugar, salt, and starch. This research shows that inadequate sleep contributes to weight gain and several other health problems.
Facts About Sleep
Here are a few facts about sleep:
- Sleep loss may be one of the ways that inflammatory processes are activated and may contribute to the association of sleep complaints, short sleep duration, and cardiovascular morbidity.
- 35% of U.S. adults are not getting the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep each night.
- 50-70 million adults in the U.S. have chronic sleep and wakefulness disorders. Sleep difficulties are associated with chronic diseases, mental disorders, health-risk behaviors, limitation of daily functioning, injury, and mortality.
- From 1999-2010, prescription sleep medications increased by 293%; office visits with sleep disorders increased by 29%; and diagnosis of sleep apnea increased by 442%
- Clinical research has shown that sleep problems may precede conditions such as anxiety and depression.
- Sleep abnormalities are causally linked to impaired glucose balance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.
- Insomnia is one of the symptoms of inorganic mercury poisoning, accompanied by irritability, difficulty in concentration, loss of memory, apathy, and low self-esteem.
- Sleep disorders may trigger immune system abnormalities, inducing the onset of autoimmune disease.
How to Improve Sleep
For optimal sleep, go to sleep and rise at the same time every day (even on weekends). Try to go to bed each night by 10 p.m. and rise by 6 a.m. The deepest and most regenerative sleep happens between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. each night. During this time, your body is busy detoxifying, repairing, and rebuilding tissues. Your body also produces natural antioxidants, such as melatonin, to help prevent cellular damage that ultimately causes disease.
Follow these tips for improved sleep:
- Create a relaxing environment for sleep; make your bed a beautiful sanctuary for rest. Be sure your room is dark, clean, quiet, and comfortable. It is important to have a good mattress and pillow for proper structural alignment during sleep.
- Reduce electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure. Move your clock out of sight and eliminate all electronics (including the television) from your bedroom. Turn off your Wi-Fi router and cell phones. EMFs reduce your body’s ability to sleep and impair healing. Insomnia is the most commonly reported symptom following EMF exposure, which can include a typical cell phone call.
- Don’t take naps after 3:00 p.m. since late afternoon naps can make it more difficult to fall asleep at night.
- Eat a smaller dinner since digestion becomes weaker as the day progresses.
- Limit your intake of caffeine, including coffee, soda, tea, hot cocoa, and chocolate.
- Stop drinking liquids after 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. to avoid urination during the night. Your body requires about 90 minutes for your kidneys to process and excrete beverages.
- Avoid watching the news or stressful television shows before bed.
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol intake, especially before sleep. Alcohol impairs serotonin production and disrupts normal levels of this important neurotransmitter, making sleep more difficult.
- Avoid using a computer, cell phone, or other electronics two hours before bed. These emit blue light, which can alter your circadian rhythm and impair sleep.
- Practice mindfulness-based meditation (see therapy section below). Meditation can not only improve your sleep but positively impact other areas of your life.
Inadequate sleep carries some significant health risks. The good news is there are many things you can change today to make a difference. Start with the tips above. Remember, sleep is essential to overall good health, which is why Sanoviv doctors address it as a priority in all Sanoviv medical programs.