Losing Sleep = Losing Health!
It’s easy to fall into unhealthy patterns whether it’s our food choices or our sleep habits. Some of us (that would include me) are susceptible to staying up too late, not keeping a regular schedule, and constantly “burning the candle at both ends.” This will inevitably lead to health problems if left unchecked. Just as we need nourishment, air, and water, our bodies exist in a world of day and night, a time to work and a time to rest. Sleep is when our bodies are renewed; we our detoxified, rebuilt, and restored for a new day. When we cheat ourselves of all the sleep we need, we accelerate aging! Those with chronic sleep deficiency have increased risk of cancer, heart disease, infections, arthritis, poor memory, and mood disorders. Sleep is so foundational; we are talking about every part of us!
Insomnia and conditions like sleep apnea cause sleep deprivation. Medications often only worsen the problem and can create a cycle of dependency. These conditions are most often due to lifestyle factors such as shift work, not keeping a regular schedule, watching TV and being on the computer at night, blood sugar problems, being overweight, and chronic stress and worry. The adrenal glands, which secrete our stress hormones, take the brunt of sleep-related troubles. All of us living within the experiment of modern life have tired adrenals! Tired adrenals can cause fatigue, frequent infections, poor healing, blood sugar and thyroid problems, infertility, and can disrupt our delicate hormone balance.
What are the key issues we should consider as it relates to sleep?
1. Keep a regular schedule as much as possible. Most of us need at least eight hours of sleep per night; women frequently need more than that and kids definitely do.
2. Shun evening TV, computer, and fluorescent light use. The bluish hues suppress melatonin, our sleep hormone. Use dim, soft lighting; towards the red spectrum is better.
3. Sleep with near absolute darkness. Illuminated clocks, streetlights, and nightlights are bad news for getting quality sleep.
4. Many parents falsely believe kids will set their own sleep timing. Just like “right and wrong,” kids need to be taught how and when to sleep. Parents also frequently underestimate their child’s sleep needs. The average three to four-year- old needs about 11 hours. They also need a consistent schedule and to learn self-soothing techniques. (An essential read is Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West, an absolute essential for every parent).
5. Avoid late meals, especially refined sugars and grains (white flour). Also, don’t skip breakfast! Ensure you are getting enough quality protein.
6. Get screened for adrenal, thyroid or other hormone and blood sugar imbalances.
7. If you are taking medications for insomnia or have a snoring problem, see a doctor familiar with a functional medicine approach.