Too Much of Too Little – Sleep
I am quite excited to write about one of my favorite pastimes, sleep. I find sleep time to be my healing time. Interestingly enough, as of 1999, the average American was obtaining between 6-7 hours of sleep nightly. In 1970, the average was 8.6-9.2 hours of sleep nightly. We’re all pretty clear about why we are sleep deprived. What most of us are not clear about are the number of known side effects sleep deprivation can bring to our mental, physical, and emotional health.
Given that we are a nation riddled with insomnia – (defined as difficulty falling or staying asleep), I am experiencing vast numbers of clients presenting with low adrenal and thyroid function, topped off by huge hypoglycemic swings. The three health dysfunctions generally go hand in hand.
The importance of sleep cannot be over-emphasized. Without a consistent eight hours, in bed by 10:00 – 10:30 PM, up at 6:00 – 6:30 PM, your circadian rhythm clock will be jolted out of synchronization. Believe it or not, your body responds to the cycle of the sun. Sun up – we should be up. Sun down – our lights should be out.
Between midnight and 2 AM, your adrenal glands (located on top of your kidneys, which, by the way, are one of our major detoxification routes for the body’s vast number of toxins) go into production to replenish many of your body’s hormones the most important being your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a major player to assist us in handling stress, inflammation, imbalances, etc.
If one becomes sleep deprived, cortisol levels become elevated later in the day or evening, leaving your cortisol tank on empty. Viola, the next morning, you wake up feeling draggy and drugged. Fast forward to four plus “kick those cortisol levels up” cups of coffee later, and by noon to 3:00 PM, your adrenals are plowing to a halt. You crash and burn. When cortisol levels are falsely elevated, the loop effect from the adrenals to the thyroid to the hypothalamus region to the pancreas back to the adrenals causes your body to store fat!
You also experience a hypersensitivity to increased daily stressors. Blood pressure rises, heightened reactions follow, performance drops, memory loss increases, and accidents trip up the best laid plans. Last year alone, over one hundred thousand car crashes were blamed on tired, stressed drivers. Research shows that one and a half hours less sleep than the needed eight to eight and a half can reduce alertness and reaction time by one-third the following day.
With lack of sleep, growth hormone production declines as well while increasing hormonal imbalances on all levels. This leads to a rapid increase in the aging of your cells, fat deposition, decreased muscle mass and strength, as well as lower tolerance for physical activity.
The most important task is to reset your cortisol clock. To do this, one must be in bed by 10:00 PM -10:30 PM, the cortisol production line operates from 12:00 – 2:00 AM. Detoxification, rebuilding and repairing of your body’s billions of cells, organs and systems occurs between 3:00 – 6:00 AM. Do your very best to sleep during these two critical functions. Sometimes a natural sleep aid such as Calmatrol or Sleepy Time tea are helpful to put you to bed by 10:00 PM.
If thyroid, adrenal and pancreatic function are out of sync, many varied symptoms may crop up and begin nipping at your health. Fatigue, lethargy, constipation, weight gain, depression, and excessive cravings for carbohydrates are a few of the most notable flags. It is possible to alleviate most of these symptoms with healthy meal plans and weight loss programs.
To assess thyroid function, take an armpit body temperature test first thing in the morning before rising. If your body temperature is less than 97.6, this suggests lowered thyroid function. Should your body temperature be one or two degrees less than the normal 97.6, each degree would signify a 13% decrease in base metabolism! Hence, low thyroid function.
Keep in mind if thyroid function is low, so is your adrenal function. The adrenals assist in producing and regulating over 360 different hormones daily, including our female hormones. Our adrenals are the key to youth, longevity, vitality and healing. They require a daily supply of multiple B-vitamins, minerals and essential healthy omega 3 and 6 fatty-acids in your diet plans.
When adrenal and thyroid functions are optimal, our pancreas regulates its performance of insulin. Hence stable blood sugar. One feels great!
Lose caffeine and reduce alcohol , as both disrupt your REM sleep. Count your calories: if your daily caloric requirement is too low, sleep disruption is not uncommon. Take your weight X 12 – 500 to find the optimal, minimal number of calories your body needs per day. For testing, restoration, or assistance in balancing your body’s chemistry, do call Nutrition Consultants for more information. Wishing you peaceful, sweet and ample sleep – Deborah Arneson President of Nutrition Consultants, Licensed clinical nutritionist.