By Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP
Tossing and turning? Watching the hours crawl by? Even one night of poor sleep can make you an exhausted, irritable, sugar-craving beast the next day. We all have the odd sleepless night, but if sleep loss goes on long enough more serious problems like hormone imbalance, immune dysfunction, and weight gain can result.
Let’s look at the latest research to see what’s going on when you’re asleep, the relationship between sleep loss and other health conditions, and how you can increase your dose of healing ZZZs.
Why Your Body Needs to Sleep
Imagine a city at night. Offices are being cleaned, roadways and transit lines are being repaired, garbage and recycling is being picked up…
If these activities took place during the day, they would get in the way. Office workers couldn’t work effectively, traffic would become gridlocked. When morning comes, the city has been cleaned and repaired and is ready for another full day of operations.
It’s the same with your body. It’s vital to your daytime functioning that your body has a chance to perform these functions every night:
- Repair damage to muscles, organs and DNA
- Hormone production and release
- Process toxins for removal
- Process the day’s events emotionally
- Store long-term emotional and immune memories
The Physical Toll of Not Sleeping Well
What happens if these functions aren’t carried out properly and regularly? Cellular repairs fall behind, hormones fall out of balance, toxins build up, emotions aren’t processed, and long-term immune memories aren’t stored for the future.
A Vicious Cycle: Sleep Loss Worsens Existing Health Conditions
We’ve all experienced the 2-way relationship between poor sleep and stress. Up all night stressing about a work project? The next day you’ll feel even more stressed about it, leading you into a cycle of stress and poor sleep. And the negative effects go deeper if you already suffer from an imbalance in your health.
Sleep Loss Affects Immune Health
Sleep loss can impact your immune system’s lines of defense, the various stages of immune response that are designed to protect the body from infection and disease.
Research points to sleep loss having the strongest impact on targeted antibody resistance. The immune system’s learning and remembering only happen while you sleep. If you’re not getting good quality sleep on a regular basis, your immune system won’t be able to produce the antibodies. This means you could be more
susceptible if that pathogen visits you again in the future. Several studies show that sleep loss increases the risk of an infection taking hold.
Sleep Loss Affects Menopause
Studies show that almost 70% of women in perimenopause and menopause regularly experience sleep loss. Why is that?
Waking up restless and dripping with sweat in the middle of the night doesn’t make for a good night’s sleep. And the less sleep you get, the worse the menopause-induced night sweats may get.
Research also shows that the increased anxiety and depression that often accompanies menopause contributes significantly to many aspects of poor sleep including waking up often during the night, less time spent asleep, and waking due to troubling dreams.
Sleep Loss Affects Inflammation
Research shows that too little sleep, or a lack of quality sleep, results in increased levels of inflammatory markers and signs of cellular aging. Poor quality sleep can trigger low-grade, chronic inflammation that is characteristic of a wide range of diseases such as heart disease, metabolism disorders, chronic pain, some cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.
Sleep Loss Affects Excess Weight
Have you ever noticed looking slimmer after a period of regularly getting proper sleep? It seems too good to be true – lose weight by spending more time being sedentary? There are several reasons for this phenomenon.
Did you know that fat stores toxins? When your body is having trouble getting dangerous toxins out of your system, it does the next best thing it can to protect our cells: it imprisons them in fat so the toxins can’t damage the rest of your cells.
Also, many hormones are produced and distributed through the body during sleep.
Those strong sugar and carb cravings after a night of tossing and turning might come down to your sleep quality. When these hormones aren’t functioning properly, you’re more likely to eat more and make poor food choices and when you are tired, you are likely to exercise less due to a lack of energy.
9 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Sleep Success
Sleep hygiene isn’t just about a clean bedroom. It’s all the little things you can do to make your bedroom a restful place and set yourself up for sleep success every night.
1 – Create a Consistent Sleep Routine
Our bodies love routine. Get up at the same time every morning, and your body will find it easier to wake up. With practice, you may find that you’re feeling sleepy even before you hit the sheets!
2 – Limit Screen Time Before Bed
Research shows that blue light from digital screens can negatively impact sleep. Try not to use your smartphone, TV, laptop or tablet for one hour before bed. Skip the social media in bed, and save that late-night show that you like for tomorrow.
3 – Keep Your Bedroom Quiet
Sound is one of the biggest obstacles to sleep. Unless a key part of your sleep routine involves listening to relaxing music, keep your bedroom as quiet as possible. If you can’t control the noise around you, invest in some ear plugs.
4 – Limit Bedroom Light
Darkness is one of the cues your brain is looking for to get into sleep mode. Bedside lamps, night lights, and light coming in through your bedroom window can all interfere. A sleep mask can help if you are sharing a room with a night owl. If you work nights, consider installing blackout curtains for deep darkness.
5 – Stay Cool
Research indicates that it’s much easier to get good quality sleep in a cool room. Experiment with different temperatures to see what feels right for you by pre-programing your thermostat to dip at bedtime. If your bedmate has different sleep temperature needs, keep the room cool, and go European with individual blankets.
6 – Wear Breathable Nightwear
Polyester and other synthetic fibers are not very breathable, making it more likely you’ll heat up overnight. Opt for natural fibers such as cotton and bamboo to encourage airflow and allow your body to comfortably regulate its temperature.
7 – Don’t Eat Too Late
Digesting food is a huge task, using over 80% of the body’s energy. Ask your body to do this while you’re sleeping, and it won’t have the energy left to carry out that long list of overnight cleansing and healing functions. Even worse, digestion slows down at night, so it is best all-round to avoid eating meals after 8 pm.
8 – Work Out in the Morning, Yoga at Night
Strenuous exercise does contribute to great sleep at night, but not when it’s done within an hour or two of bedtime. Doing gentler forms of exercise (like yoga) right before bed promotes longer, deeper sleep.
9 – Use a Weighted Blanket
Recent research shows that using a weighted blanket can soothe your nervous system and result in deeper, more restful sleep.
Not Sleeping Properly? We Can Help!
As you can see, the one-third of your life spent asleep directly sets you up for success in the other two-thirds of your life. If you are not feeling your best and suspect sleep is the issue, it’s important to address the root causes.
Let’s work together to design a personalized treatment plan with calming nutrients and effective lifestyle changes that will work for you. We can run tests to check your hormone system function and see if chronic inflammation is present.
Give us a call to get started!
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Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP, is a woman’s hormone expert and the owner of Wise Woman Wellness LLC, an innovative wellness and hormone care center at 1480 Swan Road, De Pere. Mann is the author of the eBook: A Guide to Gluten and Going Gluten Free. She is a board certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner, one of a handful in Wisconsin and less than 1600 worldwide to achieve this distinction. She combines the best of conventional, functional and integrative medicine to help women with female, thyroid and adrenal hormone issues to live healthier, more abundant, joy-filled lives using a blend of compassion, cutting edge science, practical guidance and humor. Contact her at 920-339-5252 or via the Internet at www.wisewomanwellness.com. Join the introductory virtual seminar, “End Hormone Havoc – Crazy Hormones Cause Fatigue, Weight Gain and Brain Fog and How to Fix Them!”, offered monthly, to learn about specialized thyroid, adrenal and female hormone testing and customized, bioidentical hormone treatments to achieve lifelong optimal hormone balance, increased vitality and longevity.