By: Janet Hunt
The Institute of Medicine reports that 50-70 million adults in this country have sleep or wakefulness disorders. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider poor sleep a “public health problem.”
When our body is rested, our body performs at its best. On the flip side, when our body is poorly rested, performance plummets. When we suffer from chronic lack or poor quality of sleep, we are likely to experience decreased brain function, hormonal imbalances, increased risk of heart disease, abnormal growth and development (seen in children and teens), decreased productivity and performance, fertility issues, poor immune and insulin responses, and an increased risk of getting in a motor vehicle accident. Sleep plays a crucial role in the repair and maintenance of all systems (physical and psychological) of our body.
Sleep is the time your body is working to repair, recover, build, strengthen, grow, and defend. Sleep is a productive process even if you aren’t moving.
• The brain “cleans house.” Cerebral spinal fluid flushes through the brain, cleaning out waste products from cells.
• Breathing and heart rates slow and blood pressure decreases.
• Hormones are released that aid in repairing tissues
It makes sense that if your body is chronically under-rested, your body cannot adequately repair tissues and blood vessels, produce and release hormones efficiently, or remove waste. If sleep suffers, there are other bodily effects.
When your body is sleep deprived, your brain craves food (and usually not the healthiest choices). The hormones responsible for regulating hunger and satiety become unbalanced. Ghrelin (the hunger “gremlin” hormone) increases, while leptin (the satiety hormone) decreases. Result: caloric intake increases and caloric expenditure decreases due to lack of motivation from mental and physical fatigue. This eventually leads to weight gain.
Poor sleep also results in higher-than-normal blood-sugar levels because a tired body is unable to effectively respond to insulin. If poor sleep is chronic, the development of metabolic disorders such as Type 2 diabetes is possible.
All of us require a slightly different environment to sleep well. However, there are some key ingredients.
• Remove (or turn off) all electronics and cover the alarm clock an hour before bed. The circadian rhythm is most sensitive to blue light (the type emitted from electronics).
• Make the room as dark as possible.
• Make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature.
• Evaluate the noise level or add a white noise machine or fan.
Behavioral tricks you can employ to improve sleep:
• Develop a routine. Incorporate relaxing activities (meditate, read a book, listen to calming music, etc.). No video games or Facebook.
• Try to avoid working out too late. Exercise will help you sleep, but not before bed.
• Reduce caffeine intake and limit caffeine after mid-morning. Caffeine antagonizes adenosine (another ingredient to promote restful sleep).
• Limit alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant that has sedative-like effects; but it also causes you to wake frequently during the night.
If you feel sleep deprivation is interfering with your life, talk to your health care provider. Medication is the last resort. Perhaps your physician can recommend something short term.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.