Is Sleep the Most Important Factor in Good Health?
We spend so much time discussing food and fitness when it comes to optimizing health but often the most important and overlooked is sleep. It is one of the easiest and most beneficial changes you can make to bring you one step closer to optimal health and longevity. Sleep is the most important time for our body to rebuild, detoxify, and even maintain a healthy weight! Wait sleep can help you stay slim and trim?!? I’m going back to bed – zzz!
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine studied visceral fat accumulation using a CT scan for a five year period. The results show subjects who slept less than six hours a night over the course of this five year period had a 19% gain in visceral fat, compared to those who slept for more than six hours per night on average. This is attributed to hormones. When you sleep your body works to make and balance hormones. If you don’t get enough sleep the body isn’t able to function and balance properly. In the crazy fast paced world we live in, sleep is often the only time the body has to shut off its flight or fight sympathetic nervous system.
I mention that sleep impacts hormones but just how impactful?
- It is suspected that 70% of your HGH (human growth hormone) is produced during sleep. HGH is sometimes referred to as the youth hormone.
- Lack of sleep often causes increased cortisol levels therefore increasing fat storage.
- The majority of testosterone is utilized during the waking hours and made during sleep. The ‘Journal of the American Medical Association,' confirmed that men who are sleep deprived over just one week of getting five hours of sleep per night saw their testosterone levels drop by up to 15%.
- Ghrelin which works to trigger hunger was found to increase 15% with just one single night of sleep deprivation according to a study by the 'Journal of Sleep Research'.
- Sleep can also disrupt and change the microbiome in the gut. A study done by ‘Cell’ of jet lagged participants looked at stool samples showed changes in the bacteria balance.
Sleep deprivation is quite possibly the biggest epigenetic trigger on our aging and can even lead to a shortened life span through the impact it has on our telomeres. Telomeres are compound structures at the end of our chromosomes that protect our chromosomes. They typically shorten as we grow older and are often used to predict one’s life span. Think of them like the plastic tips on the end of a shoelace. As the plastic starts to break down and wear away the shoelace begins to unravel. Not good for the shoe lace or us!
So what are some ways to help ensure you get a good nights sleep?
1. Avoid caffeine after 2pm.
2. Drink a Rishi tonic or Chamomile tea with lavender after dinner.
3. Invest in a pair of blue light blocking glasses that you wear after the sun goes down.
4. No screen time an hour before bed instead read a book, do yoga or meditate (exposure to blue/ white light disrupts our body’s cue to make melatonin)
5. Spend time in nature connecting with our natural circadian rhythm
6. Eat foods loaded with probiotics to maintain healthy microbiome (yogurt, fermented foods, kombucha, kimchi, etc.)
7. Eat organic food so the body has less healing and detoxifying to do at night from the pesticides found in conventional food
8. Invest in black out curtains (life changing!! Found ours on Amazon)
9. Get a sound machine that plays white noise, rain, ocean waves, whatever is your flavor
10. Try and go to bed and get up around the same time each day so your body can stay in a natural rhythm for optimal function
There are some really great studies out there that show many correlations between sleep and health. Something worth researching more if this wasn’t enough to sell you on the importance of sleep! Goodnight!