At various times I am reminded of the irreplaceable power of every day foundational components of health. Their actual necessity in preventing and reversing disease, no matter how many interventions we apply, is often overlooked. I guess because its assumed or forgotten? Humans, indeed all living things, do not get well and stay well without it…
It’s not food, or water or nutrients or less stress or more exercise... its Sleep !
Two thirds of UK adults suffer from either not enough sleep (5hrs or less) or light/ interrupted sleep. Make no mistake, backed by numerous studies, Adults 26-64yrs need 7-9 solid hours. More if your younger and slightly less if older. So lets fix this, you deserve nothing less than your bodies number one go to foundation for keeping you well.
This is by no means a shaming exercise, the fact is, we are not deliberately trying to self sabotage. I didn’t go to bed last night and plan to wake up at 3am!
This blog covers a few reasons why your sleep may be less than ideal, and what you can do to help :
Impaired sleep is actually a logical, appropriate response by the body under certain circumstances…. Why?
Many biological dynamics are at play when you experience poor sleep, so what can you influence?
Chinese medicine gives an alternative view of disrupted sleep and/ or specific waking patterns e.g 4am.
Clinically proved recommended interventions - you can take control!
Impaired sleep literally affects everything.
Logically impaired sleep
If you have been weathering very stressful circumstances, then a morning cortisol surge occurs as its anticipating more of the same in an effort to protect you. Melatonin and cortisol are both hormones and compete with one another in the name of your survival.
If your body believes you are safe, then it makes sense to allow you to experience ample melatonin and much lower overnight cortisol to allow deepest rest and optimal healing. However, if your body believes your world is threatened, and your survival is under threat, the melatonin will be suppressed and cortisol will surge to prepare you to fight or flight or survive as needed i.e stress both psychological and physiological will increase cortisol levels in your body which impaired your sleep because it thinks you need to be prepared to flee.
If you are waking at a specific time, after 5-6hrs. There are many possibilities for this, for example moderate stage insulin resistance can lead to low blood sugar dips overnight that the body has to rescue itself from by sending a surge of epinephrine. This can be as a result of brewing insulin issues that you may need to have checked out i.e if it has been occurring for some time e.g over 1 month. Or it could be a response to food and beverages consumed in the prior 12hrs.
Insulin resistance can also be the result of ongoing nutrition deficiency either from the food you consume and / or digestive fatigue meaning your body is no longer capable of absorbing nutrition from the foods you consume. This can be a chicken and egg scenario in that we often make poor food choices when we are tired. Its important to be aware and make conscious decisions or at least understand your body a little better and make informed decisions in favour of supporting your health foundations i.e sleep.
Chinese Medicine alternative take
Traditional Chinese medicine acknowledges that there is a time of day during which each specific organ system is most active e.g a 4 am awakening falls in the middle of the lungs greatest activity. This ancient practice would therefore suggest, the time of disrupted sleep is important and in the example of 4am (on an ongoing bassi), could point to issues with oxygen uptake and / or a congestion dynamic as being why you are woken at this time.
In the case of possible cortisol awaking response or insulin resistance response, the body is ultimately being conditioned by the level of stress during the rest of the hours of the day. So Stress and Sleep balance are essential foundations to keep in check.
Here are 5 things to help address your health foundation and “S” balance :
Ensure optimal sleep hygiene. Even if you fall asleep without trouble, research proves the few hours before bedtime still has a huge effect on priming your melatonin release. You therefore want to avoid full-spectrum light, loud noises, eating rich or sugary foods, and allowing or overstimulating activity e.g working, evening news or a crime show on TV 1-2 hrs before bed.
Explore effective stress management - many times we can become adaptive to stress and lose sight of the magnitude of what we are experiencing. Identify activities that calm your mind e.g walking the dog, baths, thinking of new and goods for the day, gratitude journalling. It’s important to prioritise activities that balance the messages your body is receiving about the status of your world. In order to allow optimal, sustained sleep, your body needs to experience a world that is safe and secure.
Consider the impact of physiological stress. Sometimes whatever mental or emotional stress is at play it is not the dominant driver for stress effected sleep patterns. Instead the body can be on high alert due to sources of physiological stress e.g allergies, unacknowledged food sensitivities that you continue to consume regularly, over exposure to toxins e.g beauty product regime, these too can cause sleep apnea.
Progressively reduce the intake of stimulants (especially afternoon) and alcohol. Sugar and caffeine does indeed have a negative effect on sleep quality and duration no matter how immune you believe you are to it, it stays in your system at least 12hrs after consumption.
Magnesium - The amino acids contained within is taken up across the blood brain barrier and is a precursor to glycine which acts as a calming neurotransmitter. Majority of us suffer from magnesium deficiency so its important to include it in your daily intake. Natural sources include Nuts e.g almonds, cashews, Seeds e.g pumpkin and chia, Green leafy vegetables e.g kale and spinach, Avocados and bananas.
Sleep is quite simply an essential part of fuelling your system no matter how old you are. The engine will always run better on a full tank.
I do understand that in times of high stress, its impact on sleep can seem hard to curtail but I encourage you to be aware and make conscious decisions - not reactive ones. Choices we make are most definitely improved with good sleep, let alone the effect it has on your overall health. So awareness of things that are jeopardising Sleep, as mentioned above, is the first very important step.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions on any of the content above.