This Article will take 4 minutes to read but will save you hours of restless sleep.
Awake at night?
If you have experienced tiredness, low energy levels, fatigue, sugar cravings, it is often linked to sleep deprivation. In fact lack of sleep disturbs the behavioural centres of the brain which can lead to eating the too much of the wrong foods and thus effect weight gain. Not to mention it prohibits the bodies repair function like the fight against free radicals. Ultimately lack of proper restful sleep can have a tidalwave effect on your body and lead to ill health and weight gain.
Busi – ness
We live in a busy environment, constantly wired, worrying about work, family, money all cause you to lie in your bed at night struggling to sleep. Often this can cause endless nights of torture – and when I say torture I mean it – North Koreans used sleep deprivation as a torture and interrogation technique.
If you have a young child you will know first hand how forced sleep deprivation can effect brain function, mood, energy and food cravings – picture a parent crying into a jar of double chocolate cookies, been there, done that. But, there is a side to sleep deprivation that is under considered and too often disregarded. Let’s be honest, we have all got caught up in our work – whether that means as a parent, boss, college, student, it’s the same problem. We have allowed this busi-ness to influence and override a need for sleep.
If you are not working late, you may be working in your head, figuring out problems and putting together to do lists. Ultimately this lack of sleep will impact your performance, the next day, and the next… Often leading to “stimulant abuse”. There are a small group of people, who are not stressing out or worrying and still suffering from poor sleep…
Let me tell you about a man I once knew. He had a healthy diet with no caffeine and very low GI foods. He drunk plenty of water. Didn’t have any children. Exercised daily and walked everywhere, I mean everywhere. He didn’t suffer from anxiety, wasn’t a workaholic and never watched TV or went online in the late hours, yet, even though he was doing all the right things to produce a wonderful and reliable body clock, his body was out of sync. He couldn’t sleep.
Every night he would go to bed feeling tired but wasn’t able to sleep for often several hours. The man, let’s call him George, couldn’t see. He was born blind. He suffered from a condition called non 24 hours disorder. Whereby the circadian rhythm and/or body clock are out of sink with the day/ night pattern of the 24 hour clock.
This condition affects 50% of totally blind people. It’s not because they are born with a faulty body clock. It’s likely that the normal indicator signals are unable to receive the message that communicate it’s time to sleep and thus the body feels tired but the mind can remain awake.
Your inner wisdom
Your body was built with an internal body clock. One that is programmed to want to repeat chemical and hormonal behaviour. For sleep this is referred to as the circadian rhythm which means “about a day”. When these sleep/ wake hormones are not able to receive the proper messages, it can have a very disturbing effect on your ability to get proper rest which can have serious effects on your health and is linked to increase risk of cancer, diabetes and obesity .
There is an area in everyone’s brains called the suprachiasmatic nucleus which is the location of the internal clock and controls sleep patterns. This issue of sleep and behaviour became more obvious in the 1970’s when this area was discovered. The suprachiasmatic is a cluster of cells that is part of the hypothalamus, the brain centre that regulates appetite and other biological states (note: It’s for this reason that when sleep is disrupted it can have an impact of your eating habits and cravings). The behaviour of sleep in the body is much influenced by the light and dark. In light we have elevated Adrenaline and in the dark we have elevated Melatonin. These key hormones are considered the main regulators to sleep/ wake cycles.
Melatonin the super hero
When we sleep we need adrenaline to slow down. If Adrenaline is the awake hormone than Melatonin is the sleep hormone, it calms your heart and breathing, places the body in a relaxed state so cleansing, repair and rebuilding can take place, in fact Melatonin is the bodies most powerful natural antioxidant killing free radicals, viruses, cancerious cells while protecting the good cells. It is for this reason that when people suffer sleep disruption they are vulnerable to getting ill.
This process has formed over millions of years to ensure better survival. Think about it, when you sleep, you are vulnerable. In nature you would be easy pray to a predator or competitor, in this instance your body would need to jump into action very quickly, your brain would need to think and react quickly so you can escape from the danger. In order for that to happen, your body needs the fight, flight or freeze response – Adrenaline fuelled stress response. Imagine if Melatonin took precedence over Adrenaline, you would fall asleep while working, driving, walking, you would stay asleep when your needed to be awake and be a juice dinner for a hungry predator. So, the question is, how to slow Adrenaline, increase Melatonin and have a better, longer nights sleep. We sleep in the dark because it’s safer, Adrenaline can disturb your sleep pattern because you may need to avoid danger. This makes you sensitive to noise – the person snoring next to you, light – the local street light, movement – being kicked in the bed etc…
The right sleep signals
Let’s talk about George again: His sleep problems might be because light going through the eyes sends signals to the behavioural centres of the brain that then change the production hormones. When your brain receive the light, your internal clock says be awake and increases Adrenaline activity. When it is dark the body clock says time for sleep and releases Melatonin. When you are blind this ability for light to communicate through the eyes is not possible and thus the hormones aren’t given the messages they need to produces a proper awake/ sleep cycle.
So if light is the main influence for a decent nights sleep, then ask yourself, what are your eyes seeing at night. Are they seeing light from a TV, computer screen, phone? Computer and phone screens are brighter than sunlight to the iris, producing a strong need to keep the body awake and alert. Not ideal for a well rested night. You know this right? You have heard it before, it makes sense to you, yet, we all need some unwind time and TV or Ipad, Netflix, phones are such great tools for chilling out. But, if you know there is a solution to your problem, one that you are in full control of, one that you can initiate instantly, it means you have the power to improve your health, productivity, performance and mood and help your body control weight and fight disease. Pretty awesome.
It is however important to note, that when your brain is active, especially when it is emotionally engaged your Adrenaline will be working overtime to keep you awake. So, here are a few handy lifestyle adjustments.
A few don’ts that will change your life:
– No sugary foods before bed – No emails at night time – No working passed a time that you can commit to, for example 7 pm – No money or deep conversations in the bedroom before bed – Turn down the light on your screens and in your house
– Apps for a better nights sleep: http://mashable.com/2010/06/24/iphone-better-sleep/ – Drink Herbal teas like camomile – Have relaxing warm baths with candles – Do deep breathing or very gentle stretches 30 minutes before bed – Use black out curtains or a face mask – Use lavender to help promote better sleep – Use earplugs to block out unwanted noise (other than children of course)
For some helpful strategies check out this video about “how to deal with sleep deprivation”: