Nowadays, it’s hard to find a healthy living concept that isn’t debated by at least one online health guru.
There’s one belief however that’s universally acknowledged as ultra-important to overall health.
Sleep. You need it. It’s just that simple.
And while the modern world isn’t exactly conducive to a good night’s sleep, one health-optimizing dreamer, Abel James, has some ideas about how sleeping well can make you feel well.
Everyone’s sleep consists of five stages:
NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) Stages 1 and 2: You transition between being awake and sleeping. Your heart rate slows down and your body temperature drops.
NREM Stages 3 and 4: Deep/restorative sleep where muscle tissue is repaired and hormones that control muscle growth, appetite, and mood are released.
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Stage 5: Where dreaming occurs. Energy is diverted to recharging your body and brain.
REM sleep is cyclical and first occurs about 90 minutes after you fall asleep, though it lasts longer as the night progresses. Most adults should shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Lack of Sleep Makes You Fat
Restricting sleep prevents your body from releasing hormones that control your appetite, some of which include:
Leptin: Leptin is a hormone released by fat cells that tells your brain you’re satiated. Studies show that cutting sleep reduces leptin production, leading to a shockingly aggressive and unnecessary appetite.
Ghrelin: Essentially the opposite of leptin, ghrelin stimulates your appetite and skyrockets when you don’t sleep.
Cortisol: Usually cortisol (the stress hormone) decreases around bedtime and increases when it’s time to wake up. However, when you lose sleep, cortisol doesn’t come down as easily around bedtime as it should. This can lead to insulin resistance, which often causes obesity and diabetes (as can growth hormone, which also goes haywire after lack of sleep).
How to Sleep Better
It’s no secret to the sleep-deprived that sleep deprivation is a bad thing. Falling asleep at your desk, at your kids’ soccer game, or while operating heavy machinery is not a good thing.
Very often, the problem is that the monkey in your brain doesn’t want to stop dancing around until the wee hours of the morning. So here are some recommendations on how to shoot that monkey in the neck with a tranquilizer dart:
- Avoid caffeine after 12pm (remember, that’s noon, not midnight).
- Get some sun early in the day by walking outside— this helps to normalize your circadian rhythm.
- Eat a hearty meal after sunset— this will induce the “rest and digest” aspect of your autonomic nervous system.
- Keep your bedroom cool and dark.
- Avoid electronics a couple of hours before bed. If you must use electronics, get some glasses or screen protectors that cut out the blue light.
- Avoid cortisol-spiking processed foods.
- If you’re still having a hard time falling asleep, try 1-3mg of melatonin 1-2 hours before bed. If you don’t notice an effect, try taking it before your evening meal.
It can also help to pick up a restful/restorative hobby. Some of Abel James’ recommendations are:
- Reading (for pleasure)
- Bike riding
- Playing music
Those who sleep well will enjoy a sharper mind, a tighter body and improved athletic performance. So get those Zzzz’s! You’ll be thanking yourself in no time.