I’m writing this to you as I recover from emergency surgery a few days ago — my appendix ruptured!
It was my first time riding as a patient in an ambulance!
That was absolutely no fun.
So today, as I try to slow down and recover instead of push myself too fast, too soon…
…I’m writing about the power of taking it easy, and why it is medically necessary to take some down time once in a while.
Taking the time to rest each day isn’t a luxury, even though we often treat it as such.
It’s actually a medical necessity.
You absolutely, 100% need deep, restorative sleep!
Sleep deprivation impacts you from head to toe… decreasing your concentration, increasing your likelihood of accidents and impairing your judgement.
Did you know there are also serious long term health consequences to getting too little sleep… things like rapid weight gain, increased risk of dementia, and even heightened anxiety?
So today, to encourage you to make the time to get the rest you need, I want to tell you the top 3 ways that taking the time to catch your zzZs will ultimately enhance your health:
1. Sleeping Protects Your Brain:
A study (published in Neurology on Sept 3, 2104) found widespread changes in brain volume with poor sleep over time.
Researchers looked at 147 people and followed them (using MRI imaging) to look at the effects of poor sleep on the brain. They found longitudinally over time that poor sleep quality was associated with smaller brain volume in the frontal cortex, temporal lobe, and parietal cortices… with more brain atrophy happening in those with the shortest sleep durations and poorest sleep quality.
In addition to that study, sleep has been shown to play crucial role in many long-term chronic brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
A study (published in JAMA Neurology on March 11, 2013) showed that patients with poor sleep quality had the highest percentage of amyloid deposition in the brain (the classic hallmark lesion of Alzheimer’s disease.) In fact, in follow up they found that participants with the worst sleep quality had a 5 TIMES greater chance of developing Alzheimer’s Disease then those who slept soundly.
Poor sleep has also been shown to be a hallmark of ADHD, and a recent study (published January 20, 2015 in the British Medical Journal) found that even a simple, brief sleep intervention with ADHD children provides lasting benefits that lead to a significant decrease in sleep problems, an increased average sleep duration time, a marked and significant decrease in ADHD symptoms, improved assessed working memory and recall, and parents and teachers both reporting improved behavior and improved daily functioning… better than treating with ADHD medication!
Even more exciting, these improvements were sustained at both the 3 month assessment AND the 6 month assessment, showing that addressing sleep problems can lead to substantial and sustained benefits for children with ADHD, over and above the effects of any medical interventions or medications.
The bottom line: better sleep equals better daytime functioning in the short term and a healthier, more dementia resistant brain in the long term.
2. Sleeping Helps You Maintain
Your Ideal Body Weight:
A study (published in SLEEP, July 2013) found that folks gained a significant amount of weight after only 5 days of poor sleep.
Previous studies have shown a link between poor sleep and weight gain, but this is the first study where participants slept in-house in a sleep facility and the actual weight gain was measurably significant after sleeping four four hours several nights in a row.
They found that healthy individuals who experienced a short period of sleep deprivation (for only 5 days) gained 9 times as much weight as healthy individuals who get a full night of sleep.
What does this predict for folks who are chronically sleep deprived?
Many of us live in a chronic state of catching only a few hours of sleep a night… not just for 5 days but for weeks, months, even years at a time. This has a huge impact on your weight.
Imagine gaining 9 times as much weight over the course of a year of poor sleep as you normally would had you slept well.
If you are watching your weight or struggling to understand why your best efforts are not good enough to prevent you from gaining weight, examine your sleep. Sleep deprivation is incredibly stressful to the body.
3. Sleeping Supports A
A study (published in The Journal Of Neuroscience on June 26, 2013) showed that if you have anxiety, sleep deprivation actually impacts you even more than it impacts other people.
Sleep loss has been shown to decrease our ability to judge social interactions and social threats accurately (making you more likely to be hypersensitive and more emotionally reactive) as well as impair emotional control (making you more likely to have outbursts or impulsive behavior.)
This study furthered our understanding of the impact sleep has on anxiety by demonstrating amplified activity in the amygdala and anterior insula of the brain, which exacerbates anxiety.
And those that had the worst anxiety had the most overstimulation of those areas of the brain in response to poor sleep.
Meaning that people who have anxiety issues in the first place will suffer greater harm from sleep deprivation than folks without baseline anxiety issues, although in all cases the brain becomes overly sensitized and prone to hyper-reaction.
Years ago the world was stunned by the testimony that Michael Jackson had gone approximately 60 days without any deep, restorative REM sleep, which was likely responsible for a constellation of his symptoms including confusion, memory loss and paranoia. It is thought that no human being has ever gone that long without restorative sleep before, as previous laboratory experiments show that rats perish after only 5 weeks without restorative sleep.
Ready to protect your brain volume, more easily maintain your ideal body weight as you age, and decrease your anxiety levels?
Here are some ways to grab better sleep for yourself, tonight!
- Sleep grounded — connecting to the earth during the day or sleeping grounded with an indoor sleeping product (my Grounding Boutique carries many different options for sleeping grounded!) has been shown in sleep studies to increase the amount of time we spend in deep restorative phases of sleep, as well as treat jet lag and other circadian rhythm disturbances.
- Melatonin — Taken 1 hour before bedtime, Melatonin allows sleep to be deeper, less interrupted, and more restorative, allowing you to stay in REM phases of sleep longer. Melatonin is a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-aging as well, and our natural production decreases as we age, so supplementing melatonin is a great way to recover the deep sleep you used to enjoy when you were younger.
- Daily activity — simply getting up every single hour of the waking day and walking for a bit (instead of spending several hours in a row inactive) just might be the best gift you could ever give your body. Daytime activity helps you sleep better at night and fall asleep more easily.
- Develop A Nightly Routine — turn off all the lights, make sure there are no computer screens or clock faces or night-lights lighting up the room while you sleep, and drink a soothing cup of warm milk, sleepy-time tea, or take a hot bath to relax your body and transition into bed. And if you must have your cell phone in your bedroom with you, be sure to put it on airplane mode!!!
- Relax with Magnesium — magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant, which is why soaking in an Epsom Salt Bath at night (which are natural magnesium salts) can relax your body and prep you for a better night sleep. You could also make a nightly habit of drinking a magnesium powder supplement in a cup of hot water… this is especially helpful if restless legs or teeth grinding are nighttime issues for you.
- Reduce Stress — high nighttime cortisol levels and constant stress (leading to adrenal fatigue) will sabotage anyone’s best sleep attempts. Seek help if you are in adrenal fatigue and make sure you are supporting your natural hormonal repair by including healthy fats (like whole fat yogurt, organic butter, organic eggs, coconut oil, fish oil) and consider a supplement like Ashwagandha at bedtime to decrease nighttime cortisol levels.
- Address Perimenopause — hormonal fluctuations and hot flashes can definitely interrupt your restorative sleep. Seek help if perimenopausal symptoms are ruining your sleep, and consider Maca Root supplementation to support and balance hormone levels. Honor the energetic transition of menopause by making sure you give your body the space and down time it needs to navigate the journey.
Make sure you are taking plenty of time to relax each day, and sleep deeply each night.
Your body will thank you for it not only in the short term, as you will feel more emotionally and physically resilient each day, but in the long term as you protect your body and your brain’s longevity!
I’m spending a little extra time resting this week — won’t you join me?