Exactly two years ago, I ignored a growing, intense pain in my abdomen for about 24 hours, because I felt that I could not afford to take a break from all the work I had to do.
Only when I was passing out from the pain did I have to be strapped into an ambulance and rushed into surgery because my appendix had ruptured.
I ignored it and ignored it until I was in a life threatening situation. That was so dumb of me.
I wish I could say two years later I was working less and prioritizing my own health more, but honestly I need to write this blog post as much for me as for you.
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!
Working all hours of the day and night has serious ramifications to your health, which impacts every part of your life… decreasing your concentration, increasing your likelihood of accidents and impairing your judgement.
Did you know there are 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.
- Sleep Shielded — If you lay in bed and still feel overstimulated, the next step would be to sleep under a shielding blanket or better yet, a shielding sleeping bag for 360 degrees of protection to all of your internal organs. Or simply wear a shielding robe to bed every night (the most cost effective 360 degree shielding plan I know of, and my Shielding Boutique is the only place to have one hand sewn just for you!). If you simply can’t turn off your router completely at night, or paint your entire bedroom with shielding paint, or hang a shielding canopy all around the bed (both the paint and the canopy run into the thousands of dollars and they are so cost prohibitive at this point that I don’t even use them myself and don’t yet carry them for my patients until they are a more reasonable price) then the most cost effective thing you can do is to shield your body as you slip into bed. Ahh… the relief is immediate. Similar to the relief I feel when I zip up in my shielding windbreaker before heading out the door for the day — you can feel your entire autonomic nervous system relax and appreciate the break from the onslaught of eSmog that is pervasive across the globe now. You can find the blanket and sleeping bag and jacket all of my other favorite shielding tools right here.
- Melatonin At Dusk — The hormone that signals it is time to sleep for our body, our melatonin levels naturally decline with age. I know some people avoid melatonin because they believe it decreases your body’s own production, but the truth is that the body naturally makes less and less over time, and is not likely to ever rebound production on it’s own anyway. So if you find it hard to naturally fall asleep, you can safely boost your own melatonin levels with a low dose melatonin supplement. But here is the key, that most people don’t know: most melatonin labels instruct you to take it one hour before bedtime, but that is incorrect. Actually, the very best time to take melatonin is at dusk, as the sun starts going down. It doesn’t matter if you don’t plan to go to bed for several more hours, still take it at dusk, because this is the natural rhythm of melatonin production. This one simple tweak can change everything for people who think melatonin doesn’t work for them. Take it as the sun goes down and you will find that no matter when you finally go to bed that night, you are so much more aligned with falling asleep than you would every have been only taking melatonin an hour before bed. I’ve found that patients can take a much much smaller effective dose of melatonin, sometimes as small as only 0.3 mg (instead of the usual 5 mg) as long as they are taking it right at dusk
- L-Theanine At Bedtime — GABA is the brain’s soothing neurotransmitter. If you are have trouble with anxiety or racing thoughts at bedtime, you might feel the calming benefits of supplementing with a product containing L-Theanine, which crosses the blood brain barrier and converts to GABA to help relax over active thoughts. You can find both my favorite melatonin supplements as well as my favorite L-theanine supplements in my pharmacy-grade, trusted online dispensary right here.
- Daily Activity — As I talk about in this blog post, walking each day is the one of the single best things you can do to prolong your life. Walking has been shown to do everything from predict better remission rates during cancer recovery to prolonging life span to simply helping deepen sleep at night. If I am not sleeping well at night I have to ask myself, did I truly move my body during the day? Increase your daytime activity levels and watch your nighttime sleep deepen. It’s directly proportionate.
- Re-examine Your Work Schedule — Lower your stress at work in order to protect your sleep patterns. Not only by re-examining your work hours and job responsibilities, but also consider ways to lower stress loads all together. Hop over here to read my blog post on how to decrease the negative impact that job stress can have on your life and re-consider or re-negotiate your work hours, your job load, your career path, your commute, your training requirements, think of ways you can delegate or ask for help for routinely overwhelming responsibilities, and many more ideas here.
- 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 or place it behind a bedside shield!!!
- Block Blue Light From Reaching Your Eyes — Ok I’m a mother of two teenagers (oh my how the time has flown) and it’s just completely unrealistic for me to expect them not to use their computers to complete homework assignments, or use their phone to arrange plans with friends, or to use their televisions to unwind at night to catch up on their favorite TV shows or (in my son’s case) watch their favorite sports teams play. And not to mention, I have a bad habit of my own screen exposures at night, including catching up on emails, writing blog posts, and watching some reality TV before bed. That said, you can make the glow from these screens less disruptive to circadian rhythm simply by wearing truly blue light filtering glasses, like these. They need to be a dark orange color to truly block out enought light from screens that they optimize your sleep in a noticeable way. The blue light shield on your regular prescription glasses help prevent eye strain but are not enough for nighttime use.
- Relax With Magnesium — Magnesium is very relaxing and because it helps your muscles relax and release, it is a wonderful nighttime drink. On nights when I am feeling tense (especially helpful for anyone who grinds their teeth at night or has restless legs!) instead of laying in bed growing more and more frustrated, I break out of that rut by making myself a hot cup of water with a teaspoon of powdered magnesium drink mix stirred into it, found in my online dispensary as well. Just get up, take 10 minutes to sip your warm magnesium beverage, then settle back in and literally feel your muscles relax as you sink into bed more deeply. There, isn’t that so much better?
- Reduce Nighttime Cortisol Levels — 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. Sleeping grounded at night will also help normalize your cortisol levels, which is win-win.
- 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 (more on this right here.)
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 dedicated to spending a little extra time resting this week — won’t you join me?