“Sleep is an investment in the energy you need to be effective tomorrow.” – T. Roth

How did you sleep last night? Lack of sleep has a profound effect on our endocrine, cardiovascular as well as our immune system. The amount of sleep that we need usually falls between 7-9 hours per night for adults. In 1910 the average sleep duration was 9 hour per night. This changed around 1960 as we were adjusting to the modern demands of around the clock production. 

Some of the symptoms associated with sleep deprivation are brain fog, fatigue, irritability and moodiness as well as loss of productivity at work. Sleep is not just a passive event. Metabolically the body is as active during the night as it is during the day. At night our bodies are more focused on strengthening the immune system,  on detoxification (especially the brain), on repairing and balancing the hormones.  Our thyroid hormones as well as our insulin levels are especially affected by a lack of sleep. If you don’t get enough slow wave sleep, growth hormone production is diminished as well. One study showed a 70% reduction in natural killer cells after just one night of sleep deprivation. Our natural killer cells are the part of our immune system that helps clean up cancer cells. A lack of sleep can also make us over-weight, diabetic, and depressed.  

Ok, so what can we do about it?
Increase exposure to natural light: Go outside first thing after waking up and absorb the natural sunlight for 10-20 minutes if possible. We want to make it very obvious to our brain when the day starts and the night begins.

Avoid screens at least 1 hour before going to bed and turn off overhead lighting. LED lights are not good if you want to sleep well so please do avoid them. These lights send a signal to our pineal gland that will decrease melatonin production. Our body reacts to light no less than plants. Instead of screens, try reading a book or meditate.

Manage stress: This will look different for everybody. In order to wind down you could do a meditation, pray, read a book, journal, connect with nature, and so much more. What is it for? If you find that your mind is racing at bedtime with your to-do list, keep a journal at your bedside and write all the things down that are bothering your brain in the moment. You can also use essential oils such as lavender, valerian, jasmine, or bergamot. and diffuse them at bedtime.

Exercise for 30-60 minutes most days of the week. Time stimulating exercises such as cardiovascular exercises earlier in the day. Regenerative exercises such as yoga and pilates can be done in the evening. See what works best for you and keep it consistent.

Adjust your diet and dinner time: If you eat too close to bedtime it can increase your metabolism which may make it more difficult for you to get to sleep. Ideally, there should be 3-4 hours between your last meal and sleep time. Make sure you eat blood sugar stabilizing foods such as complex carbs and healthy fats at dinner. Avoid sugar and simple carbs, always but especially in the evenings.
Last but not least … consider going to bed earlier. We have a natural dip in our diurnal rhythm that is around 8:30pm. If you miss this opportunity to wind down,  you will experience a “second wind” that may keep you up until 1am. Find out when this natural dip in your cortisol level occurs and take advantage of it. This would be a good time to start your wind down routine, make sure your bedroom temperature is between 60-67F, and your essential oils are diffusing so that you can drift to sleep within 30 minutes after that dip.
Let us know how things go for you when it comes to sleep. What works best? What other suggestions do you have?  Share your experiences below and sign up for our newsletter.
In vibrant health,
Dr. Elke
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