The 2 common things I hear when it comes to sleep
You probably know that sleep quality, consistency, and quantity is uber important and is a cornerstone for optimal health.
You probably don’t know that human growth hormone, melatonin, luteinizing hormone and leptin are all upregulated during sleep and inadequate amounts of these hormones are associated with excess weight and impaired sex hormone production such as testosterone and progesterone.
In addition, inadequate sleep elevates levels of thyroid stimulating hormone, cortisol and ghrelin which slows metabolism increases appetite suppresses immune system function and perpetuates the dysregulation of the sleep wake cycle and inability to lose weight.
For this reason we have to get sleep on lockdown as inadequate sleep and poor sleep quality is an absolute deal breaker for not just weight loss but healing from any chronic illness.
Two common things I hear when it comes to sleep:
Let’s dive into each one:
“Why can't I stay asleep?”
This is a common question I get --- so what’s really happening in your body?
More times than not these people are also those who have digestive issues, have a diet higher in carbohydrates and simple sugars and relatively lower in fat and protein.
Their nighttime waking is a symptom of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar like feeling shaky, lightheaded or irritable when they miss a meal.)
These individuals may also have history of anxiety, a family history of diabetes or report when they wake in the middle of the night their heart is racing.
This happens because when blood sugar drops it releases cortisol. Cortisol is the anti-sleep hormone, so you wake up! It’s your body WARNING you:
“Go eat! You need to go eat to keep us functioning”
This cortisol release then suppresses your melatonin secretion which keeps you sleeping.
For these people I suggest trying to eat only protein, fat and vegetables for dinner.
Skip the dessert or fruit in the evening, or when you do eat them earlier in the day do so with a little fat or protein to minimize the impact on blood sugar.
If you still wake a few hours after going to sleep (4-6 hours after your last meal) consider having a protein rich snack within an hour before bedtime.
Not indefinitely, but while working on regulating your blood sugar, eating a handful of nuts, or a few bites of leftover meat from dinner prior to bed may get you to sleep more deeply and for a longer period of time.
While healing the underlying root causes (such as blood sugar imbalance) is unique for everyone, something I do with my clients that *usually* helps clients see results FAST is address their underlying inflammation.
“Why can't I get back to sleep for hours?”
I use to have the most sensitive suprachiasmatic nucleus EVER!
What the heck is that?!
This is the location in the brain’s hypothalamus right above the optic chiasm that registers light & regulates the circadian rhythm.
When I had chronic fatigue I could fall asleep at the drop of a hat! I’d routinely fall asleep on the couch at night, but inevitably I’d wake at some point then go brush my teeth and the light in the bathroom would wake me up & I’d stay awake for hours thereafter despite desperately wanting to go back to sleep.
What was happening then this occurred to me is the bright light stimulated cortisol production and suppressed the tiny amount of melatonin I was producing to help my body get tired, fall asleep and stay asleep.
When you wake in the middle of the night and then stay awake for hours thereafter it is generally caused by a loss in “sleep pressure.” Sleep pressure builds as our body’s cortisol production naturally drops and our melatonin production naturally rises for nighttime.
It is very common to see this phenomenon in those suffering from either adrenal dysfunction or low serotonin in the brain and thus low melatonin production. Medications can also suppress melatonin production as well.
Adrenal dysfunction can present in with elevations of cortisol at the “wrong time of the day” this increased output will outweigh the melatonin keeping us asleep and thus wakes us. Addressing the adrenals knowing what stage of dysfunction is occurring is critical for
Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Trytophan from protein we consume in our diets is converted by a few steps to create serotonin, besides being our neurotransmitter known as our “happy hormone” this neurotransmitter acts as a precursor for melatonin by conversion in the mitochondria of the cells of the pineal gland.
If digestion of protein is impaired or dietary intake is low, if methylation (the activation process) is impaired due to genetics or low stores of methyl groups, if there is brain inflammation or mitochondrial dysfunction, then melatonin output may be impaired. Sadly our little pineal gland can not store melatonin, and it only lasts in the bloodstream for 20 minutes, so if out put is low or it is interfered, you may have a hard time staying asleep, getting deep and REM sleep and waking refreshed.
Treatment when I suspect melatonin is low is aimed at the most likely cause, low substrate, conversion impairments, and or toxicity of the mitochondria
Medications known to suppress melatonin production directly include the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines such as clonazapam (Klonipin), diazapam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax), as well as a medication used for depression called Zoloft.
There is also those medications that deplete methyl donors like Adderall taken for ADD/ADHD, diuretics like HCTZ for high blood pressure, Gabapentin taken for pain, and proton pump inhibitors for heart burn/reflux that all potentially decrease the B vitamin, cofactors needed for methylation leading to low melatonin and serotonin.
A good source to see if your medications are depleting any critical nutrients or hormones is http://mytavin.com
Having struggled with this issue for a period of time I developed a list of sleep hacks I found helpful for me and my clients. Before we utilize directed supplementation, we always establish a sleep ritual.
No screen time within an hour of bedtime
Use blue light blocking glasses or turn on the blue light blocking feature on your screen
Turn the lights down in the house 2 hours prior to bed use soft warm light bulbs, nightlights, or candles.
Eat vegetables and protein for dinner, if you eat grains or dessert avoid these within 4 hours of bedtime
Avoid alcohol and caffeine
Do not watch upsetting shows or news prior to bed
Have a defined stop time at least 1 hour prior to bed for checking social media and email.
Take a hot shower or bath
Read a book for pleasure
Rub your own feet or have your partner give you a massage
Listen to relaxing music or binaural beats for sleep
If you wake in the night and do not fall back to sleep within 30 minutes get out of bed and repeat one of the above techniques until you are tired, then return to bed.
Do not spend time in the bedroom doing work or tasks on the bed during the day
Avoid napping when you can unless you have narcolepsy or chronic fatigue in order to build sleep pressure for the evening.
Start the day with 5-15 minutes of time outdoors without sunglasses. If inspired to walk do so, if fatigue is too great, sit in a comfortable spot with your feet bare in the grass or dirt.
Keep the bedroom temperature cool
Use blackout curtains
Use a white noise machine or fan on low setting
Get an air purifier for the bedroom if you suffer from allergies especially if the bedroom has carpeting
Turn off the wifi before bed and turn off the breakers on the wall the bed is located on, if you suspect you are sensitive to EMF.