Could A Good Night’s Sleep Revolutionize Your Health?

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Do you struggle to lose weight despite eating a healthy diet?

Do you have niggling health concerns despite an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals?

Do you have powerful cravings for sugar in the evenings?

Do your energy levels fluctuate wildly, with a real slump around lunch time?

What if I told you that more good-quality sleep could be the answer to your problems?

Lack of sleep could be just as detrimental to your health as an unhealthy sedimentary lifestyle, plus a diet laden with toxins.

In fact – lack of sleep has even linked to cancer, as the following studies show.

The study linked here ‘Sleep Disruption Among Older Men and Risk of Prostate Cancer’ suggested that sleep disruption may be linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer.

While the study cited here, showed the recurrence scores for a particular type of breast cancer were strongly correlated with average hours of sleep per night before diagnosis.

‘Fewer hours of sleep [were] associated with a higher (worse) recurrence score. This is the first study to suggest that women who routinely sleep fewer hours may develop more aggressive breast cancers compared with women who sleep longer hours.’

The following study published in the Oxford Journal went a step further, analyzing the impact of being exposed to light at night on the risk of developing breast cancer.

‘Exposure to light at night may increase the risk of breast cancer by suppressing the normal nocturnal production of melatonin by the pineal gland, which, in turn, could increase the release of estrogen by the ovaries.

Breast cancer risk was increased among subjects who frequently did not sleep during the period of the night when melatonin levels are typically at their highest. Risk did not increase with interrupted sleep accompanied by turning on a light. There was an indication of increased risk among subjects with the brightest bedrooms.

Graveyard shiftwork was associated with increased breast cancer risk, with a trend of increased risk with increasing years and with more hours per week of graveyard shift work.

The results of this study provide evidence that indicators of exposure to light at night may be associated with the risk of developing breast cancer.’

These studies strongly suggest that there is a link between exposure to light after dark and rate of disease – with night shift workers and light from computers and mobile phones being amongst the worst offenders.

The Hormone Connection

The results analyzed above make mention of the fact that melatonin (a hugely powerful antioxidant) is secreted by the brain at night while a person is sleeping. Disruption of this natural process could be having disastrous effects on the body.

  • Melatonin levels dip sharply when you miss a few hours of sleep – and this leads to an imbalance in hormone levels in the body.
  • This can be a particular concern when it comes to estrogen, which requires melatonin to regulate its production – which makes sense when we analyze the link between lack of sleep and female reproductive cancers.
  • It is also important to consider the impact that sleep can therefore have on female fertility.
  • Interestingly, estrogen in the body also encourages fat storage.
  • Cortisol is another circadian hormone produced by the adrenal gland that is released in response to stress. Cortisol helps to regulate the immune system and stimulated the release of cancer fighting cells. Levels of cortisol peak during deep sleep.

Maintaining a balanced hormone level within the body at night depends on an established daily routine. Night-time hormones will be impacted by daytime hormones and vice versa. The system is intricately connected, and it is therefore vital to maintain the correct hormone levels throughout each 24 hour period to gain the most benefit during night hours.

Alarm Clock
Alarm Clock

Foods for Sleep

We have no doubt of the impact that food has on our health – we are what we eat. It is no surprise then that our food choices can aid or disrupt our sleep.

Again this is a cycle that starts long before a sleepiness night, as lack of sleep is known to impact insulin levels, affecting craving for sugars. A real catch 22 – unless you break the cycle.

It is possible to make simply changes in your diet to improve your chances of a good nights’ sleep, breaking the sugar/insulin/insomnia and disrupted hormone cycle.

  1. The first tip is to avoid consuming sugar late in the evening, which can be difficult because people often crave carbohydrates at this time. The problem with consuming sugar is that it puts our body on a rollercoaster, characterized by energy with spikes and crashes, which can result in sleepless nights when sugar levels eventually fall.
  2. It may be useful to switch to healthy fats– such as coconut oil, avocado and real butter. These help to provide your body with the building blocks required to manufacture hormones – included those needed for sleep.
  3. Try eating a good quality proteins at dinner, ideally 4 hours before you sleep. This will satisfy your hunger and reduce fluctuations in blood sugar, allowing your body to naturally wind down in preparation for sleep.

How to Get a Good Nights’ Sleep

  • Aim to sleep for at least 8 hours every night!
  • Light in the room during sleep can lower melatonin levels. Therefore, try to massively restrict exposure to light especially blue light of any kind after dark (TV, cell phone). For some people it is necessary to have complete darkness.Consider investing in blackout curtains so that you are able to achieve total darkness in your bedroom at night. Ideally, all artificial light should be removed – even cover your alarm clock.
  • While we are on the subject of alarm clocks, try something that will wake you up more gradually. Sometimes the dread of being jolted awake from a jarring bell is enough to disrupt your zzzzs.
  • Aim to keep your sleeping space relatively cool, below 70.
  • Be aware of your caffeine intake in the afternoon – it is best to avoid after 3pm, see what works for you.
  • Try a relaxing warm and non-caffeinated drink before you sleep
  • Don’t opt for pharmaceutical remedies straight away – artificially induced sleep comes with its own set of problems
  • There are thought to be additional benefits to be gained from sleeping before midnight – so aim to start preparing for sleep by 11pm.

As mentioned, your sleep will also be impacted by your daily cycle – so here are a few tips on how to ensure a good nights’ sleep from the moment you wake up. It is best to experiment with these suggestions to find out what works for you.

Night Time Routine
Night Time Routine

How To Tweak Your Day To Maximize Sleep Quality At Night

  • Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to ensure adequate hydration – but stop approximately 2 hours before you sleep to reduce the need to wake to visit the bathroom.
  • Try to get outside into fresh air and sunlight every single day, for at least half an hour. This will boost your serotonin levels, which will help improve melatonin levels at night.
  • Create a soothing evening routine for yourself – a warm bath, calming drink, lavender oils, candles, stretch, massage…whatever works for you to lower your stress levels

What do you do to ensure a good night’s sleep?

Or do you struggle to get a decent quota of shut eye?

We would love to hear from you!

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