In our last article 4 Common Causes of Sleeping Problems, we covered the 4 common causes of sleeping problems. We also recommended some Shaklee nutritional products that may help resolve this issue.
In this article, we talk about two sleep motivators and the 10 strategies for better sleep.
The Science of Better Sleep
Science now knows certain enzyme systems that aren’t active during the day, turn on during deep sleep stages. During this time the body synthesizes neurotransmitters and the building blocks of important hormones.
Science also discovered during sleep there are shifts in cellular metabolism that facilitate the clearance of toxic substances in the brain. These toxic substances may be associated with Alzheimer’s and the degeneration of important centers of the brain.
So sleep is restorative – not only to how we feel – but to our body AND brain.
If you are not getting 8 hours, start now with one baby step. This week commit to getting to bed ½ hour earlier. Then go from there. Soon you’ll enjoy better sleep and the many restorative benefits that go with it.
Two Sleep Motivators for Better Sleep
Here are two facts that may motivate you to get enough sleep.
Sleep repairs damaged skin
Your skin has a chance to repair itself overnight. Without enough deep sleep, the skin can’t properly undo the daily damage.
Missing your beauty rest spells disaster for your skin. New research from the Sleep School in London found missing just two hours of sleep for less than a week can have a serious impact on your physical appearance.
In the study, 30 women across the U.K. (including a supermodel) all slept eight hours for one night. Then they restricted their sleep to six hours a night for the next five nights. Researchers tested their skin for issues like enlarged pores or brown spots, and also photographed them before and after sleep deprivation.
After just a week’s worth of lost sleep, the women in the study on average saw fine lines and wrinkles increase by 45 percent. Spots increased by 13 percent. Bacteria on the skin increased 16 percent. Red and brown areas popped up 8 percent and 11 percent more, respectively.
Other research has found similar results: eyes more red and swollen, the skin droopier, and more wrinkles.
Sleep regulates appetite
Studies find depriving people of sleep raises their blood levels of ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite. It also lowered their blood levels of leptin, a hormone that inhibits appetite.
Substantial evidence from several studies shows sleep deprivation leads to an increase in food intake. In just one study, men and women who weren’t allowed to sleep more than 5 hours a night for two weeks ate 220 more calories a day from snacks – especially at night – than they did when they got more than 7 hours per night.
The hormone ghrelin was responsible! No sleep, more ghrelin, more weight gain.
Sleep is when the body repairs, grows, regulates our emotions, and controls our appetite — so it’s hardly surprising that it has a strong impact on our entire body.
10 Better Sleep Strategies
- Keep a sleep journal for 2 weeks
Keep track of what time you went to bed, how many hours you slept, generally how you slept. (Did you wake up? How many times? What time did you wake up? Did you toss and turn? Did you go right to sleep?) Also, keep a food journal. You will often see a pattern emerge that will give you a clue as to where to start.
- Exercise regularly – but not within 2 hours of sleep
Exercise increases the amount of energy you use. Increases the number of endorphins, the “feel good hormone” your body produces. And helps to balance body temperatures. However, experts recommend avoiding a vigorous work out too late in the day as it can rev you up too much. A good approach is stretching for 10 -15 min before bed. It gets the muscles warmed and ready to relax.
- Don’t eat large meals just before going to sleep.
Research has found if you eat a moderate to heavy meal late evening, your metabolism revs up for several hours trying to digest this food. It will prevent you from falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Eating late at night and going to bed can also cause acid reflux and heartburn. Both which can keep you awake with its uncomfortable effects.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages, particularly after lunch.
According to Thomas Roth, Chief of Sleep Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, caffeine affects sleep by interfering with a compound in the brain – adenosine – (a-din-o-seen) that pushes us to sleep. He also says that even 200 mg of caffeine consumed at 7 am can affect our sleep at 11:00 PM, by taking more time to fall asleep! Even though a person may be able to drink coffee late in the day and have no issue falling asleep, the caffeine is still having its effect.
- Limit or avoid the use of alcohol and nicotine.
Roth also says alcohol will put you to sleep quickly for the first two hours. But after two hours, the body starts to clear the alcohol from our system. The liver does a “dumping” at night and you experience a hyped up feeling. Some people will wake up with a rapid heartbeat and almost a shaking feeling. Then they either can’t go back to sleep or sleep will become more fragmented. Waking up briefly and repeatedly and returning to sleep with difficulty. (Note: Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine also dramatically exacerbate Restless Leg Syndrome).
- Maintain a regular sleep/wake schedule whenever possible, even on weekends and vacations.
Create a ritual around your sleep. Being consistent reinforces your sleep/wake cycle.
- Avoid napping during the day, especially after 3 pm. Limit naps to less than 1 hour.
As we have mentioned, napping too much in the daytime can make it harder to get good sleep at night.
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine.
Begin to slow down with relaxing techniques like stretching, light reading or listening to relaxing music. In two small studies, a warm soaking bath before bed helped people with deeper sleep. Have a comfortable, supportive mattress and pillow and make your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. Use earplugs or a fan – or whatever suits your needs.
- Intimacy and intercourse are a huge help to good sleep.
There’s science to back it up, too. “It all has to do with hormone production during intercourse”, says Saralyn Mark, M.D., associate professor of medicine and OB/GYN at the Yale School of Medicine. See, sex boosts the production of oxytocin (which helps you and your darling bond) and decreases the production of cortisol (which induces stress). These hormonal changes leave your body in a relaxed state, making it easier for you to fall asleep. Not only that, but estrogen levels also increase, which can enhance a woman’s REM cycle for deeper sleep, according to a previous study published in the Journal of Women’s Health.
- Consider tried and true nutritional supplements and herbs that can help improve sleep.
We list our recommended supplements for better sleep in our article The Four Common Causes of Sleep Problems. CLICK HERE to see the article and our supplement recommendations.
Treatment for sleep problems can vary. Some can be treated with medicines. Others can be helped with lifestyle changes and using safe and natural approaches like the ones mentioned above.
Sleep issues can be complicated, and tied to other aspects of your health. If you’ve been having a hard time getting or staying asleep for a while, it might be time to schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider. Find someone who will take the time to listen to you before reaching for the prescription pad.
Thanks for reading!