Here are a few warning signs you may not be getting enough sleep:
You feel tired all the time
This one seems like it would be a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many people talk themselves into thinking that it’s normal to feel tired, worn down, and drained all the time. It’s as if it’s part of being an adult in the working world. Here’s the catch though, there’s a big difference between being an adult in the working world and going through the motions haphazardly and having energy, vitality, and creativity for life itself. More consistent restful sleep can make a huge difference.
You have cravings for sweets, carbs, and tend to overeat
The two primary hormones that control appetite are leptin and ghrelin. Leptin tells us that we are “full,” and signals us to put the fork down and stop eating. Ghrelin is the “hunger hormone,” it sends a message to our brain that tells us we are hungry and need to eat for energy. Lack of sleep can alter these hormones causing a decrease in leptin and increase in ghrelin. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine discovered that sleep restriction was associated with an 18% decrease in leptin and 28% increase in ghrelin in 12 healthy male subjects. Hunger and appetite for high calorie dense foods containing high amounts of carbohydrates increased 33-45%.
You feel stressed and frazzled and get sick often
Lack of sleep increases the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses immune function and makes you feel anxious and jittery. It’s like your body is running at top speed internally, and it may help you meet that deadline, but soon enough you crash and burn, and the aftermath isn’t pretty.
You workout, but can’t seem to gain lean muscle
Restful sleep resets hormones. One of these key hormones is human growth hormone, which helps build fat burning lean muscle mass, assists in energy and metabolism, and rebuilds cells and tissues for a youthful appearance.
You eat well and workout, but can’t seem to lose weight
Studies show that lack of sleep decreases the body’s ability to use calories, negatively impacts glucose metabolism (body’s ability to use sugars for energy instead of storing it as fat), and throws key hormones that assist weight loss like cortisol, growth hormone, leptin, and ghrelin out of whack.
You can’t seem to focus
One study found that 17 hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.05%. This is equivalent to about 2 glasses of wine. The blood alcohol concentration for drivers is 0.08%. This means that sleep deprivation nearly leaves you legally drunk; better not get pulled over!
So, if you can relate to any of the above, here a few tips to sleep well from sleep researcher Dr. Michael Breus’ new book The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan. I had the pleasure of attending his sleep seminar a while back and loved these helpful tips.
TIPS TO SLEEP WELL
1. Create a sleep schedule
Your body runs on circadian rhythms. The more consistent you can be to get your body in a regular flow the better! Aim to wake up and go to bed at approximately the same time each night. (Yes, even on weekends).
2. Eliminate caffeine by 2PM
It takes 6-8 hours for caffeine to evacuate your system. Caffeine can interfere with REM sleep, that’s the mentally restoring sleep that helps you think clearly.
3. No alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime
According to Dr. Breus, alcohol leads to fragmented sleep and the closer you drink alcohol before bedtime the more disturbed your sleep will be.
4. Stop exercising within 4 hours of bedtime
Exercise is a positive stress, but it’s also a stimulant. In order to wind down and signal to your body it’s time to rest your core body temperature lowers. Aim to workout earlier and do more restorative exercises like stretching and foam rolling or meditating before bed.
5. Get outside in the morning
Sunshine in the peak hours of the morning helps regulate the sleep hormone melatonin and resets your biological clock.
TIPS FOR CREATING A ZEN SLEEPING (HABIT)AT
Unplug: Turn off all electronics at least an hour before bed. Studies have shown that artificial light from electronics impairs melatonin production and sleep cycles.
Clear the clutter: Our external environment can play a huge role in our ability to slow down the mind. Make your sleeping environment cozy and ideal, free of clutter.
Eat & Drink Smart: Aim for decaffeinated beverages like chamomile tea or warm lemon and ginger water. Eat tryptophan-rich foods. Foods like raw nuts, eggs, and turkey help to produce serotonin aiding in the relaxation response.
Supplement Accordingly: Magnesium is an essential mineral that aids in muscle function, nerve impulse, and relaxation. Supplementing with magnesium can help you release tension and relax. One of my favorite magnesium supplements is CALM.
RELAX: Wind down, breathe, and slow down the mind by reading, journaling, or meditating.
Turn EVERY light off: Melatonin, a hormone that is part of the natural entrainment of sleep/wake cycle aka circadian rhythms, is triggered by darkness. Try to sleep in pitch black and use a sleep mask if necessary.
Firm mattress and a single pillow: Some of those chronic aches and pains like the pain in your neck or hip may be due to tossing and turning in your sleep and your sleep position. Personally, I find that I sleep my very best when camping and sleeping on a thin sleeping pad so I started recreating this experience in my home.
I regularly sleep on the floor and spring up in the morning feeling revitalized. It's not for everyone, but it works for me and it may work for you to, especially if you have low back pain.