Sleep More, Stress Less
Circadian Rhythm: a 24-hour cycle that determines your body's functions throughout the day.
Your hypothalamus controls your "master clock" and keeps track of time. This "master clock" is synchronized with your body through hormonal and neural signals. Signals known as Cortisol and Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH).
When your circadian rhythm is thrown off, your physical and mental well-being can be affected and possibly lead to a disorder or a disease. It's important to know how sleep can affect your rhythm and what changes you can make to keep you at ease.
This is HUGE for your health. Sleep is split into 90-minute cycles between REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement). REM involves the highest brain activity and occurs while you're dreaming. It restores brain and body energy and enhances learning and memory.
NREM is split into 3 stages. N1 - light sleep, N2 - onset sleep (where body temp drops), and N3- deepest sleep (most important). During N3, hormones are released that help grow, repair, and develop the body.
The amount of sleep needed ranges between ages. Children (6-13yrs) should get 9-11 hrs, Teenagers (14-17yrs) between 8-10 hrs, Young Adults + Adults (18-64yrs) between 7-9 hrs, and Older Adults (65+yrs) between 7-8 hrs. The younger you are, the more sleep you need.
Short-term: If you're not sleeping enough, in a short period of time you can lower your immune system, experience fatigue, impair your learning and memory, and become irritable.
Long-term: Not sleeping well for months can lead to serious health risks. You can have issues regulating stress which can lead to high blood pressure, throw your hormones out of whack, which can increase your chance for obesity, cardiovascular disease, or Type 2 diabetes, and you can even become depressed and/or anxious.
Lack of sleep decreases leptin levels and increases Ghrelin. Leptin tells our bodies when we're full and Ghrelin tells our bodies when we're hungry. These hormones are what tell the body to sneak down for that midnight snack!
Hormone Related: Cortisol levels increase with less sleep; which can decrease the number of sex hormones being produced and make it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep. Testosterone levels fall causing low energy, low libido, and poor concentration. Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels increase and start to slow down your metabolism.
So, what can you do to help you sleep?
How To Improve Sleep
- Try to stick to a routine: same wake-up time, workout time, bedtime.
- Only sleep in one hour extra on the weekends (ex. wake-up M-F 6 am, S+S 7 am).
- Don't snack/eat late at night.
- Reduce cellphone + computer use before bed. Melatonin is affected by the screens and makes it harder to fall asleep.
- Try to avoid caffeine after noon.
- Only use your bed for sleeping (and maybe some other things 😉). Avoid eating and working on your bed.
- Try to find a sleep schedule that works for you. Time of day, light setting, noises, etc.
- Go to the bathroom before bed to prevent getting up in the middle of the night.
Have any other tips to share? Leave a comment below to help others find their sleep pattern.