Are you confused by the complexity & enormity of the information out there about good health? Here at Deeper Health, I communicate that there are 3 pillars on which good health is anchored, and without these, it is not possible for the body to have the balance needed to achieve & maintain optimal health. This 3-part series will focus on the 1st pillar: sleep. Adequate sleep is the most fundamental function of the body; without it, all bodily systems are negatively impacted.
Sleep & Metabolism
Recent clinical studies show that sleep patterns are negatively impacting metabolic function, but it’s not a one-way street; metabolic factors are also affecting sleep.
Sleep patterns are analyzed in 4 basic stages:
►Stage 1 (NREM) refers to Non-REM sleep that occurs as we transition from being awake to falling asleep—this stage is quick and takes an average of 10-15 minutes
► Stage 2 (NREM) heart rate begins to slow down & body temperature slowly drops—this stage usually lasts approximately 20-30 minutes
► Stage 3 (NREM) longest stage of sleep, heart rate & blood pressure decrease, muscles begin to relax, the deepest sleep occurs during this stage
► Stage 4 (REM) refers to Rapid Eye Movement & is the most popular and researched stage, eyes move rapidly, active dreams happen, muscles even more relaxed, critical for healing & restoration of the brain & body
A study done in June 2019 published by the National Institutes of Health courtesy of the National Heart Lung & Blood Institute (NHLBI) demonstrate that insufficient sleep patterns raise the risk of one or more metabolic disorders like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and high cholesterol by 27%. In addition, sleep deprivation also raises the risk of mental impairment, anxiety and depression. 1
Sleep & Blood Sugar Balance
Blood sugar is another key metabolic function that is interconnected with sleep, and this will be the focus of part 2 this series, but blood sugar balance is a critical factor in proper sleep pattern. Numerous body functions are directly impacted by blood sugar, but sleep is at the top of the list. The NHLBI study from April 2020 took their research a step further and found that sleep apnea (a sleep disorder marked by irregular breathing & snoring which results in poor REM sleep) is a causative factor in uncontrolled blood sugar levels, which can lead to diabetes. 2
Sleep & Immune Function
Now, more than ever, as the world deals with the prevention and spread of Covid-19, we must be mindful of optimizing our immune systems. Balance is the most critical factor in keeping our immune system functioning properly, and this balance all begins with sleep. When we are sleep deprived, even in the short-term, it will impact our body’s response, particularly with production of cytokines (proteins released by the immune system). T-helper cells are tasked with releasing pro-inflammatory cytokines that work to quell an infection or foreign invaders (viral, bacterial infections and even tumors), but the key is for the immune system to balance cytokine production. If these are over produced, we have too much inflammation which can result in a cytokine storm that attacks the body’s cells and tissues, as we have seen with the most severe Covid-19 patients, particularly targeting the lungs in their response to this virus.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Eric Olsons, some cytokines actually help to promote sleep, and proper sleep is critical in immunomodulation and balancing cytokine production. He recommends 7-8 hours of sleep each night for adults and 10 hours for school-aged children. 3
It’s important to prepare for proper sleep each night, and here are some simple but effective tips for winding down at night:
- Unplug—turn off the computer, tv, phones at least 1 hour before going to bed. Blue light is very disruptive to melatonin production, which is the main hormone responsible for helping us fall asleep.
- Bath or Foot Soak—using Epsom Salt, which is pure Magnesium Sulfate, helps boost melatonin levels that induce sleep. Absorption through the skin is quick and powerful, and adding essential oils of Lavender, Frankincense or Bergamot to the Magnesium will enhance melatonin production & relaxation even more.
- Darken the Bedroom—to stimulate and enhance deeper sleep, it’s ideal to have a completely darkened room as we enter into Stage 1 Non-Rem sleep.
- Balanced Snack—to help balance blood sugar before retiring for the night, it’s wise to have a balanced snack of protein, low glycemic carbs & some fats. Example: celery dipped in almond or sunflower butter or berries with nut butter, avocado with ½ teaspoon raw honey & unsweetened cocoa (optional to add 1 drop of doTerra cinnamon essential oil or ½ teaspoon of ceylon cinnamon).
Simplify & Prioritize
When communicating the importance of adequate sleep with my clients, I like to use a comparison with exercise: just as stretching/flexibility is the stepchild of exercise, so is sleep the stepchild in the majority of the population’s daily activities. Far too often, sleep is forfeited for various other activities that are engrained in our insanely busy routines (it’s my belief that social media & digital entertainment is at the heart of this problem). Over time, this poor choice results in chronic sleep deprivation, which is a very expensive price to pay for prioritizing other activities over sleep.
Good, quality sleep during all 4 stages has been scientifically shown to improve health dramatically, as the entire metabolic process is impacted by sleep. My main goal is to educate my clients about attaining & maintaining optimal health within the 3 foundational Pillars, while elucidating & simplifying the abundance of conflicting information out there. Sweet dreams!!