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The Importance of Sleep: Are You Getting Enough?

In today’s world many are constantly running, minds are always reeling, and people aren’t giving themselves the rest that they need. It seems that the days are not long enough for all the things on the to-do list. Many people are dipping into their nightly sleeping hours to get things accomplished or are up all hours of the night because they just can’t fall asleep due to stress and anxiety.

Unfortunately, lack of sleep has very serious consequences and it is showing in the rise of many different emotional disorders and physical ailments in America today.

Many people don’t think that sleep is all that important, but in all actuality, it is a BASIC HUMAN NECESSITY for SURVIVAL and overall health. Just as you need clean air, water, essential nutrients, meaningful relationships and shelter … you need your sleep.

QUALITY of sleep directly affects the quality of your waking life. Your body and mind do not just shut off when you sleep. While you are sleeping, your brain stays busy, overseeing a wide variety of biological maintenance that keeps your body running in top condition, preparing you for the day ahead.

Without enough hours of restorative sleep, you won’t be able to work, learn, create, and communicate at a level even close to your TRUE POTENTIAL.

You don’t have to choose between health and productivity. Once you learn how to sleep and get the sleep you need, your energy and efficiency levels will go up and you will find that you actually get more done during the day than when you were not sleeping.

What Happens While You Sleep?

While you are sleeping, your body is doing its’ healing.

  • In non-REM sleep your subconscious mind is hard at work repairing nerve cells and skin cells.

  • Hormones are secreted and are being balanced.

  • Extra blood flow is being sent to the muscles and tissues for repair and to build energy for the next day.

  • Emotions are being regulated.

  • The immune system is being enhanced.

  • At night, your body responds to the loss of daylight by producing melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy at night. During the day, sunlight triggers the brain to inhibit melatonin production, so you feel awake and alert.

  • Our brain processes memories of the day, and begins to make connections between events, feelings, prior memories, emotions and sensory input. It strengthens and structures memories.

  • Your brain reinforces learning by rehearsing skills you taught it during the day.

  • You enter REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is when you dream, and is the deepest trance known. While dreaming, you can express your deepest emotions without blame or ridicule, which leaves you more emotionally stable the next day. You also go over life experience, wants, needs, and options and formulate what our best choices are.

Hence the saying: “Why Don’t You Sleep on It”.

Effects of Lack of Sleep / Sleep Deprivation:

Who can afford to spend so much time sleeping, anyway? The truth is you can’t afford not to. Even minimal sleep loss takes a toll on your mood, energy, and ability to handle stress. We know that lack of sleep can make us feel grumpy and foggy, but do you know what it can do to your sex life, looks, cognitive functioning and overall health?

During sleep our bodies have a chance to heal and recuperate from the stresses and strains of the day. Studies have shown that when our bodies do not get enough sleep our immune systems become weakened leaving us more susceptible to disease, weight troubles, and emotional and mental disorders.

Getting enough sleep appears to play a crucial role in:

  • Healthy nervous system

  • Emotional health

  • Memory

  • Learning

  • Problem solving

  • Release of important hormones

  • Decision making

  • Social interaction

  • Immune function

  • Maintaining body temperature

  • Concentration

  • Inability to lose weight (weight loss resistance) / Obesity

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Depression / Anxiety

  • Heart disease

  • And more

Lack of sleep leads to obesity. We actually lose the most weight while we sleep. Lack of sleep will increase ghrelin, which is the hormone that tells you when you're hungry. Also, there’s a decrease in leptin, which is the hormone that tells you when you're full.

Thus, you can remain hungry all the time, will overeat and have cravings for sugar and carbs just to get through the day. People that sleep less than six hours are more likely to easily gain weight than those that sleep seven to nine hours.

Blood sugar levels rise to that of pre-diabetes after only a few nights of lack of sleep. Energy levels will also suffer because muscles repair and regenerate energy supplies during deep sleep.

As a matter of fact, sleep has an impact on pretty much any medical condition that exists in one way or another!

1) Emotional – Depression is one of the first signs of insomnia or lack of sleep. Depression and lack of sleep feed off each other in an endless cycle. However, learning to be aware of your sleeping problems and learning how to support them can HEAL depression. People that sleep less also experience anxiety, irritability, low patience, confusion, low energy, frustration, and anger.

2) Social – You may be difficult to get along with, or you yourself may not even feel like being social. Those that sleep less tend to have a lower interest in meaningful relationships, romance and love in general.

3) Cognitive – Lack of sleep causes impaired ability to learn, poor memory, decreased problem-solving abilities, impaired judgment, attention span and concentration, it effects our interpretation of events, reasoning, poor mental alertness and performance, and lower test results. Your brain processes learning and memories at night, your ability to remember, and remember correctly is compromised with lack of sleep. The brain is susceptible to creating false memories or leaves holes in memories if it does not have enough sound sleep to process the day. You may also subject yourself to more serious symptoms like hallucinations, paranoia and delusions.

4) Physical – Productivity is impaired because of fatigue and a compromised immune system which leaves you open and vulnerable to disease, infection, inflammation, and colds. Lack of sleep also leads to serious health problems such as heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, infection, diabetes, and even early death.

Lack of sleep kills sex drive because of less energy and lower libidos. Men also tend to have lower testosterone levels. Lack of sleep ages your skin – shallow skin, puffy eyes, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes. When you don’t get enough sleep the body releases more of the stress hormone Cortisol. Cortisol breaks down skin collagen (the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic). Blood sugar levels rise to that of pre-diabetes after only a few nights of not enough sleep. Your energy levels will also suffer.

5) Safety – Judgment and hand-eye coordination may be impaired; you can be less aware and alert which can lead to accidents. People that sleep less get into more accidents and make more mistakes. Drowsiness can slow down reaction time just as much as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

6) Spiritual - It may be hard to experience inner peace, feel connected and whole or to find the depth, meaning and purpose in life that we desire. Loss of sleep over time causes a feeling of disconnection, loss of motivation, creativity, and inspiration.

When we are highly stressed, we stay awake, exacerbating our distress. If you are unaware of this, it can very easily become a vicious cycle. When stress levels are high, it is difficult to fall asleep because you feel wired, alert and wide awake.

Why Do I Wake Up in The Middle of The Night?

1) There’s a need for adrenal support due to chronic stress and imbalanced cortisol levels.

Feeling anxious or worrying often, nervous or agitated are all signs that adrenal support is needed.

Cortisol, the stress hormone, is produced by the HPA axis (hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenals) and it should gradually decline throughout the day. It is at its lowest point around midnight and peaks in the morning about an hour after you wake up to get you moving.

When cortisol levels are out of balance it can cause higher levels at night, impacting sleep and lower levels in the morning, making it difficult to start the day.

2) Blood sugar dysregulation.

When blood sugar isn’t balanced, you can go on a rollercoaster ride. If you eat too many carbohydrates in one sitting or wait too long to eat and then have a large meal, both will have the same effect – insulin spikes and rollercoaster rides.

It’s important to eat your meals around the same time daily, around 4-6 hours apart, to support healthy blood sugar handling. Meals should include quality proteins, healthy fats and fiber mostly from veggies, low GI fruits (avocado, berries, grapefruit) and some nuts/seeds like ground flax or chia to support blood sugar handling.

3) Meal Timing.

Try not to eat a large meal 3 hours before bedtime. Give your body time to digest your food – it takes about 3-5 hours for food to leave the stomach.

4) Sluggish liver or a need for detox support.

The liver works overnight. If you’re getting up to urinate throughout the night you either just drank too much close to bedtime or your body is ridding itself of toxins like ammonia (byproduct of gut bacteria). Detox support during the day is helpful (like the amino acid arginine and magnesium).

Bizarre dreams or vivid nightmares are also a sign of increased toxicity, whether it be:

  • Heavy metals

  • Pesticides and other toxins in food/water

  • Medications

  • Household or personal care products laden in chemicals

  • Environmental toxins

  • Internal toxin overload (byproducts of bacteria/yeast overgrowth in the gut, etc.)

Drinking alcohol before bedtime is a double restful sleep killer, putting the liver in overload and a blood sugar ride.

5) Nutrient deficiency.

Magnesium is a great example as it’s very calming for the brain/body and supports healthy blood sugar levels among many other duties. Magnesium shows as deficiency/insufficiency with muscle cramping, Charlie horses and restless leg syndrome. Another example would be nutrients that are needed to produce and/or utilize melatonin (the sleep hormone) like B vitamins, zinc, fatty acids and amino acids like tryptophan.

6) Poor routine.

Unfortunately, most people don’t have a healthy morning/night routine. It’s important to wake up around the same time daily and get 15 minutes of direct sun light, preferably first thing in the morning. This sets the stage for the rest of the day. Quality of sleep will start in the morning and how your whole day goes from there.

  • Keep a cool room.

  • Put away electronics before bedtime or turn them off.

  • Eliminate noise (use a noise machine or fan if needed)

  • Skip caffeine (try to stop caffeine intake by 2pm)

  • Utilize calming herbal teas after dinner or before bed (chamomile, lavender, rose).

  • Prioritize a comfortable sleeping arrangement: mattress, pillows, blankets.

7) Exercise.

Exercise in the morning or afternoon can regulate your sleep/wake cycle because it supports adrenal function and cortisol levels. It doesn’t take away stress, but it helps you DEAL with stress better and reduces anxiety. Try to exercise in the am rather than pm when you can, and if you can’t, then choose more calming exercises like yoga, walking, stretching. Exercise will raise stress hormones and keep you wired for a while afterwards.

8) Hormonal imbalance.

Did you know that symptoms like night sweats can be due to liver congestion and vitamin deficiencies? Seed cycling can also help support this along with minerals, omega 3s and b vitamins. Read more about Seed Cycling HERE.

Your hormones and the health of our adrenal glands contribute to your patterns of sleep. A progesterone deficiency, excessive estrogen, too much cortisol in the evening, not enough DHEA, adrenal deficiency and thyroid disorders can all contribute to insomnia.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

The amount of sleep needed each night is dependent on age, current health state, and how much physical and mental/cognitive activity you exert daily. Although the amount of sleep varies from person to person and changes throughout your life span, there are still an average amount of hours we need to stay healthy.

Your body WILL tell you how much sleep you need if you pay attention to it. The best way to find out is to ditch the alarm clock and sleep in a dark room with no outside distractions until your body naturally wakes up. It will take time to get to this point, but when you do, you’ll better understand your body’s sleep needs.

Just because you can operate on less than seven hours of sleep, it doesn’t mean it’s healthy and that you wouldn’t benefit from getting a couple more hours nightly. Yes, studies show that some people have a gene that enables them to sleep 6 hours a night and do well throughout the day. However, this gene is extremely rare, appearing in less than 3% of the population. For the other 97% of us, six hours doesn’t come close to cutting it!

Average Sleep Needs by Age

Newborn to 2 months old

12 - 18 hrs.

​3 months to 1 year old

14 - 15 hrs.

1 to 3 years old

12 - 14 hrs.

3 to 5 years old

11 - 13 hrs.

5 to 12 years old

​10 - 11 hrs.

​12 to 18 years old

8.5 - 10 hrs.

​Adults (18+)

7.5 - 9 hrs.

Do you need support getting back on track with your sleep? Give us a call! You can also check out the blog post: How Should We Sleep? for specific tips on creating the best environment for a healthy, restful sleep. Is your sleep / wake cycle a hot mess? Check out How to Reset Your Sleep-Wake for support and guidance.


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