We all look forward to hitting that snooze button every night after a busy but fulfilling day. Are you able to get enough hours of shut-eye and much-needed rest as you should be? A good night’s sleep is probably underrated by most where being busy and making the most of every minute of your day, has become the norm.
Sleep is actually essential and very good for your mind, body, and soul and we all need a good balance of it. Research has shown that those who get at least 8 hours and no less than 6 hours of sleep each night can reduce their risks of developing life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and cancer by as much as 30%. So, let’s talk about why sleep is so vital to our health and wellbeing.
Why Sleep Is Important
Here are a few good reasons why you need to start evaluating your sleeping habits and get them back into “shape” i.e. getting the proper amount of sleep every night.
- Basic Survival
Simply put — sleep affects our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Every moment of our day and every part of our life. It is through sleep that we rejuvenate and recover from everything we do. Without it – we cannot function properly especially when our circadian rhythms are disrupted over a long period of time. Some 50 studies have shown that mental performance such as reaction time, concentration, memory, and logical/analytical reasoning, all decline steadily as sleep decreases and persists for a long period of time. 
- Weight Loss
Sleep and weight loss actually go hand in hand because sleep deprivation alters our levels of ghrelin and leptin, the hormones in the body that regulate hunger. When the levels of ghrelin and leptin are off balance, it can trigger an increase in appetite. Studies have shown that if you sleep less than 7 hours per night you are more likely to be overweight or obese. [2. 3 ]
However, it is really all about finding a happy medium when it comes to sleep and weight. While proper sleep can help you avoid excess weight gain over time, too much sleep, on the other hand, can also spell trouble for your waistline. Too much sleep and not exercising can make you gain as much weight and potentially even more than sleeping too little. Research indicates that anything over 9 hours or under 7 hours puts you in the danger zone for weight gain. And remember, just getting enough sleep isn’t always the answer to weight loss. You still have to burn more calories than you are eating. Which means you still need to be active and always plan some exercise into your busy schedule.
- Hormonal Balance
During menopause, women’s hormones naturally shift and produce less progesterone and estrogen. This change can affect sleep patterns due to extreme sweating and hot flashes. Equally, sleep loss can affect your hormones and cause the body to produce more stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and glucagon. When you sleep your body releases a hormone called, HGH (human growth factor) which is needed for repair and is also your antiaging hormone. However, when you are sleep deprived your body produces more cortisol which causes negative effects such as chronic inflammation, poor immune function, increase the appetite hormone called ghrelin which stimulates hunger, and reduction in the hormone leptin levels which suppresses appetite.
- Mood Disorders
A lack of sleep is believed to be directly responsible for a range of mood disorders. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can lead to not only irritability or an inability to cope with life’s stressors but also to long-term depression and/or anxiety.
- Immune System Boost
Our immune system gets a real boost from regular sleep and it is not able to function optimally when we do not sleep enough. A weakened immune system makes us very vulnerable to bacteria and viruses in our environment.
- Brain Function Maintenance and Boost
Beyond the negative psychological impact of sleep deprivation can have on your life, the research is in on how poor sleep is related to Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association says someone in the US develops Alzheimer’s disease every 65 seconds and there are 5.7 million Americans living with this neurodegenerative disease—the most common form of dementia. Sadly, estimates predict that by 2050 there will be 14 million Americans suffering from dementia.
One of the most important findings that connect Alzheimer’s to sleep issues is the accumulation of a brain protein called beta-amyloid. Proper sleep helps to clear it and not enough sleep allows it to build up. Another study found that in healthy, middle-aged adults, disruptions to slow wave or REM sleep were associated with increased levels of beta-amyloid proteins.
- Heart Health
Studies have shown that lack of sleep can increase your risks of heart diseases and stroke because of the association between sleep deprivation and worsening of blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Cancer Prevention
The lack of sleep can cause the level of melatonin in your body to drop due to overexposure to light. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle and has been shown to offer protection against certain types of cancer such as breast and colon cancer. So be sure to get enough sleep and try to get those well-deserved rest hours in a dark enough room to help your body produce the melatonin your body needs.
Other obvious benefits of a well-rested you include lower stress levels, a healthier and happier you because you are not dealing with chronic inflammation and aches and pains.
Since sleep is so important, we need to make sure that we always have just the right amount of it. Understanding the symptoms of sleep deprivation can help you nip sleep deprivation in the bud before it wreaks havoc in your body.
Symptoms of Lack of Sleep
When you are sleep deprived over a period of time whether long or short, you can expect some of these common and/or serious issues that can cause long term health consequences:
Having a feeling of daytime drowsiness or sleepiness, in which you have a strong desire to fall asleep. You find it difficult to cope with your daily tasks and responsibilities and in more serious situations, it can lead to a more deep-rooted sense of feeling run down or fatigued which can wreak havoc with your adrenals.
2. Difficulty Concentrating
Your ability to be attentive to your surroundings requires a well-rested brain so without enough sleep, we eventually develop an often subtle but chronic inability to focus and concentrate. This decreased alertness may lead to errors and accidents of all kinds.
3. Memory and Thinking Problems
Sleep has important effects on our ability to think and process memories. So, our cognitive abilities can become problematic when we do not have enough sleep. And this can lead to issues with our higher-level functions, such as planning, organization, and judgment.
Sleep deprivation may also lead to some unexpected and more severe psychiatric consequences including hallucinations, and paranoia. It is estimated that about 80 percent of normal people in any given population will eventually hallucinate if sleep-deprived long enough.
If you are experiencing one or more of these sleep deprivation symptoms, chances are you are probably not getting the amount of sleep that your body needs. Even though running your own assessment through these symptoms is a very subjective way of evaluating your sleep situation, it is definitely one way to do it. If you suspect or are sure that you are experiencing sleep deprivation, the next step is to get a better understanding of the causes of poor sleep
What Causes Poor Sleep
Everyone’s life stressors are different and each of our cause or causes of poor sleep will be different. Your cause or causes of sleep deprivation are unique to you. There are however some obvious causes of poor sleep that you and I can both try to avoid to promote a night of better sleep for ourselves.
1. Late night snacks
Eating too close to bedtime can cause heartburn for some of us and also necessitates the need to run to the bathroom at night, thus interrupting your sleep and reduce your chance of getting into that restful REM sleep.
2. Too much stress
Excessive stress and anxiety during the day will keep you up at night. And this could come from different things for different people. Common sources of excess stress and anxiety for most of us are work and family.
3. Ambient temperature in your bedroom
Too hot a temperature or too cold a temperature can prevent you from falling into a deep restful sleep. So invest in a good thermostat an keep the room at your preferred comfortable temperature to promote good sleep.
4. Too much screen time
Screen exposure from your phone, computer or TV cause too much light exposure before sleep. Get yourself into the mood of winding down by limiting the amount of stimulation and light exposure and shut off all electronics 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
5. Alcohol consumption
Drinking alcohol before bed can make you feel sleepy but the waking up is not going to be as pretty. So, skip that bedtime drink.
6. Cup of Mojo
Coffee or caffeinated consumption before bed is sure to keep you awake. Other hidden food sources of caffeine include chocolate, colas and other sodas. energy water, some protein bars, ice-cream containing coffee or chocolate and more. It is always best to read your labels for ingredients that might have caffeine.
Exercising is good for you but doing it too close to bedtime is going to send your heart rate running and definitely not ready for bed.
If you are on a regiment of taking medications at night, this may contribute to a lack of a good night’s sleep. In some instances, you can speak with your doctor to adjust or change your medications. Also, some over the counter medications or even supplements may over stimulate your body in the evening. For instance, taking natural vitamin B supplements too late in the day can give your body too much energy before bed.
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How much Sleep do You Actually Need?
The amount of sleep a person needs depends on their age. [4,5,6] Here are some general guidelines for the majority of the population, bearing in mind there will be some people who don’t fall into these guidelines:
Age Group Age Amount of Sleep Needed
Infants 3 – 11 months 12 – 16 hours
Toddlers 12 – 35 months 11 – 14 hours
Preschoolers 3 – 6 years 10 – 13 hours
School Age 6 – 10 years 9 – 12 hours
Adolescents 11 – 18 years 8 – 10 hours
Adults 19 – 65 years 7 – 9 hours
Elderly 66+ years 7 – 8 hours
Natural Supplements to Sleep Better
Sleep deprivation does not have to be a part of your life.  Thankfully there are many ways to address it including some important natural supplements that may change your life. I often recommend a good botanically based one called Insomnitol™ which can help calm your mind and your body while reducing the chances of morning drowsiness and sleep hangovers that can be caused by prescription sleep aids. Key ingredients include botanicals that support nervous system function, GABA, L-theanine, melatonin, 5-HTP, and pyridoxal-5-phosphate (the activated form of vitamin B6).
Also, important to note is how balanced our neurotransmitters are. NeuroCalm™ capsules support the production of calming neurotransmitters. NeuroCalm™ is designed to promote the activity of GABA and serotonin, which may help support healthy mood, cravings, and feelings of calm, satiety, and satisfaction. NeuroCalm™ contains a form of GABA which is considered more effective than chemically produced synthetic forms. A new form of Neurocalm™ is available as Liposomal NeuroCalm™ which is a liquid form that bypasses the digestive tract enabling quick and effective access into the bloodstream.
And you may have heard how a lack of melatonin, the hormone made by our bodies which is essential for sleep, may keep you from getting the nightly rest you need. It does a lot of things and is especially good at rebalancing your circadian rhythms. It can be highly effective if you have insomnia related to a poorly timed circadian rhythm. Melatonin SRT ™ is a great sustained released way to get what you need to battle sleeplessness.
Need some simple tips to change your sleep habits? Read my article on 34 Home Remedies for Good Sleep.
If you are struggling with weight gain and low energy, challenge yourself to make sleep a priority for the next 30 days. I bet you will lose a few pounds and have the energy to do what you love!
Or work with a functional nutritionist, like me to figure out your unique situation. There are various lab tests that can help determine if your hormones, adrenals, gut or nutritional deficiencies are contributing to some of your sleep issues. CONTACT ME today and from there, we can work together and design targeted solutions that are just for you.
- 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep.
- Stomach hormone ghrelin increases desire for high-calorie foods, study finds.
- Lifestyle factors and ghrelin: critical review and implications for weight loss maintenance.
- National Sleep Foundation.
- Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. J Clin Sleep Med 2015;11(6):591–592.
- Recommended Amount of Sleep for Pediatric Populations: A Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. J Clin Sleep Med 2016;12(6):785 –786.
- Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency.