Sleep can make you slim, sharp, sexy and supercharged. It raises the anti aging medicine hormone called growth hormone which helps you rejuvenate and repair tissue, keeps you slim and sharp and helps you sleep. During sleep you have higher melatonin levels, an antioxidant hormone that induces sleep and studies indicate it may reduce the risk of skin and breast cancer as well as diabetes. Sleep improves memory, creativity, performance of complex tasks, and the ability to find patterns and shortcuts with math and life situations. Dreaming is also important for memory and processing life events. Without sleep you can grow fat, flabby, flaky, foggy, fatigued and forgetful. Yes, lack of sleep packs on the pounds and impedes weight loss. It also puts a damper on sex drive or libido, especially in women. A dose of preventive medicine in the form of sleep is in order to keep you healthy, active and feeling young.
While there is no cure for insomnia, all will have some restless nights at times. Getting to the root cause of why you are not sleeping can help you sleep soundly more often. There is no one size fits all. Many factors are involved in promoting or disrupting sleep. Diet, exercise, hormones, neurotransmitters, stress and the environment all play a role. Getting to the root cause may require some testing, however there are a lot of things you can try on your own. Eliminating anything that disrupt sleep such as light, noise, heat, stress and stimulants and adding things that promote sleep can bring you closer to the magical 6-8 hours that reaps an abundance of health benefits that assure healthy aging.
- Calming herbs – Many people have over activity of stimulating neurotransmitters adrenaline and norepinephrine and not enough calming GABA. Studies showed that the combination of valerian, passionflower and hops worked as well as a sedative to help people fall asleep and stay asleep. They slow the breakdown of the neurotransmitter, GABA and restore balance to your nervous system.
- Journaling –Ruminating thoughts can keep you from falling asleep or wake you up. Write down what is on your mind. Add your to do list with what you will do and when. It really works to settle your mind knowing that all is written down. Set an intention that you will receive guidance for the things you are not sure about.
- Lower cortisol – A common reason for sleep disorders is elevation of cortisol at night. This will prevent you from falling asleep or wake you up, depending on when it rises. Cortisol can be measured in saliva in the comfort of your own home. A phospholipid called phosphatidylserine lowers cortisol and protects the brain cells responsible for memory by being damaged from spikes in cortisol. Cortisol can be measured in your saliva. It is valuable to know what your levels are and how they fluctuate throughout the day.
- Lower stress peptides– Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a hormone released during stress. Studies showed that a fixed combination of adaptogens Eleutherococcus senticosus root extract, Schisandra chinensis berry extract, and Rhodiola rosea root extract may increase tolerance and adaption to stress. Taking these herbs can stress guard your nervous system and prevent stimulation that keeps you awake.
- Magnesium – Magnesium induces muscle relaxation and can be calming. It is an abundant mineral and many people have a magnesium deficiency. Take it at night for a calming effect. Start with 200mg and work your way up slowly up to 800 mg. Take less if you get diarrhea or use the form magnesium glycinate that is less likely to cause diarrhea.
- Melatonin – Melatonin is a hormone that promotes sleep. It is rises when it gets dark and is lowered by light. Take a controlled release formula if you have difficulty staying asleep or an immediate release formula if you have trouble falling asleep. Start with a low dose as it may give you vivid dreams. These usually stop after a week or two.
- Stress reduction techniques – Stress induces an imbalance in your sympathetic (stimulating) and parasympathetic (relaxing) nervous system as well as release of other hormones. You can restore balance with yoga, meditation, warm baths with magnesium salts, progressive muscle relaxation, prayer, gentle stretching and other techniques. These can calm your mind and nervous system to prepare you for a restful night’s sleep.
There are many causes of sleep disorders. If trying any or all of the above don’t work, get a functional medicine evaluation. Sleep apnea can be a cause. There are inexpensive sleep studies that can be done in the comfort of your own home. Have your cortisol as well as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and melatonin measured. A hormone imbalance can be keeping you awake at night. Loss of progesterone in women and testosterone in men is especially troublesome. Many can benefit from bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Consult a functional medicine doctor to determine the root cause of your sleep issues so you can sleep soundly and wake up refreshed and clear.
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