Sleep is one of the most important things our bodies rely on and yet so many of us struggle to get the sleep we need. Most of us are unaware of just how damaging sleep deprivation can be for our health. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation actually triggers a damaging cycle hormone imbalance and even activates additional cravings that didn’t exist before. It is during these cycles of hormonal imbalance that our health begins to unravel. Scariest of all is just how quickly everything can come undone. For example, having just one bad night can push our bodies immediately out of balance and to the edge of a health crisis cliff.
The Power of Sleep
It is no secret that we all NEED sleep, it is without a doubt one of the most important aspects to a healthy way of life. When we deprive our bodies of the sleep they need to function at an optimal level we end up with a number of issues. Prolonged sleep deprivation can cause your body to work overtime which lowers the amount of energy and resources it has to fight off illness. Not only does it weaken your immune system by overworking your body, it also increases your risk of depression. Sleep deprivation can increase stress and anxiety which can often lead to extreme depression. Stress is another big killer of your body’s immune system. Excess Cortisol levels force your body into a constant state of alert which only furthers the cycle of sleep deprivation.
What Stress Does To The Body
Stress is actually part of our bodies natural defense. In situations where our lives are in danger the brain will activate the release of Cortisol. Cortisol is one of the hormones that is released in response to stress. While Cortisol is mainly known for its involvement in the body’s response to stress it also serves other purposes. Cortisol assists in the regulation of blood sugar levels, balancing metabolism, reducing inflammation, and even in the formation of memories. Its natural effects on water and salt balance, make it ideal for aiding in the regulation of blood pressure. In women, Cortisol also plays a key role in the development of the fetus during pregnancy. When our levels become out of balance it can present itself in a number of ways.
Know The Warning Signs!
Some of the signs and symptoms that can indicate excess levels of Cortisol are: feeling overly alert yet exhausted, difficulty falling and or staying asleep, feeling anxious or nervousness, easily irritated, memory lapse, easily distracted, craving sugar, weight gain (especially around the waist), indigestion, GERD and other digestive issues, as well as skin issues such as eczema or psoriasis. The unfortunate reality is that we all display at least one, if not multiple, of these signs and symptoms. Due to our constant exposure to stress from looming deadlines, money woes, and even the foods we eat. We are in a near constant exposure to stressful situations. That’s why I like to approach this constant health hurdle in a number of ways: hormones, nutrition, supplements, mindset, sleep, and of course exercise.
Naturally Improve Your Sleep
While there are several things in our environments that help support sleep naturally, there are also things to avoid in our environment. For example, did you know that blue screens (TV, computer, phones, etc.) suppress sleep? With the use of technology on the rise, it is imperative that we remove these blue screens from our environment for at least 2 hours prior to sleep. Luckily there are several all natural ways to promote sleep regulation such as:
- Sunlight Exposure
- Establishing a Regular Schedule
- Avoid Stress in the Evenings
- De-stress Naturally
- Avoid Blue Light
- Deep Breathing Exercises
- Create a Sleep Cave
Let The Sunshine In
Regular exposure to natural sunlight our bodies naturally regulate our circadian rhythm. Going out in nature regularly is also a great way to reduce your stress levels and even increase your metabolism (again everything is interconnected). For those individuals who have difficulty getting sunlight exposure (anyone above the arctic circle) another way to simulate this is through the use of artificial lighting. For example, blue light naturally lowers Melatonin production and therefore would be ideal to keep you awake. For more relaxing lighting try red light (which can also increase the production of collagen) or just bask in the dark.
Find Your Rhythm
Have you ever noticed how much smoother your day is when you have a routine? Well there is a reason, our bodies actually go into a state of auto-pilot when we stick to a routine. It provides our bodies with another way to regulate our sleep cycles. The best way to transition into a new routine is to slowly adjust your schedule by increments of 1 hour. For example, if you are trying to wake up at 5 am every morning. But you currently wake up at 8 am, do not try to jump straight to waking up at 5 am. Instead, gradually get down to your desired wake time. This will increase your rate of success. If you are able to wake up and fall asleep at the same time everyday for a week without assistance you have officially established a sleeping schedule.
Create Your Sleep Space
If you are like most of the world and struggle to get your eight hours there are some helpful tips you can use to improve your sleep habits. One of the best things you can do is to create a sleep cave. Now, this does not mean it has to be a black hole. You just need to create a space that is peaceful so limit the light and sound you are exposed to. An ideal temperature for sleeping is between 65-70 degrees F. It is also a really good idea to remove the TV from your bed rooms. Beds are for sleeping (and of course the occasional bedtime workout) not for watching shows or working. Fun fact, your mind will remain as active as it was when you first fell asleep all night. If you have ever woken up only to feel drained and exhausted it is because your brain was too active when you fell asleep!
Have you ever noticed that the first two weeks of a new routine are often the hardest? That’s because it takes our brains 21 days to form a habit. Once this habit is in place we are more likely to continue it with ease. If you are looking to establish healthy habits that can improve your health and sleep you may want to add in a meditation, exercise, and nutritional one as well. Meditation is a great way to help your brain slow down before bed to ensure a restful night’s sleep. Exercise comes with a number of health benefits such as improved circulation which can result in a deeper night’s sleep. Nutrition is beneficial in a number of ways. What we eat directly determines what our bodies can make. If you are having trouble sleeping you will want to increase your Melatonin levels and a great way to do just that is with foods high in tryptophan.
Pick A Side
Did you know that how you sleep can also affect your sleep quality and quantity? Turns out that if you struggle to fall asleep you may want to start sleeping on your right side. Studies have shown that people fall asleep faster when they lay on their right side, unless they suffer from acid reflux. If you are someone who gets chronic heartburn you may want to take a look at your nutrition and sleep on your left side. By sleeping on your left side you actually cut off the flow of acid from leaving your stomach and going up your esophagus. For a deeper night’s sleep you may want to try sleeping on your back. You should avoid sleeping on your front as it can cause excess pressure on your organs. No matter which options you choose to help you snooze give your body the rest it needs.
Orange Cranberry Bread
Gluten Free Vegan Serves 12
- 1 Cup Almond Flour
- 1 ½ tsp Baking Powder
- ½ tsp Baking Soda
- 1 Cup Coconut Flour
- 2 Tbsp Fresh Orange Zest
- 1 ½ Cups Fresh Cranberries
- ½ tsp Sea Salt
- ¼ Cup Vegan Butter
- ½ Cup Walnuts Coarsely Chopped
- 1 Cup Coconut Sugar
- ¾ Cup Orange Juice
- ¼ Cup Coconut Yogurt Vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pretreat a 9×5 inch loaf pan with non-stick option of choice (I prefer parchment paper). Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Stir in zest, cranberries, and nuts. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, and yogurt until smooth. Stir in orange juice and beat in flour mixture until batter is wet. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let sit for 10 minutes in the pan before turning out and letting cool on a wire rack. Wrap in foil or container of choice for storage.
Need A Hand?
A happy and healthy life is closer than you may think. Our health is something that we all have to deal with daily, and when we don’t feel our best, it shows. If you are tired of just making it through your day then you NEED to start investing in your health today! You are not alone on this journey. If you ever need any help I am always here to do just that. Even if it is something as small as just acting as a sounding board. Do you have any questions or concerns I can help you with? Feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] or you can even book a one-on-one call with me. Be sure to subscribe to gain access to tons of free goodies and check back daily for more great recipes and information!