Sleep is one of the most common concerns for which people come into Desert Wellness Center. Their main concern may be insomnia, but once we start talking, we often realize their lack of sleep is affecting other parts of their health. So, how common is insomnia? You might be surprised to learn that you’re not alone.
In 2005, a National Sleep Study Foundation poll found that more than half of people have at least one symptom of insomnia. This includes difficulty falling asleep, waking up a lot during the night, waking up too early, finally falling asleep right before the alarm goes off, or simply just waking up unrefreshed or maybe feeling what we call “wired and tired” upon awakening. We wouldn’t be surprised if this number was actually higher now with everything that’s going on; we’re all under a lot more stress, which can definitely affect our sleep.
We are going to give you some easy, at-home tips that you can start today so you can start sleeping better. Instead of medications, there are natural sleep alternatives that can help. We’ll also discuss why sleep is so important and what happens when we don’t get enough sleep. There are root causes that we often don’t think about. But when we address these, you not only sleep better, you often end up having more energy and feeling refreshed when you wake up.
Why We Need Sleep
So what does our body do while we’re sleeping? While we’re sleeping, our body is resetting our immune system. Our bodies are working on muscle growth and repair and fighting inflammation. We’re creating long term memories and organizing the events from the day. We also release growth hormones, which is really important in anti-aging. And you might be surprised to learn that sleep is actually a key component in weight loss.
Sleep is really important also for lowering our cortisol levels, which is really important during times of high stress. Lastly, we’re removing waste from cells. Bottom line is that sleep is the foundation of our health. We really cannot be at our very best without getting good sleep.
Poor Sleep Effects
After just one night of poor sleep, we can feel irritable. We may experience mood changes, anxiety, depression, irritability, lowered libido, and brain fog where you feel like you’re just walking through molasses during the day. Some of us crave certain foods like carbs, as well.
When poor sleep is a chronic issue, it affects us on so many levels. It increases our risk for diabetes and our risk for heart disease. It can lead to weight gain, and aches and pains. Sometimes, it’s the aches and pains that keep us up at night. And when we’re not sleeping, all these things compound on each other, creating a vicious cycle that gets worse and worse.
Diet and Sleep
Sometimes we feel as though our best friends are sugar, caffeine, carbs and alcohol. To get us through the day, we may reach for snacks just because we feel it keeps us awake. So we usually snack more all day on things that we probably shouldn’t be eating. We often reach for that second cup of coffee in the afternoon so that we can make it through the rest of the day. Then, by the end of the night when we actually want to go to sleep, we’re super zipped, so then we might reach for a drink to unwind and relax. Well, unfortunately, all these things are actually our worst enemies and horrible for our sleep.
Hormones and Sleep
One of the biggest contributors to sleep loss we see is hormones. Hormones affect our sleep/wake cycle. Melatonin and cortisol are what help us to regulate waking up and going to sleep. The most common hormones that are out of balance and that have a big effect on sleep are thyroid hormones: estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and cortisol (which is often thought of as a stress hormone). Hormones work together, so even if one of their levels is off, it can affect all of the hormones. This is why it’s really important to take a deep look at hormone levels. Also, hormones do not discriminate, so they affect men and women. And they affect all ages.
With women, though, as you are falling asleep, you may wake up and feel super hot. Hot flashes, also called night sweats, cause you to throw off the covers, but then all of a sudden, the cold has you pulling the blankets back on. Once you finally get back to sleep, you find yourself repeating the whole cycle again throughout the night. By the time you’re ready to wake up in the morning, you feel like you haven’t had a wink of sleep, you’re so exhausted. This is a good indication it’s time to check those hormones.
As for the cortisol stress piece, there are a lot of people experiencing a new onset of sleep issues, because with a lot of the stuff that’s going on in the world today, their stress levels have increased, affecting their sleep patterns.
At Desert Wellness, we can look at not only your hormone levels, but also help support your ability to manage stress throughout the day, and get you sleeping better at night. So, we can fix not only your sleep, but oftentimes this results in your being in a better mood, having more energy, balancing your weight, and aging healthfully, so you feel more vibrant.
When we’re not sleeping well, we go to our health professional and we may simply be told to take a pill, with the doctor not really going much deeper than the symptoms. Sometimes sleeping pills can be helpful, but sometimes pills have undesired side effects. We believe in testing, not guessing. We can do all the testing here at our office and then we can decide on the exact form of treatment because it’s different for everybody.
Easy Steps to Take for Better Sleep
When we address some of the underlying causes of sleep deprivation, we can achieve great results. Oftentimes, when we can get you sleeping better, not only will these different symptoms improve, even the anxiety surrounding them can resolve completely.
People have tried natural sleep supplements as well as relaxation and meditation. These are a handy thing not only for sleeping, but for our health in general. We highly recommend nutrients, which offer multiple benefits. The top three nutrients for sleep that are commonly overlooked include magnesium, vitamin D, and B vitamins. We need to start with a healthy diet where we’re eating a lot of fruits and veggies, good quality protein and fats, and avoid processed foods and sugars. But even when we have the healthiest of diets, a lot of us still need a little bit of support, which is where these nutrients come into play.
Magnesium is a mineral that is calming in general, but it’s also really great for muscle relaxation. If you have muscle aches and pains that keep you up at night, magnesium can help ease those symptoms.
Vitamin D is often thought of as the sunshine vitamin because we can get it from the sun. Studies have shown that people who are low in vitamin D actually have poor sleep quality and quantity.
As for B vitamins, we usually think of energy. B vitamins are important in our body’s ability to make melatonin, which we use to sleep. B vitamins can actually be really helpful in improving mood, anxiety, depression, and general irritability. Using B vitamins means you won’t have to reach for quite as many cups of coffee during the day.
Avoiding screens is very important to getting enough sleep. Screens are everywhere, but they actually disrupt our ability to make melatonin. And they’re going to be waking your brain up when you’re trying to get it to go to sleep. How many of you end up fiddling on your phone for hours at night? We recommend reading a book instead.
Guided meditations and guided breathing can be a great way to unwind. And for some of us, it means enjoying some much needed alone time. Those five to 30 minutes of being really quiet can easily calm the mind and get you into a good place for sleep.
Movement is also key to sleeping later in the night. This could mean a 20-minute walk in the morning before it’s too hot, a short walk after dinner, or practicing yoga at home during the day. You’ll be surprised that when this becomes a habit, you actually start to sleep better.
Create a bedtime routine, which includes not doing work or watching TV while in bed. Train yourself so that that when you’re in bed, you are relaxed. We need to calm down after a hectic day and get ready for sleep.
Eating right before bed is a big no-no. Remember, we’re resetting our immune system and kind of cleaning out all of ourselves. We don’t want to be digesting a lot of food.
If we build the foundation, any other treatments that we do are going to be so much more effective. Desert Wellness has awesome programs and support to help you clean the slate. We also have so many natural supplements and nutrients that are really helpful for curbing those sugar cravings, getting you on a healthy diet, giving you natural energy support, and even things to help you relax in the evenings
We have effective treatments after we get to the root cause and find long-term solutions where you are going to be sleeping well. Don’t settle for poor sleep. Wake up in the morning feeling refreshed, motivated and ready for the day. You can have energy to go on adventures and vacations. You can have a clear mind at work and reach all your goals. And you can enjoy life. Contact Desert Wellness Center to learn more.