SLEEP: ESSENTIAL FOR MIND-BODY HEALTH
WHILE WE ARE SLEEPING…
Sleep affects brain chemistry and has an important role in the functioning of the nervous, immune and endocrine systems. During sleep we develop and reinforce neural pathways involved in memory, learning, and emotion. New research suggests sleep helps flush toxins from the brain.
While we are sleeping, the body manufactures hormones that repair damage caused by stress and the environment in which we work and play. Growth hormone cleanses the liver, builds muscle, breaks down fat, and helps normalize blood sugar. We also produce hormones that help fight infections. If we aren’t getting sufficient sleep, we get sick more often and take longer to recover. Lack of sleep increases inflammation, which has been linked to heart disease and stroke.
Skimping on shut-eye is linked with obesity in adults and children. Lack of sleep interferes with the levels of ghrelin and leptin, metabolic hormones that signal when you’re hungry and when you’re full. When you are tired you eat more to obtain fuel and energy to keep you going.
The amount of sleep you need varies based on age, activity level, quality of sleep, and genetics (e.g., some of us really are night owls). Infants typically require 14-15 hours of sleep per 24-hour period; young children about 12 hours; teens about 9 hours, and most adults 7-9 hours. A general rule of thumb for determining your sleep requirement: If you do not wake feeling refreshed, you may not be getting enough sleep.
TIPS FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
- In the sack for sleep and sex only. Regular sex can improve sleep quality so don’t use your time between the sheets to deal with daily hassles–take that outside of the bedroom (or record in a journal). If you don’t feel sleepy, leave the room and do something relaxing until you feel drowsy, (see our Natural Therapies for Sound Sleep in this newsletter). Then, go back to bed.
- Set a sleep schedule. This includes a soothing pre-sleep routine, such as a warm bath, reading or gentle yoga. Go to bed and wake at the same time each day. This trains your body rhythms, making it easier to fall asleep. If you need a nap, get it in before 5:00 PM; limit to 20 minutes.
- Surround yourself with cave-like ambiance. A sleeping space should be quiet, dark, and cool (between 60-72°). If you do shift-work, use blackout shades or an eye mask. Remove electronic devices, computers and TVs from your room. Research shows that use of digital devices within an hour of bedtime has a negative effect on sleep quality.
- Let the light in early and exercise regularly. Natural light helps regulates hormones that promote ideal sleep-wake patterns. Open the curtains as early as possible and get outdoors during the day. Also, exercise during the day or early evening makes it easier to fall asleep and increases the amount of deep sleep obtained.
- Eat a Light, Last Meal of the Day. A light dinner eaten 2-3 hours before sleep is ideal. A full stomach interferes with sleep as the body works at digestion. Steer clear of spicy or fatty foods that can cause heartburn. If you need a bedtime snack, combine a carbohydrate and protein, such as almond butter on toast, Avoid products containing caffeine, sugar or nicotine as their effects can last several hours. Be mindful of your fluid intake before bed, getting up to use the restroom throughout the night interferes with quality sleep.
ARE YOU SLEEP DEPRIVED?
You don’t have to pull “all-nighters” to become sleep deprived. A sleep debt of just 1-2 hours a few nights a week can affect your health and performance. To become fully well-rested and regain energy after a sleep debt, get an extra hour of sleep each night for one week.
If you experience any of the following the signs of sleep deprivation, talk to your healthcare provider about natural approaches to getting your sleep back on track.
- Daytime drowsiness; fatigue
- Poor memory; difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty dealing with stress
- Muscle tension; impaired vision
- Increase in accidents or clumsiness
- Harvard Health. “Sleep: What’s in it for You?“
- Strickgold, R. “Sleep on It!” Scientific American. October 2015. 313(4): pp. 52-57.
- Brondel, L., Romer, M., Nougues, P., Touyarou, P., and Davenne, D. 2010. Acute Partial Sleep Deprivation Increases Food Intake In Healthy Men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91 (6): 1550-1559.
- National Sleep Foundation. 2009. “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”
- Chang, A., et al., “Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Dec 2014). 112:4, 1232-1237.
- Harvard Health. “Consequences of Insufficient Sleep.”
- Van Cauter, E. & Knutson, KL. “Sleep and the Epidemic of Obesity in Children and Adults.” European Jl of Endocrinology. 59(1) pp. S59-S66.
- Rechtschaffen, A. & Bergmann, BM. “Sleep Deprivation in the Rat: Update of the 1989 Paper.” Sleep. 2002. 25(1): pp. 18-24.
- Knutson KL, et al. Role of Sleep Duration and Quality in the Risk and Severity of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Archives of Internal Medicine. 2006 Sep 18; 166(16):1768.
- Gottlieb DJ, et al. Association of Sleep Time with Diabetes Mellitus and Impaired Glucose Tolerance, Archives of Internal Medicine. 2005 Apr 25; 165(8): 863.
- King, CR et al. “Short Sleep Duration and Incident Coronary Artery Calcification.” JAMA, 2008: 300(24): 2859-2866.
- Opp, MR, et al. Neural-Immune Interactions in the Regulation of Sleep, Front Biosci. 2003 May 1;8:d768-79.
- Cohen S, et al. Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold, Arch of Intern Med. 2009 Jan 12; 169 (1):62-67.
- Colten, HR & Altevogt, BM, eds. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Institute of Medicine Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press 2006: 3. “Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss and Sleep Disorders.“
- Spiegel K, et al. Impact of Sleep Debt on Metabolic and Endocrine Function, Lancet. 1999 Oct 23: 354(9188): 1435-9.
- Zeng, Yawen et al. “Strategies of Functional Foods Promote Sleep in Human Being.” Current Signal Transduction Therapy 9.3 (2014): 148ñ155. PMC. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.
- Figueiro M, Bierman A, Plitnick B, Rea M. “Preliminary evidence that both blue and red light can induce alertness at night.” BMC Neuroscience. 2009;10(1):105.
- National Sleep Foundation. “Sleep Depression & Anxiety.“
- National Institutes of Health. “Signs and Symptoms of Problem Sleepiness.“
FOOD FOR THOUGHT. . .
“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” – Thomas Dekker
THE POWER OF SWEET POTATO
Sweet Potatoes also have a fascinating ability to potentially improve blood sugar regulation. Researchers are interested in determining what effect this may have on Type-2 Diabetes. High in fiber, including Sweet Potato in your diet can promote regularity of the bowels and healthy digestive function. You can enjoy Sweet Potato as a main course, side dish, in soups, or in desserts.
When shopping for these versatile veggies, remember that Yams are not the same as Sweet Potatoes. The two are not in the same “food family” and each has a different nutrient profile. Yams are usually imported from Africa or Asia, whereas the Sweet Potato is grown abundantly in the U.S. Finally, Sweet Potato color, both flesh and skin, can range from white to yellow-orange to brown or purple. There also are “firm” or “soft” varieties, which can make a difference in your cooking.
- Xu,J. et al. “Characterization and Stability of Anthocyanins in Purple-Fleshed Sweet Potato P40.” Food Chem. (2015) Nov 1;186:90-6. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.08.123. Epub 2014 Sep 16.
- Shekhar, S., et al. “Comparative Analysis of Phytochemicals and Nutrient Availability in Two Contrasting Cultivars of Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas L.)” Food Chem. (2015) Apr 15;173:957-65. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.09.172. Epub 2014 Oct 30.
- Mohanraj, R. and Sivasankar, S. “Sweet Potato: A Valuable Medicinal Food.” Journal of Medicinal Food. July 2014, 17(7): 733-741. doi:10.1089/jmf.2013.2818.
- USDA Nutrient info for Sweet Potato (Raw and Various Cooking Methods)
- World’s Healthiest Foods: Sweet Potato
- Varieties of Sweet Potato
- Difference Between Sweet Potato and Yam
- Library of Congress Everyday Mysteries: Sweet Potato or Yam?
RECIPE: GOOD OLD FASHIONED BAKED SWEET POTATOES
- 4 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed
- Coconut oil for brushing
- Himalayan or Persian Blue salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Raw organic unpasteurized butter or Earth Balance™ to taste
CALCIUM ESSENTIAL FOR STRONG BONES, SOUND SLEEP
Calcium neutralizes the acid created by eating animal protein. When you consume acidic foods, the body attempts to return it to an alkaline state by withdrawing calcium from your bones if there isn’t enough on hand in the food itself to do the job. Kidneys also use the calcium from bones to eliminate excess nitrogen consumed from animal protein.
For a healthy adult, the recommended intake for a Calcium supplement is 1,000 – 2,000 mg daily, depending on health status and lifestyle habits including exercise. This is based on an average American diet which has 1.5 to 4 times as much protein than necessary, creating an unnatural demand for calcium. Osteoporosis is a calcium robbing problem not a calcium deficiency problem.
There are many factors and forms of calcium supplements (e.g., carbonate, citrate), that affect how well the body absorbs the mineral. Also, calcium supplements can interact with other medications. Too much calcium can stress other bodily systems, leading to health problems. For these reasons, consult with a health practitioner as to which type and dosage of calcium is best for you.
- Calcium: Linus Pauling Institute of Micronutrient Information
- Calcium Supplements: University of Maryland Medical Center Database
- Calcium Information: University of Maryland Medical Center
- Medline Plus: Types of Calcium Supplements
- National Institutes of Health Consumer Fact Sheet
- Partinen, M., et al., “Nutrition, Sleep and Sleep Disorders, Relations of Some Food Constituents and Sleep.” As cited in Pharmacology and Nutritional Intervention in the Treatment of Disease (Chapter 7, p. 191-223)
- Zeng, Yawen et al. “Strategies of Functional Foods Promote Sleep in Human Being.” Current Signal Transduction Therapy 9.3 (2014): 148ñ155. PMC. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.
- Grandner, Michael A. et al. “Sleep Symptoms Associated with Intake of Specific Dietary Nutrients.” Journal of sleep research 23.1 (2014): 22ñ34. PMC. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.
- Somlak Chuengsamarn, et al. “Comparing the Effect of Short Term Post Meals and Bedtime Calcium Supplementation on the C-Terminal Telopeptide Crosslinks and PTH Levels in Postmenopausal Osteopenic Women.” Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand. June 2005.
- Siwek, Magdalena Elisabeth et al. “The CaV2.3 R-Type Voltage-Gated Ca2+ Channel in Mouse Sleep Architecture.” Sleep 37.5 (2014): 881ñ892. PMC. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.
- Barbosa, R., et al., “Tryptophan hydroxylase is modulated by L-type calcium channels in the rat pineal gland.” Life Science. 2008 Feb 27;82(9-10):529-35. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2007.12.011. Epub 2007 Dec 23.
- How Well Does Calcium Really Protect Your Bones?
- Young, Robert O., and Young, Shelley Redford. The pH Miracle, Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health. 2002.
SOOTHING HERBS FOR RESTFUL SLEEP
Lavender (Lavendula species), Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Oats (Avena sativa)
Three herbs well known for calming effects are Lavender, Chamomile, and Oats. Perhaps, not quite as well known as the first two herbs, Avena sativa(Oats Milky Seed or Oatstraw) is the grain* source of oatmeal. The entire plant is abundant in minerals and trace nutrients, in particular the B-vitamins, calcium, and magnesium, which help soothe and strengthen the nervous system. As an herbal remedy, oats can ease the effects of stress, anxiety or exhaustion and resolve sleeplessness. Oats contain the amino acid tryptophan, which research shows promotes sleep. In fact, Scottish folks suggest a bowl of oatmeal before bedtime to ensure restful sleep!
Chamomile has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy for easing stress and insomnia. Today, these uses continue and we also have good clinical evidence for the safe use of chamomile preparations to help reduce inflammation, promote more restful sleep, ease colic and digestive upset, and facilitate wound healing when used in a cream. While chamomile seems to reduce the effects of anxiety, which can contribute to sleeplessness, more research is necessary to demonstrate the specific properties of chamomile that contribute to its effects.
Since there are many different ways to prepare these herbs, and some people can be allergic to certain herbs, do check with your wellness practitioner for the best approach to help you relax and get a good night’s sleep.
*If you have sensitivity to gluten, be sure to use an oat product produced using gluten-free manufacturing practices.
- Mars, B. & Fiedler, C. (2015). The Home Reference to Holistic Health & Healing. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press. (pp. 29-29, 45, 193, 200).
- Bennett, Robin Rose. (2014). The Gift of Healing Herbs. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
- Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press. (p. 532,
- Duke, James. A. (2002). Handbook of Medicinal Herbs (2nd Ed). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. (p. 534)
- Thorne Research. Matricaria chamomilla (German chamomile). Monograph. Alternative Medicine Review (2008) 13:1, 58-62.
- D. Wheatley (2005) Medicinal Plants for Insomnia: A Review of Their Pharmacology, Efficacy and Tolerability. J Psychopharmacol, Volume 19, Pages 414-421.
- Murray, M. “Insomnia.” As cited in Pizzorno, Joseph E. (2013). Textbook of Natural Medicine. St. Louis, MO Elsevier. (Chapter 182).
- Zick, Suzanna M et al. “Preliminary Examination of the Efficacy and Safety of a Standardized Chamomile Extract for Chronic Primary Insomnia: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 11 (2011): 78. PMC. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.
- Medicine Talk Professional. Lecture on Healthy Sleep.
- Sleep Health Foundation (Australia). Herbal Remedies and Sleep.
- Herbal Academy of New England.
NATURAL THERAPIES FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
In addition to the lifestyle tips for better sleep that are described in this month’s feature article, try adding some of the following naturopathic and holistic approaches to your evening routine.
- Enjoy a warm bath including Epsom salts and/or lavender oil.
- Listen to the relaxing sounds of ocean waves, classical music, or chimes. There are specialized acoustic recordings that are orchestrated to affect specific brain wave patterns for relaxation or sleep.
- A guided recording of progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing exercises, restorative yoga poses, can help the body create the ‘relaxation response’.
- Herbs and other botanical or aromatherapy treatments are useful for calming down after a stressful day. In addition to the herbs discussed in this month’s newsletter, you might want to ask your physician about teas, tinctures or capsule preparations of valerian, skullcap, passionflower, or lemon balm.
- Try meditation, beginning with just 10 minutes a day. Meditation has numerous health benefits and recent studies show it can significantly affect quality of sleep.
- Install and change your laptop screen light setting using a natural screen dimer that will help you ease your eyes from bright screens. We use f.lux.
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Meditation May Be An Effective Treatment For Insomnia.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 June 2009.
- Corliss, J. “Mindfulness Meditation Helps Fight Insomnia, Improves Sleep.” Harvard Health Newsletter. 18 February, 2015.
- Murray, M. “Insomnia.” As cited in Pizzorno, Joseph E. (2013). Textbook of Natural Medicine. St. Louis, MO Elsevier. (chapter 182).
- Mars, B. & Fiedler, C. (2015). The Home Reference to Holistic Health & Healing. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press. (pp. 29-29, 45, 193, 200).
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