How A Good Night’s Sleep Can Literally Save Your Life

June 28, 2010 by  
Filed under Health


We all know the value of a good night’s sleep, without it we don’t function at are best and are more prone to illness. But did you know that if you have chronic insomnia then you have a three times higher risk of death than those who get a full 8 hours and that only getting a full six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day?

Sadly, insomnia is extremely common as up to a -third of adults say they get less sleep than they need to function at their best. Insomnia is usually not an isolated incident but a persistent condition and 75 percent of people with insomnia say they have it for at least one year, with half suffering for three years.

Insomnia can include all these symptoms:

1. Difficulty falling asleep

2. Waking frequently during the night

3. Waking too early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep

4. Waking feeling unrefreshed

Insomnia will affect your hormone levels and accelerate aging, and may also play a role in diabetes, depression and cancer. Too little sleep impacts your levels of thyroid and stress hormones, which in turn can affect your memory and immune system, your heart and metabolism, and much more — including your risk of cancer. New research now also shows that sleep deprivation leads to changes in the levels of key proteins that can trigger migraines.

A disrupted circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle, may influence cancer progression through shifts in hormones like melatonin, which your brain makes during sleep. There’s also the issue of melatonin, an antioxidant that helps to suppress harmful free radicals in your body and slows the production of estrogen, which can activate cancer. When your circadian rhythm is disrupted, your body may produce less melatonin and therefore may have less ability to fight cancer.

Exposure to light during the night can also reduce melatonin levels, which is why it is important to sleep in total darkness to decrease your risk of cancer. An important hormone that is affected by a disrupted circadian rhythm lies is cortisol, which normally reaches peak levels at dawn then declines throughout the day. It is one of many hormones that help regulate immune system activity, including insulin and researchers have repeatedly shown that insufficient sleep will result in an increased rate of diabetes due to increased insulin resistance.

The key to dealing with insomnia, without first resorting to sleeping pills, is to address the underlying cause and these are the most common culprits:

• Stress is the prime reason for sleeplessness as your brain continues to worry at your problems through the night.

• Overactive adrenals, due to stress, keep you on the alert, and that makes it difficult to sleep

• Poor environment in the bedroom doesn’t help either so ban electrical and electronic devices and no using your mobile, watching tv or doing emails on the laptop in bed. These activities stimulate your brain, making it difficult to then fall asleep. Make sure the bedroom is dark, and cool for optimum sleep.

• Give your stomach a rest and don’t eat for at least two hours before bed, and preferably longer. The later you eat, the harder your digestive system works to deal with the food when ideally it wants to be doing essential repair and maintenance. Eating late at night will keep you awake and if you must do so then eat something that is light and easily digested. aches and confusion, and may also cut your amount of deep sleep, interfering with your body’s ability to refresh itself.

Natural Help for Insomnia

There are a number of well-tried and tested remedies from foods to supplements. Nothing works for everyone, but try these favourite methods and see what works for you:

Herbs — the most popular are valerian nd hops, and if your insomnia is linked to stress and worry then you could try two excellent supplement: Quiet Life by Lanes or Total Calm from Gematria. Chamomile tea is also soothing but try not to drink just before bed so your bladder doesn’t wake you in the night.

Dietary help – help yourself by cutting out stimulants at night, particularly caffeine and sugar. Eat foods that help you sleep and contain tryptophan, an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, which is then converted to melatonin. Eat magnesium-rich foods as it is a natural sedative and deficiency can result in difficulty sleeping, constipation, muscle tremors or cramps, anxiety, irritability, and pain. It has also been useful for people with restless leg syndrome. Magnesium rich foods include legumes and seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, wheat bran, almonds, cashewsbrewer’s yeast, and whole grains.

Create a calm atmosphere – get as relaxed as you can before you slip between the sheets so try some meditation before bedtime or a warm, not hot, bath with soothing aromatherapy oils like lavender. If you have a cd player/clock then put on some gentle, slow music on a low setting as it has been found to improve sleep quality and length and reduce frequent waking intervals.

Oh Really?!

September 19, 2008 by  
Filed under Healthy Ageing, Medical Research & Studies

You know I can’t resist howling at unnecessary research – and here’s another one. Bet you would never have guessed it, but older women, who sleep badly at night have a higher risk factor for falls. Apparently sleeping five or fewer hours a night significantly increased the odds of having two or more falls in any one year by 52%. Good old Katie L.Stone, Ph.D., of the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, and her colleagues have realised that people who sleep badly are more likely to be clumsy, fatigued and pay less attention than those who are razor sharp from a full 8 hours of good sleep. Who would have guessed it?

As all the subjects were over 70 and in nursing homes, I would have thought the study might have also highlighted that the main danger to the elderly from falls is through objects left on the floor or badly positioned furniture. However as Dr. Stone is a consultant for Sepracor – a pharmaceutical company who produce the blockbuster insomnia drug Lunesta, with sales of over $1 billion a year, I can see why she might want to promote an uninterrupted night’s sleep. The research was also part funded by them and five other major pharmaceutical companies.

The 5 Cs’ that stop you sleeping

July 14, 2008 by  
Filed under At Home, Lifestyle, Natural Medicine

Everyone experiences occasional bouts of sleep disturbance, though if it is prolonged it can really impact your health. I have come across an excellent natural way to help you sleep, but I thought it might help you know the five main reasons why we can’t sleep. Knowing by itself doesn’t help, but identifying the problem is the first place to start. They are:

1. Change
2. Conflict
3. Criticisms
4. Concerns
5. Crises

Mostly during the day we manage to deal with them, or put them out of our minds, but at night they come back with a vengeance. Unfortunately they are almost automatic, your mind returns to them in order to solve the ‘problem’ so just telling yourself not to think about them doesn’t do the trick.

There are a couple of suggestions that I have tried, that might help you. First do not beat yourself up about not sleeping – it only makes it worse. Next, from that list of 5, what is the main thing that you focus on as being the root cause for you? If you can identify it then spend ten minutes or so before bed in just writing out everything in your head about that particular topic. Don’t make it neat, don’t make it orderly – just dump it all out on the page, thoughts, feelings, anger, pain, sadness. Whatever is in there, get it out. When you have finished, take the paper and put it in the bin. Say to yourself, that’s done with, anything on there can wait until tomorrow. Repeat this every night and you will find the list getting shorter, and you have made a commitment to yourself that it doesn’t matter until tomorrow.

Stage two, is to prepare yourself for bed by pausing for a few minutes and visualizing your day and all the good things in it that you are grateful for. Allow at least two hours after eating before going to bed, and don’t have any coffee or tea during that time either.

Finally, I have just come across a new item from the Bach Flower company called Night Rescue (they make Rescue Remedy) and it is a different combination of flower essences that I have found very effective in stopping the brain racing away. Five drops on your tongue before going to bed is recommended, and it is available from health shops, and Boots the Chemist. Worth a try.

Can’t sleep? Women at risk

March 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Health, Mens Health, Wellness, Womens Health

Yesterday it was reported in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity that women with sleep problems have higher levels of biomarkers for cardiovascular disease and diabetes than do men who can’t sleep. Poor sleep patterns in this instance is defined as problems falling asleep, taking 30 minutes or more to fall asleep, or awakening frequently. Apparently, researchers at Duke University found that such women also have greater psychological distress than men who sleep poorly. The difference in gender risk is marked, as when comparing men and women with the same poor sleep patterns, they found that the women had high levels of C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and insulin, leading to higher risks of cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

The women who had the biggest risk were those who took over half an hour to fall asleep, so if this is you it could be time to look at alternative methods to aid sleep such as camomile tea, valerian or a warm, not hot, bath with lavender oil before going to bed. If those simple methods don’t help, then you might also consider looking at these factors:

Are you a late night snacker?
Avoid anything containing grains and sugars (biscuits, cakes, bread, crackers) before bedtime as they will raise your blood sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when your blood sugar drops back to a lower level then you might wake up and not be able to get back to sleep.

Is your bedroom dark enough?
If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and seratonin. If you get up in the night to go to the bathroom then try and keep any light to a minimum because as soon as you turn on a light your body responds and immediately ceases all production of the important sleep aid melatonin and doesn’t recommence that night at all.

Late night tv watcher?
Watching tv right before bed is too stimulating to the brain and it will take longer to fall asleep. If you must watch, stay in the living room and don’t have set in your bedroom. Watching tv in bed is also disruptive of pineal gland function for the same reason as light in the bathroom/bedroom.

Cold feet?
Because our feet have the poorest circulation, they often feel cold before the rest of the body. A study has shown that wearing socks to bed reduces the possibility of you waking through feeling cold.