“Not sleeping should be the new smoking” Is what a patient said to me this week, and it’s true. I attended a conference this July on integrative management of women’s health in primary care and every lecture from the three day course circled back to correcting sleep as the most impactful intervention for treating almost any concern, including balancing hormones, increasing energy, reducing weight, improving quality of life and reducing risk of chronic disease.
So what is sleep? Sleep is a specialized state that serves a variety of important functions including:
• Conservation of energy
• Repair and restoration
• Learning and memory consolidation
We sleep in four stages:
- Between being awake and falling asleep
- Light sleep
- Onset of sleep
- Becoming disengaged from surroundings
- Breathing and heart rate are regular
- Body temperature drops (so sleeping in a cool room is helpful)
Stages 3 and 4
- Deepest and most restorative sleep
- Blood pressure drops
- Breathing becomes slower
- Muscles are relaxed and blood supply to muscles increases
- Tissue growth and repair occurs
- Hormones are released
- Energy is restored
Why is sleep so important to our health? We spend, or at least we are supposed to spend, more than 30% of our lives sleeping. Long, restful sleep sessions each night are a cornerstone of good health, but yet few people, including many health care professionals, focus on the process of sleep and its impact on health.
Studies show that Sleep duration of <5 h/night is associated with obesity and insulin resistance and sleep duration <7 h/night is associated with higher risk and incidence of cardiovascular disease and poor cardiovascular health outcomes. Studies also show that interrupted sleep can have a negative impact on mood, and can even have the same impact as consuming alcohol causing impairment.
There are a variety of reasons that people do not sleep well. Common reasons are: shift work, blue light, stress, hormonal changes, caffeine consumption, travel, noise pollution, and my personal reason – young children. But despite all the potential factors affecting our sleep, we still need to sleep for good health.
So what can you do? First we can look at external factors that we can control and try modify them with good sleep hygiene: no screen time before bed, limit caffeine consumption, make your room cool and quiet, try maintain a consistent sleep schedule and start a relaxation routine an hour before bed, etc.
Any one with sleep issues knows good sleep hygiene techniques, but how can we address internal factors affecting sleep? These internal factors fall in to one or more of three categories:
1. Circadian rhythm dysregulation
2. Physiological effects from stress, hormones and neurotransmitters and
3. Glycemic control; all of which are modifiable if you identify the cause of the imbalance.
To identify these imbalances I can usually determine them from a thorough history, but if necessary there are lab tests to determine the imbalances.
Whether the cause of your lack of sleep is external, internal or a combination of both, there are lifestyle modifications, nutrients, supplementation and/or prescriptions to break the cycle and get you sleeping.
For more information please contact me at 778-478-0048 or www.drpratt.ca