In our face-paced, technology-centric, global society, sleep is equated with luxury. Some people actually wear sleep deprivation like a status symbol, or a badge of honor. But science backs the benefits of adequate sleep as a mechanism to allow your body to recover after a day on the go. Sleep deprivation not only makes you groggy, but pushing into overtime can increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. It can also impair your memory, and affect your ability to think and process information. Sleep loss and sleep related disorders are linked to accidents and catastrophes including the Chernobyl nuclear explosion and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
A CDC study from 2014 found that one-third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults ages 18-64 need 7-9 hours/night and those over 65 need 7-8 hours. Sleep, like nutrition and physical activity, are critical determinants of health and well-being.
How does sleep deprivation increase risk of chronic disease? The body produces and regulates hormones during sleep. Enter Ghrelin and Leptin, two important hormones. Ghrelin drives hunger, and leptin helps us feel satiated and full. Lack of sleep increases ghrelin and decreases leptin-meaning you are more likely to feel hungry and overeat if you are chronically sleep deprived. This same process causes glucose levels to rise, increasing the risk of diabetes. Sleep deprivation also raises blood pressure thereby increasing the risk of stroke, heart disease and coronary artery calcification. And if that were not enough, low level inflammation and auto-immunity are often triggered by exhaustion.
Sleep hygiene are practices and habits that influence sleep quality and duration. Here are some suggestions to improve your sleep:
- Create a consistent sleep schedule. And try to go to bed and wake up the same time even on weekends and vacations. This reinforces the body’s sleep cycle.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine and stick with it. Take a warm shower or bath, read and/or meditate an hour before bed.
- Put away your phone or table an hour before bed. The blue lights emitted by electronic devices activate the brain, and decrease melatonin. On Apple devices there is a night shift function, which changes the color of the screen from blue to light orange.
- Consider your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Block light with curtains, set the thermostat from 60-67 F, and get a white noise machine to block out ambient noise.
- Avoid late night heavy meals, caffeine too close to bedtime, and moderate alcohol use.
Kitchen-Prescription Recipes: Savory Turkey Meatloaf
2 lbs ground organic turkey
1/2 cup gluten free bread crumbs
1 package gluten free onion soup mix
1/2 onion finely chopped
2 grated carrots
3 tsp chopped parsley
1 egg lightly beaten
1/2 cup chicken stock
Mix all ingredients throughly and bake at 350 F for an hour in glass pan oncovered.
Prior to serving, add fresh parsley garnish
Turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid the body needs to make serotonin and melatonin, both hormones that make you sleepy and help regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
Almonds pack a punch too as they contain both magnesium and melatonin. Magnesium helps promote muscle relaxation and sleep and reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, that is known to interrupt sleep. Eat a handful of almonds 2 hours prior to bedtime to get some zzz’s.
Camomile tea contains apigenin, a phytochemical that not only promotes sleep, but also has strong anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Lastly tart cherry juice is naturally rich in melatonin and also contains tryptophan . Look for 100% cherry juice without sweeteners and take 2 tablespoons 2 hours before bed for a better night’s sleep.