All too often, I hear the complaint from patients that they are having trouble sleeping at night. Whether it’s falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting up in the morning, it seems the majority of people in our day and age struggle with getting good, let alone enough, sleep. So what can lead to these challenges? Lets take a look at a few possibilities.
From phones, to tablets, to TV’s and more, we are bombarded with a constant barrage of stimulating light. These devices give off a blue-wavelength spectrum of light, a very short wavelength, which makes it difficult for our brains to shut down at night. This type of light actually suppresses the production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, and can alter the circadian rhythm, which allows us to have proper, consistent sleep/wake cycles. It may be time to shut that phone down before going into bed, and consider reducing or eliminating that time in front of the TV during late times at night as well.
Low Blood Sugar
Dysglycemia, or blood sugar dysregulation, is running rampant among our society. You don’t have to have diabetes to have trouble controlling blood sugar, and sleep is just one area that may be affected as a result. When our diets are high in carbohydrates and sugars, our body quickly breaks these down for use for quick energy. What happens when we eat a dinner high in carbs or a late night snack high in sugar, such as ice cream? We may go to bed feeling full and satisfied, but the quickly broken down and absorbed carbs can’t sustain the energy our body needs through a full night of sleep. So our body taps into our adrenal glands to secrete cortisol, our stress hormone, to pull blood sugar out of our stores and into our blood stream so our body, and our brain, can continue to function while we sleep. With this quick spike in cortisol, along with adrenaline hormones, in the middle of the night, our brain quickly wakes us up as we get put into fight or flight mode. This often takes place sometime between 2 and 3am. If this is you, consider having a healthy snack high in protein before bed, so your body has something in can break down and use over the course of a night of sleep.
The world we live in tends to be busy, go-go-go, and thus, stressful. But does that high stress life you live really affect your sleep? It most certainly does. As mentioned above, cortisol, our stress hormone, plays a large role in our sleep. During the day our cortisol levels are higher, to keep us alert and awake. At night, they drop and should be at their lowest point in the middle of the night, so we can sleep. When morning comes cortisol increases to help us get up and ready for the day. But when stress levels are high in a person’s life, the pattern of cortisol can be thrown off. Often, one may feel awake at night and have a hard time falling asleep, while mornings are nearly impossible to get out of bed. Adding to the story, melatonin, our sleep hormone, works in an inverse relationship, where it should be low during the day and high at night to help us sleep. When these become out of range or even reversed, our sleep patterns are greatly affected.
3 Steps to Better Sleep
1. Turn off your phone, tablets, and TV while in bed, and maybe even an hour or so prior.
2. Avoid high carb meals for dinner, and especially high sugar snacks before bed.
3. Consider doing an easy test that measures cortisol levels in your saliva throughout the day, to see if your levels are where they should be. This test can be ordered and reviewed in our Champlin wellness clinic.
It’s time you start taking control of your sleep. Sleep is one of the most critical parts to optimal brain health and every poor night of sleep can lead to more trouble down the road. Call today to discuss with one of our providers about how we can help you.
Erik Starr, DC