Sleep for weight loss, good health and a long life

According to Canadian sleep expert Stanley Coren, you lose one IQ point for every hour of lost sleep that you did not get the night before.

by Paula Owens — 

Restful sleep is a must for health, vitality, longevity and fat loss. Researchers have found that sleeping as few as four hours a night interferes with your ability to secrete and regulate hormones, which, in turn, promotes aging, increases appetite and risk of diabetes, and adds inches to your waistline. Lack of sleep also promotes an environment primed for inflammation and catabolism (muscle loss).

According to Canadian sleep expert Stanley Coren, you lose one IQ point for every hour of lost sleep that you did not get the night before. Cognitive and mood problems develop, along with an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Healing of the mind, body and spirit occur during deep sleep; additionally, your energy is restored and replenished. Brain waves normally shift to a lower vibrational frequency as we progress from the initial stages of sleep to the deeper stages, such as the rapid eye movement (REM) stage.

Are you unable to fall asleep or do you wake up often throughout the night? Do you feel well rested when you wake in the morning? Do you want to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep? Symptoms of forgetfulness, headaches, lack of focus, itching, moodiness, cravings, and neck and backaches often disappear with a good night’s sleep. Try some of these tips:

  •  Consider avoiding foods you may be sensitive to. Dairy, sugar, soy, wheat and gluten can cause sleep apnea, excess congestion, gastrointestinal upset and disrupted sleep.
  •  If you want to burn significantly more body fat, go to bed as early as possible. Our systems, particularly the adrenals, do a majority of recharging or recovering during the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. This is when your gallbladder meridian is most active and dumps toxins. If you are awake, the toxins back up into the liver and secondarily back up into your entire system, causing further disruption of your health.
  • Waking up between the hours of 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. may indicate liver toxicity/congestion. Consistently waking between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. indicates oxidative stress. Also, consider hypoglycemia as a possibility.
  • For restful sleep, I recommend magnesium (natures natural muscle relaxer), 400 to 800 mg, 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.
  • Create an environment for restful sleep as evening approaches by dimming the lights one hour before bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol. Although alcohol might make you drowsy, the effect is short-lived and you will often wake up several hours later, unable to fall back asleep. Alcohol prevents you from falling into the deeper stages of sleep, and it disrupts and inhibits growth hormone production.
  • For anxiety, inositol or a blend of valerian, hops and passionflower are excellent herbal tranquilizers without side effects.
  • Avoid before-bedtime snacks, particularly grains and sugars that raise blood sugar and inhibit growth hormone release.
  • Working late, using the computer and cell phones and texting into the wee hours delay sleep and increase awakenings.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day. A recent study showed that in some people, caffeine is not metabolized efficiently and they feel the effects long after consuming it. Various medications and diet pills contain caffeine.
  • Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bedtime. This provides your body with L-tryptophan, which is needed to produce melatonin and serotonin.
  • Loud alarm clocks can be very stressful on your body. If an electric alarm clock must be used, keep it as far away from the bed as possible, preferably at least five feet because of electromagnetic fields (EMFs). EMFs disrupt the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin, and come with a host of other negative effects. If you must use a clock, remove it from view. (Note that electric blankets can also emit EMFs.)
  • Exercise regularly — at least 30 minutes daily helps you fall asleep. Exercising too close to bedtime may keep you awake.
  • Get a handle on your stress. According to sleep experts, stress is the number one cause of sleep problems.
  • Read something spiritual. This will help you relax. Refrain from reading anything stimulating, such as a mystery or suspense novel, which may have the opposite effect.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same times, even on the weekends. This will help your body to get into a sleep rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep and get up in the morning.
  • Hydrate during the day. If you are dehydrated, your body will produce more cortisol, which disrupts sleep.
  • Before bedtime, list three to five things you are grateful for in your journal or gratitude log.
  • Keep your bedroom temperature no higher than 70 degrees F. Many people keep their bedrooms too hot.
  • Avoid the computer and television at least two hours before bedtime. Keep them out of the bedroom.
  • Sprinkle a few drops of lavender or sandalwood oil on your pillow. Practice deep belly breathing.
  • Listen to white noise or relaxation CDs. Some people find white noise or nature sounds soothing for sleep.
  • Lose weight. Being overweight increases your risk of sleep apnea, which will prevent  restful sleep.
  • Many prescription and over-the-counter medications affect sleep.
  • Sleep in complete darkness or as close to it as possible. The tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your circadian rhythm and the pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin. Minimize light in the bathroom at night. As soon as you turn on a light, production of melatonin is stopped.
  • Take a hot bath, shower or sauna before bed. Add some epsom salts to the bath. The magnesium is absorbed through your skin and promotes muscular relaxation. Also, essential aromatic oils provide a state of calm, which enhances sleep.
  • Have your hormones and adrenals tested. Hormonal disruption occurs during peri-menopause, menopause and andropause and high-stress lifestyles. Insomnia is often a symptom of overtaxed adrenals.
  • Wear socks to bed. A study has shown that wearing socks may reduce the incidences of waking up throughout the night.
  • As a last resort, consider melatonin and its precursors, L-tryptophan or 5-hydroxytryptophan (HTP). If behavioral changes do not work, melatonin may help you. Be sure to exercise extreme caution with this hormone. Use only as a last resort.

Ideally, it is best to increase levels of melatonin naturally with exposure to bright sunlight in the daytime (along with full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs in the winter) and complete darkness at night. The 5-HTP should not be used during pregnancy or lactation, in individuals taking antidepressant drugs, or those with cardiovascular disease. Always discuss with your health care practitioner prior to using.

You cannot just throw a hormone into the system because levels are low. There is the potential to disrupt the entire balance. I am not implying that you should never opt for hormones; however, it is better to look at why your levels are low in the first place and bring your body into balance through diet, nutritional supplementation, lifestyle modifications and the appropriate type and amount of exercise. If that fails to bring hormones back into balance, then consider supplemental hormones.


Paula Owens, M.S., is a nutritionist, fitness expert, weight-loss coach and holistic health practitioner with more than 20 years of experience. She is the author of The Power of 4.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 5, October/November 2011.

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