Have you been staring at the ceiling, begging the sleep gods for just a little restorative sleep?
Not getting enough quality sleep can quickly snowball into a giant constellation of problems. Our bodies, brains, and minds are very busy when we sleep.
Notice that nuance, too – brain and mind. Your brain as a physical structure has its own "drainage system" called the glymphatic system. It uses lymphatic fluid to flush out all the built-up gunk that accumulates throughout the day from metabolism and cellular activity. Your mind also sorts and processes information from your day, making memories, and categorizing information.
All those chores take up a quarter to a third of your life! Without sleep to give you that clean-out period and time to do your mental filing, you really can have a dirty mind.
During sleep, a gland within the center of your brain called the pineal gland is also hard at work. It makes melatonin which controls sleep patterns working in conjunction with cortisol. Similarly, the pituitary gland at the base of your brain releases growth hormones to help the body heal, regenerate, and grow.
Cortisol from the adrenal glands often gets a bad rap because it can trigger fat storage. Our bodies are wired to store fat as a quick energy reserve. We store fat in areas that don't get a lot of muscle use. But cortisol is actually our friend. It wakes us up in the morning, alerts us to feel hungry, and later in the day, helps us fall asleep at night.
Without cortisol, we'd be zombies. Our cortisol production becomes disorganized and inconsistent thanks to stress and other things that trigger a flight, fight, or freeze response. Adrenal exhaustion results when our cortisol levels don't ebb and flow as they should; instead, we're always on high alert. That constant engagement of the survival mechanism we all have means terrible or no sleeping.
Not Enough Sleep Can Cause Serious Problems
We have two systems that are our superhighways of information between the brain and the body: our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. During sleep, our sympathetic nervous system resets. If we aren't sleeping, our sympathetic nervous system continues to fire on all eight around the clock, chronically raising our blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and other anxiety warning signals.
Within the muscular system, during our most vivid dreams in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, our muscles are sort of paralyzed. This paralysis keeps us from flailing about too much as we "live out" our dreaming. The experience of waking up during this phase is hugely disorienting.
Other muscles take a break too. Thankfully, our brain tells our urinary system to give it a rest too. It releases an anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), so we aren't peeing in our sleep or having our muscles initiate the urge to pee.
Researchers have also learned that the brain isn't just what you were born with. Remember those old notions that you have a finite number of brain cells, so don't burn 'em off. We now know that our brains can continue to grow. The term for this is neuroplasticity. An exhausted, dirty, overworked brain cannot do the work of remodeling and upgrading its structures or functions.
How Do You Know If You're Not Getting Enough Sleep?
Outside of feeling like you're dragging through your day and reaching for stimulants around 3 pm to keep from face-planting into your keyboard, there are other tell-tale signs to be aware of. Lack of sleep underpins depression, and can cause seizures, dizziness, elevated blood pressure, lowered immune strength, increased possibility of infections, blood sugar issues, and migraines. These changes can begin even with one night of bad or missed sleep.
Likely, if you're not getting good sleep, you know it. And you're reading this thinking, "so what do I do? I like sleep. I want sleep. But I can't sleep!!!" We get it.
There are some very simple things you can do to begin reversing the vicious cycle of deprived sleep.
- Stop your intake of stimulants or alcohol after 3 pm.
- Don't watch the news before you go to bed.
- Lower your exposure to things that raise your irk-factor.
- Set your phone across the room from your bed.
- Don't sleep with the TV on.
- Lower the temperature in your bedroom.
These simple lifestyle changes will support your body/brain reset and create new habits that encourage a more natural winding down at the end of your day. Even if you only do one or two of them, you’re beginning to reclaim your sleep time.
At our Health Direct office, we also constantly hear from people that they find that our AminoSculpt* helps them sleep better, which makes sense. There’s a significant body of clinical research showing that glycine, one of the abundant amino acids in our medical-grade liquid collagen peptide supplement, helps with sleep, rebuilding, and lowering body temperature, which is a key function of our natural sleep process.
We’ve also developed RestorIt Adrenal Care+* with Sensoril® Ashwaganda; this unique formula offers a four-pronged approach to reducing stress, fighting fatigue, improving hormone balance, and promoting sleep. It’s a four-way win for people who need help with the adrenal-burning effects of stress. And, if the fatigue isn’t too bad but you just need a little support to get through the day and balance things out, try Nature’s Optimal Nutrition Energize* with Sensoril® too in the mornings to prevent that 3 pm crash and burn cycle.
Even just a few of these changes to your lifestyle and adding any or all of our sleep-supporting products to your daily regimen can help you create improved sleep patterns.
There's nothing like a good night's sleep; now you know why you weren’t wrong – you could be literally dying for lack of some good sleep.
 Kawai, N., et al (2015). The sleep-promoting and hypothermic effects of glycine are mediated by NMDA receptors in the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 40(6), 1405–1416. https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2014.326
|These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.|
Lisa Moretti is a Certified Health Coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN), the largest nutrition school in the world. She was at the top of her cohort in 2015. She's been involved in the natural health and supplement world professionally since 1981.