EP 150 – Eat This: Prioritizing Sleep

To eat well is to sleep well. To sleep well is to eat well. The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. Research has shown it over and over again, and yet it’s not talked about. As you’re here, you are interested in health and with a podcast and show titled EAT THIS, you’ll quite rightly expect to hear all about food, but let me tell you, not including sleep in the health conversation would do you a disservice. As with nutrition, your doctor has not received much training on how important sleep is for every single ailment or disease that they learn about in med school, so it’s up to us to get up to speed on it. Our sleep cycles include REM sleep which helps our emotional balance and reenergizes the mind, and it’s your dream state, and amazingly when you’re in this state, you’re paralyzed to run, move or act on what’s going on in that dream. Then there’s deep sleep is integral for memory-making and part of the sleep cycle that reduces the most as we age. After Dr. Davis Brockenshire mentioned in episode 147 on metabolic flexibility, getting 20% REM and the same for Deep Sleep, it was a wake-up call for me as my deep sleep ranges in the 2-10% range nightly. Sleep affects our hormones, genetics, our mood, repair, growth, the potential for diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer, how long you live, and how healthy you are while you’re living. Experts say that we are a chronically sleep-deprived society, and as I have heard in many messages and emails from you, my lovely loyal listeners, they’re not wrong. Today on EAT THIS with Lianne, Prioritizing Sleep. What is happening in your body when you aren’t getting enough and how to up your sleep game with some tips that I’m going to guess that you may not have tried yet.

What constitutes a good night’s sleep? We go through 90-minute sleep cycles of both deep and REM sleep and then move into a light sleep phase. The sweet spot is 8 hours of sleep – not in-bed-time, but actually asleep.  People have issues with falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking too early. A lack of sleep can be self-inflicted because of unhealthy sleep hygiene habits and because of life. Maybe you’re out late, having a great time, and don’t want it to stop, so you stay out later and feel like you need to make up for it for days. Or it’s the nodding off that can feel elusive despite the desperation and willingness to enter that blissful state. Or waking at different times of the night becomes a habit no matter how much melatonin you take. Let’s face it, sleep can be an ongoing shit show induced by bad habits, poor choices, and inconsistencies that need to be brought to light, despite feeling that you’re the victim of this sleep-wake scenario. 

I’m going to come at this with some of the a-ha’s that I had while researching this and finish off with some tips and suggestions that while could be uncomfortable at first, could really be what finally gets you sleeping. 

First off, let’s really look where you’re at now. Have you done a sleep diary? A version of a food diary that I’ve recommended that you do to assess where you’re at in the past? It’s a great place to start. If you have a way of tracking from your Apple watch in the Health App, maybe you track with an Oura ring, or any other tool, know that the experts say that they are closer to 60% accurate, so use it as a guide. Next note what can be negatively affecting your sleep? Note your evening habits, do you watch TV, or nap on the couch, what time do you put your phone down or get off the laptop, when do you work out? What are your morning habits as in what time you wake, when is the first time that you see natural light, and how much natural light are you exposed to during the day? When do you have a coffee or tea, and when is your last meal or snack, and what was it – protein, carb, sugary, a bag of something? Seriously do an audit of your day, and note your sleep patterns too. Do that for a week and then come back and listen to this episode and then adjust. 

The issues of sleep can be influenced by a long list of contributing factors. There are medications that mess up sleep, so read the insert of whatever you are taking to manage your expectations and speak with your doctor about other options. Caffeine and its life within your body is a huge factor, and although you think that you have a fast clearing of caffeine because a cup of coffee before bed doesn’t seem to affect you, think again. Alcohol, and cannabis, which so many people use to wind down in the evening, whether it’s at home or because you’re having time out with friends act as a sedative, which is not a sleep state, and it messes with your sleep cycles and DOES NOT help you sleep. The time that you last eat affects your sleep as we need to be in a more fasted state for those sleep patterns to cycle through. Hormonal issues like thyroid imbalance, menopause, the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, and your blood sugar balance, like hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, also play a huge part here. Let’s not leave out the effect on testosterone, for the lads listening. Yep, you’re not immune here. What is the temperature of your room and how much light comes in, depending on the time of year? Could you be low in magnesium and are you carrying around heavy metals like mercury from your tuna obsession or cadmium from smoking? When did you last engage in stimulating activity, that could be exercise, reading an email from your boss, having an argument, or watching a stressful or scary movie or tv show? And yes having sex can sure be stimulating but no I’m not talking about that because orgasm and cascade of hormones can help induce sleep for some. 

What does sleep deprivation affect? Everything. Truly. 

Let’s run through some of the associations that just might push you to prioritize your sleep, and get you to put your phone down, dim the lights, and change to some healthier habits, despite knowing you’ll be uncomfortable until they become part of your daily routine. 

Dr. Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep is an excellent read and among all of the information that he shares from an insane amount of research, he says that there is no mental health or psychiatric condition in which sleep is normal. With an epidemic of mental health issues, knowing the influence of sleep needs to be assessed and supported no matter what is going on. 

Are you looking to lose weight? You will not get there if you don’t prioritize sleep. The efficiency of dieting or your attempt to lose weight when you’re not getting enough sleep, like under 6 hours a night or less, means that 70% of the weight that you lose will come from lean muscle, not fat. So that belly fat that you’re looking to lose after I talked about all the issues in last week’s episode as I answered a listener question, well your efforts are not useful when you’re underslept. Your body will hold onto your fat, and give up muscle which is what drives your metabolism in the first place, so sleep first. 

Deprive people of sleep, they hurt more. There are more pro-inflammatory cytokines are released when you are sleep deprived, so those aches and pains are worse. Think about being in an accident and ending up in the hospital. You never sleep well from the beeps and other people in pain, and this is the place you go to get help and heal. Sadly it’s the last place to be other than the care and overseeing that you get from the doctors, it’s not the right place to induce healing. 

The immune system is clobbered by not enough sleep. There is a reduction in immune complexes called natural killer cells – a critical part of immunity – that are not at their post without sleep. Cancer cells that we all have in our bodies are kept at bay by these cells and these NK cells and after just one night of 4 hours of sleep, there is a reduction in 70% of your NK cells. There are links between 6 hours or less and an increased risk of certain types of cancers. Recently the WHO stated that nighttime shiftwork has been classified as carcinogenic. 

Listen to this: you are 4 x more likely to get the flu if you’re getting 7 hours or less sleep. 

Parents out there, think of when you had kids – I didn’t get much sleep even more so after the second came along, I was sick all the time, and they were sick all the time. It was brutal. They get sick and we the parents get sick too. 

How about glucose control? I’m wearing my glucose monitor and monitoring my sleep too. Especially now understanding that sleep deprivation can lead to dysregulated glucose, and mess with my appetite, and what I am eating. Those getting less than 7 hours are more likely to get diabetes or can be in even a pre-diabetic state. After one week of short sleep, your blood sugar levels get so messed up that you could look diabetic if you did an oral glucose tolerance test. Insulin insensitivity or resistance can come from a lack of sleep because sleep deprivation means that you release less insulin, and the cells or receptor sites don’t absorb as much glucose. That means your glucose remains higher, hardens the cells of your body and brain which increases the aging process, and that extra glucose gets put into fat stores, especially around your belly which we know from last week is not good. Poor glucose management and sleep insufficiency go hand in hand. 

Let’s talk about your eating after a crappy night’s sleep. First, you are irritable and anxious and impulsive. That makes for a crappy day. When you don’t get enough sleep, whether it’s interrupted or not enough, you get cravings the next day, right? Similar to when you have a hangover. This is because your appetite hormones leptin and ghrelin go in different directions. High leptin tells you that you’re full. Ghrelin increases and you feel more hungry and so you eat more. Usually, leptin goes up after a meal and Ghrelin goes down. When you don’t have enough sleep, you lose that full feeling, and ghrelin increases which means you overeat at meals, but it’s the snacking that gets you. Studies show that you not only eat around 400 cals extra, but you’re also drawn to sugary, starchy, and salty foods like chips. Mostly carbs usually, right? Then that roller coaster continues if your food doesn’t contain fiber, is higher in the glycemic index as in the quick release of sugar and it keeps the cycle going. And don’t think that if you stay up you’re going to burn more calories, because the difference between being asleep or awake is just over 100 calories as while you are asleep, you’re still burning calories and energy. 

Are you a morning or night person? It’s genetic. Genetics can be influenced however most of us know if we are a morning or night owl as a predisposition. Chris, what are you? 

Here’s a quick reframe for you: If you’re a night owl you might think that you have insomnia and can’t fall asleep as you go to bed with your morning lark next to you who crashes in moments. If you’re a night owl and you have to get up at 6 am every day, you’re losing some important sleep cycles and that has associations with depression and mental health. What can you do here, know that it’s a thing and see what you can do to work within those genetics with many of the suggestions that I have here? 

Sleep is a learned skill and has an association with it. Dark room, cozy blankets, comfy pillow, you can do it. Why can you fall asleep on the couch? You know you can do it, it happens every night. Let’s talk about ways to help induce the zzzs. 

For good sleep, Dr. Walker in his book talks about depth so the quality of sleep, duration, continuity, and regularity. Keep that in mind as you assess and talk about what sleep success looks like. 

Darkness is key. I’ve always thought that when I close my eyes it’s dark, but I don’t suffer too badly from a lack of sleep and typically know why my sleep is off. 

Turn down the lights, get dimmer switches, and about 4 hours before bed, see what you can do to dim any light. Those night modes on your phone don’t cut it either, but blue-blocking glasses can help. An hour before, shut down all tech and light from a screen. I know that’s not easy, but if you’re not sleeping, I said that some changes to get you there would be uncomfortable. This is one that you just have to put a line in the sand with and create a boundary. Start a new habit with a book, even if you’re not a reader, or run a warm bath and add Epsom salts and lavender oil that can help to reduce cortisol levels. 

Speaking of a hot bath, if you and your room temperature aren’t right, it’s going to mess up your sleep. 

The body needs to drop the temperature by 1-degree celsius or 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit at night. You’ll find it easier to fall asleep in a room that’s too cool rather than too hot. 

At home, we don’t get a thermal cue to sleep because the thermostat keeps our rooms and homes at the same temperature. Let’s quickly talk about thermal manipulation. Manipulating your core body temperature can induce sleep quicker in falling asleep and it can influence your deep sleep by 10-20% and even more in older people and those with insomnia. 

You need to cool the body, but with a hot bath, sauna, or shower.  When you get into the bath, vasodilation happens on the surface of the skin, so the heat from your core moves out to the surface, your skin dissipates the heat and your core temperature lowers. That’s what you want. A hot sauna and cold plunge or shower really can help sleep and help jet lag. If you can’t sleep at night, get in the shower, warm up and hit the cold, and then get back into bed. This is the second one I was talking about in being uncomfortable.

To do:

Temperature – bedroom temp 63 – 66 degrees or 17 degrees C. 

Ditch the booze and cannabis for at least two weeks. Stop eating at 6 or 7 pm and have warm herbal tea in the evening. 

Supplements that you can take to help: 

Physica Energetics HPA Axis – for help with managing stress and those hormone levels. It has Ashwagandha which is for stress moderation. 

Reishi mushrooms from RealMushrooms.com Use this link for 20% off your purchase.

Magnesium Bis-Glycinate – take 200 mg to 400 mg at bedtime.

Theonine amino acid – for relaxation and calming.

I know it’s a drag and doesn’t feel like you’re living to change from the things that you love doing, but they are habits that aren’t serving you. You’re not living unless your sleeping better. This episode begs for a part 2 but let’s see what you think of this for starters and I can revisit it later.

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