The Dangers of Poor Sleep
Updated: Feb 18, 2021
Immune function and stress are two of the biggest concerns that we at Bloom Natural Health hear about, so we want to give you some tips for better sleep and encourage you to seek help if you are not sleeping well.
We recommend listening to a recent episode of The Peter Attia Drive podcast, in which Dr. Attia speaks with sleep expert Dr. Matthew Walker about how sleep impacts both our physical and emotional health. Their conversation focuses on how sleep affects immune function and how we handle stress, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
Highlights from the interview include:
Good sleep enhances immunity. Studies show that sleep deprivation decreased response to a flu vaccine (and conversely those who had 7-8 hrs of sleep a night in the week before the vaccine had an improved response).
REM sleep (the stage of sleep when we dream) is crucial for emotional health.
Alcohol disrupts sleep in significant ways.
The interview can be listened to in its entirety here: peterattiamd.com/matthewwalker4
Here's how we approach treating insomnia and supporting healthy sleep patterns:
Many people have insomnia because they are anxious, however, lack of sleep also has the potential to increase anxiety. Taking a sedative to sleep is a band-aid that often disrupts natural sleep architecture. Nutrient deficiencies, sleep apnea, hormone issues, and stress can all impact sleep. We work with our patients to uncover the cause and promote restful sleep naturally.
Before diving into a full workup, basic sleep hygiene needs to be addressed. By reviewing these simple steps and making changes, many people find that their sleep improves.
The Basics of Sleep Hygiene:
Have a regular sleep routine. If possible, go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time.
Do not nap if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night.
A cool dark bedroom will help enhance sleep. Dim lighting in the hours before sleep to help with melatonin production. Avoid bright light before bed for the same reason.
Avoid screens 1-2 hours before bed and avoid sleeping with devices in your bedroom and avoid looking at your phone first thing in the morning. Dr. Walker explains that looking at your phone first thing in the morning can elicit a cortisol spike. When this is a daily habit, your body anticipates this stressor which can disrupt sleep in the early morning hours.
Having a routine for waking up is ideal. Starting the day with some light stretching and 5-10 minutes of meditation before starting the work of the day.
One very helpful comes suggestion from Psychologist Tara Brach, as addressed on her podcast: tarabrach.com
In response to a question about how to manage stress, she suggested “bookending the day.” Starting with a few minutes of meditation and a reflection on what intention to set for the day. At the end of the day, reflect on the intention set without judgment. Find 1-3 things that went well or that you appreciated.
5. Have a relaxing bedtime routine.
For those who have trouble falling asleep, it can be helpful to do a relaxing activity such as reading or meditating before bed and allowing the feeling of sleepiness to arise before turning off the light and attempting to go to sleep.
6. Temperature plays a significant role in sleep quality. A drop in body temperature helps signal sleep onset. Try taking a warm/hot shower or bath in the evening to raise body temp, then end with a cool rinse. This relative lowering of body temperature can help with a good night's sleep.
7. Avoid caffeine after 11 am and limit to no more than 2 cups a day.
8. Avoid alcohol
9. Get light first thing in the morning. In the non-winter months, get outside first thing. In the winter, try light therapy. Exposure to 20 minutes of light therapy in the morning can set your circadian rhythm and improve nighttime sleep. Look for a 10,000 lux lightbox that has been designed to filter out UV light which can be damaging to the eyes. Twenty minutes of exposure at 16-24 inches away is a typical dose.