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HEALTH CONCERN? BioHealth Health Concerns

The Hidden Cost of Not Sleeping

Contributing: C1 Staff

Whether preventing future illness, fighting a life-threatening disease, or just trying to feel better in general, your efforts are in vain without smart lifestyle decisions, environmental awareness, and functional lab testing. You may not be experiencing obvious symptoms, but health problems rarely arise overnight. Most are the result of imbalances in the body that have developed over many years. With the information provided by C1, you will be better prepared to make important decisions that will impact your health now and in the future.

 

You see it all over the news. People falling asleep at the wheel, reports of “jet lag”, “power naps”, and other tag lines referring to the chronic sleep deficit America is experiencing. This sleep debt is directly costing America approximately 15.9 billion dollars a year in lost production, not to mention the indirect costs at close to 100 billion dollars, due to lost time at work and auto accidents. But the real cost of losing sleep is much higher. It’s your health and quality of life at stake.

As a nation we are more obese and ill than any other western country in the world. We also boast more nutritionists, scientists, and “health experts” than most of the countries in Europe combined. So how do you explain this paradox? We don’t sleep. In fact, 68% of Americans are clinically classified as insomniacs. You see, you can make up work, you can make up class, you can even make up a forgotten anniversary (if you’re lucky), but you can’t make up sleep. Why? Because when you miss sleep or even get sleep, but don’t reach the necessary REM and deep sleep cycles to facilitate mental and physical regeneration, your health pays the price. And sleeping late the next day or that next weekend won’t repair the damage. When you don’t get adequate rest your hormones are impacted and immediately begin affecting your appetite, energy level, and mental and emotional health. This ultimately results in the number one symptom that brings people to a doctor: Fatigue. The result of hormone exhaustion; commonly referred to as adrenal exhaustion.

America’s problem with sleep began about seventy years when the day was lengthened artificially by the advent of the lightbulb. At that time obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer become the main causes of death on coroner’s reports, instead of the usual over- use or work injury common before. In the early 20th century the average American was sleeping nine to ten hours a night. Now, less then a hundred years later, we get about 6 to 7 hours of sleep each night.

Sleep, Sun, and Hormones

The reduction in the number of hours of sleep most people get plays havoc with their hormonal system. Unfortunately, even if you do sleep nine hours a night you still may not be healing and recovering from the previous day’s activities. When you sleep can be just as important as how much you sleep. You see, biochemically humans are physiologically and intellectually geared to respond to light and dark. To all of our trillions of cells, day and night are just abbreviated forms of summer and winter. During long winters our ancestors would doze on and off for weeks on end in dark caves, slowing down metabolic functions to save energy for when food was more plentiful.

Today, just like then, our metabolic processes change when exposed to dark and to light. Evolutionarily, man is hardwired to begin the sleep process approximately three hours after the sun sets. The darker it is, the quicker melatonin production kicks in. The hormone melatonin plays an important role in regulating immune function. Once you fall asleep, surging melatonin levels encourage white-blood, T, and Nk cell activity to specifically target and destroy the bad bacteria and pathogens living in your body. By not sleeping between the hours of 11 pm and 3 am your immune system is seriously compromised.

It is between these hours that our DNA is programmed to initiate all of our psychic and physical regeneration. By not sleeping during this time the body stays in a catabolic state. Unlike the anabolic state, where the rebuilding of organic matter is achieved during deep sleep, a catabolic state signifies that the body is constantly tearing itself down in order to survive. In this state wounds take far longer to heal, illness never seems to go away, and energy levels are low. The body cannot concentrate on healing.

So, as if the inability to heal and an impaired immune system weren’t bad enough, staying up instead of sleeping also makes you fat. Since stress is heralded by cortisol and cortisol levels remain high as long as you’re bathed in light, staying up past three hours after sunset signals your body to hold on to fat. This is a holdover from the days when long periods of light signaled summer to our bodies, the season when food was plentiful and should be stored as fat to survive the winter. To be in bright light when your body knows it’s night is to tell it to keep storing fat to prepare for the upcoming famine (winter).

Total Rest and Recovery

Now that you understand the importance of sleep and sleeping during natural hours you may be wondering what you can do to help yourself sleep, especially if you already have existing sleep problems. There are three common reasons why people cannot fall asleep, stay asleep, or get the rest and recovery they need. The first is lack of oxygen, also known as sleep apnea. Snoring is not normal. If you have trouble breathing through your nose while you sleep then you may not be able to get into the necessary deep sleep needed to facilitate rest and regeneration. If you aren’t feeling rested and are aware of your ongoing snoring, do something about it. Oxygen exchange and uptake to the brain is far better through the nasal passages than mouth. Once you increase your oxygen uptake while you sleep you will notice the difference in how you sleep and feel in the morning.

Many people that have trouble falling asleep, or more commonly staying asleep, may be suffering from nutrient deficiency. As a health conscious society we have been told not to eat too close to bedtime if we want to keep the pounds off. However, what you really should have been told is to consume a small, balanced snack before bed. This keeps the body from going low blood sugar during the night. When you haven’t eaten for several hours before bedtime you run a good chance of suffering from hypoglycemia. During the night, under hypoglycemia, your body releases cortisol in what’s called a counter-glucose-regulating response. The adrenals have to wake up (when they should be resting) to mobilize cortisol in order to stabilize blood sugar. Unfortunately this results in waking and having difficulty returning to sleep. So, by eating a small balanced snack before you sleep not only are you increasing your chance of staying asleep, but you are inhibiting the production of insulin which keeps the fat on. Clinical studies have shown that people who consume a snack containing all three macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) and take a mineral supplement rich in potassium and calcium, not only fall to sleep faster, but stay asleep throughout the night and actually burn fat.

Now, if you’re like millions of other Americans you may have tried some of the above recommendations yet still have trouble sleeping. And when you do sleep you don’t spring up in the morning feeling rested and refreshed like you did in your twenties. So why is it that when you were younger you could go out and party all night, sleep 4 or 5 hours, and feel fine, but now that you’re older, wiser and trying to take of yourself a little better, you just can’t bounce back from late nights anymore? The answer is related to your hormones. When you’re young and operating on a full tank of hormones sleep comes more easily. However, as you age and no longer produce an abundance of hormones, your ability to adapt to life’s stressors becomes more and more difficult.

Measuring Hormones Vital to Sleep

There are three hormones that should be measured if you have any concerns about falling asleep, feeling refreshed in the morning, or getting the necessary rest and repair while sleeping to promote physical repair, and brain and immune function. The first, and one that often receives media attention, is melatonin. Melatonin levels should be increasing as night falls, reaching a peak output at approximately two to three in the morning.

Another hormone vital to the sleep process is progesterone. Progesterone is responsible for opening the GABA-chloride channel, vital for falling asleep. This is the same channel affected by a well-known sleep inducer, Valium. If you’ve ever had the sensation of not being able to turn your “inner” voice off when trying to fall asleep it may be an indication of a progesterone deficiency. Such deficiencies are quite prevalent in women between the ages of forty-five to fifty-five. This is the age when women are typically perimenopausal, the transition point that signifies the beginning of menopause. If you are having trouble relaxing and/or shutting down your brain at night progesterone (sublingual – under-the-tongue) and a mineral supplement may be exactly what you need.

Of all the hormones related to sleep, cortisol is by far the most important. Produced by the adrenal glands, cortisol is driven by stressors that can take a plethora of forms. Stress can be physical, mental or emotional. The best way to ensure your cortisol levels aren’t too high is to work with an expert in the field of adrenal health who can assess your adrenal health with simple, salivary, laboratory testing.  When cortisol levels are high at bedtime several things occur. The first is that your body cannot secrete growth hormone (GH). Without GH it is very hard to stay asleep, one of the reasons why older people seem to sleep less than when they were younger. GH is also responsible for taking amino acids from general circulation and mobilizing them to cells for repair. When cortisol levels are high and GH is not secreted, the body stays in a catabolic state, breaking down cells for amino acids that are released back into the bloodstream. When this occurs it becomes very difficult to heal, recover, or feel refreshed and energetic the next day.

COREONE now offers ways to ensure that your hormone levels are balanced throughout the day and night. Assessments are available to determine your melatonin rhythm, and levels of cortisol and progesterone throughout the night.  Assessments to determine mineral assimilation are also important in dealing with sleep issues. When working with COREONE you not only receive feedback on specific biochemical markers essential to health, but a COREONE doctor will work directly with you or your physician to develop a total treatment plan to ensure that you get the rest and recovery you need. Don’t let sleep problems make you fat, tired, or sick. Take action today and start reaping the benefits.

References

Morris, Kelly, “New Day Dawns for Research on Circadian Rhythms”; The Lancet 353 (March 20, 1999)

Oren Dan A., et al., “Restoration of Detectable Melatonin after Entrainment to a 24-Hour Schedule in a “Free-Running Man”; Psychoneuroendocrinology 22, no. 1 (1997); 39-52

Arendt J., “Biological Rhythms: The Science of Chronobiology”; Journal of Royal College of Physicians 32, no1 (January 1998): 27-35

Brzezinski, Amnon, “Melatonin in Humans”; New England Journal of Medicine 336, no. 3 (January 16, 1998): 189-195

Gura, Trisha, “Obesity Sheds Its Secrets”; Science 275 (February 7, 1997): 751-753

Vondrasva, Dana, et al.; “Exposure to Long Summer Days Affects the Human Melatonin and Cortisol Levels”, Brain Research 759 (1997): 166-170