You have made it through your day, completing chores, making dinner and are settling down for the night. Ideally, candles are lit, your softest PJ’s are on and you’ve got your favorite mug of tea in hand to sip while you cozy up in bed to read. But then, your phone vibrates. A string of messages starts coming through and before you know it, you’ve spent 30 minutes staring at your phone.
Rather than winding down from your day, you may often find yourself prey to the attractions of text messages, emails, Facebook, YouTube and other social media. It is so easy to allow your attention to be drawn into the world within screens. But these LED’s, along with LED TV screens could be causing you sleep and weight issues, depriving you of energy you need to tackle the next day.
How Technology Interferes With Your Sleep & Energy
Your body has an internal timeclock, or circadian rhythm that helps determine your sleep patterns. When naturally aligned with daylight, the setting sun and darkening of the day, your body will produce melatonin, your sleep hormone. However, with interference from various light sources such as your phone or TV, your circadian rhythm can get thrown off. This is because exposure to the short wavelengths of blue light that is emitted from LED’s increases alertness and suppresses your release of melatonin.
And have you ever wondered why, after a full night’s sleep you still feel so drained of energy? Research has shown that the effects of blue light exposure can delay restorative REM sleep and lead to morning tiredness. To top it off, repeated exposure before bed can reduce your body’s digestion abilities and nutrient absorption from food, upping your chances of weight gain.
Amount of Sleep
You know that your body requires a certain amount of sleep in order to be healthy. It is worth repeating however, as the lure towards devices that irritate sleep patterns become so common. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about one-third of adults in the U.S. sleep less than the recommended seven hours per night to maintain best health. Chronically depriving yourself of sleep puts you at risk for psychiatric disorders, hormonal imbalance, hypertension, stroke, cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunctions and early mortality.
You need restful sleep so that your brain can initiate a series of restorative functions within your body’s various systems. This includes your nervous, immune, skeletal and muscular systems. Some attractive qualities of these systems getting downtime to repair are staving off Alzheimer’s, wrinkles, helping your muscle tissue repair and build, and your metabolism to reset itself. And while you may be giving yourself enough hours of sleep, problems with staying asleep can inhibit you from getting the functional healing your body so greatly needs.
Quality of Sleep
Besides the disturbance of blue light from LED’s to your sleep pattern, your daily activity can govern much of the quality of your sleep. The biggest contributor to your ability to get a restful night’s sleep lies in how much exercise you are getting during the day.
Studies have documented that if you are exercising, you are supporting your sleep routine in one of the best, most natural ways possible. The effects of aerobic exercise on sleep have been found to be similar to the effects of sleeping pills! Exercise is associated with decreasing lighter sleep stages and increasing the deeper, most restorative stages of sleep.
Unfortunately, alongside the large statistic of adults not sleeping enough, is the number of those not exercising enough. A study by the National Health Interview Survey found that from 1988 to 2010 the number of women who do not exercise recreationally went from 19.1% to 51.7%, and the statistic for men went from 11.4% to 43.5%! By 2015, it was found that over one-half of adults in the U.S. do not meet the federal Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity. This suggests that adults engage in moderate-intense aerobic physical activity for about five hours a week, or two and-a-half hours of vigorous-intense aerobic activity per week.
Improving Your Sleep
Okay, okay, you get it. You know you need to work out, but how is it possible to grasp the energy needed to exercise if you are so tired to begin with? The bidirectional relationship between sleep and exercise can be assisted through a functional medicine approach to weight loss. Even if you are not dealing with weight issues, you will benefit through the functional healing of the Elimination Diet. Reducing your weight and/or figuring out what foods work best with your body can help improve your sleep.
TIP # 1: Exercise in the morning. The aging process can affect circadian rhythms and contribute to factors that cause sleep disturbances. Because light exposure and physical activity provide direct feedback to your circadian rhythm, it is best to align yourself as naturally as possible with the light of day. Working out stimulates rises in your body temperature and produces hormones that excite you, not something you may want at a time when you are trying to cool and calm down. Also, it has been observed that those who work out in the morning tend to be more consistent with their routines.
TIP # 2: Dim the lighting in your home and on your phone within two to three hours before sleep. Using dim red lights have the least power to disrupt your circadian rhythm. Avoid watching TV or tuning into your phone before bed. Set your alarm and turn on airplane mode, if you can. If you are unable to pull yourself away from a screen or dim the lights, I recommend wearing blue-light blocking glasses.
TIP # 3: Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol can trigger the wake-promoting areas of your brain and increase upper airway collapse and resistance putting you at risk for sleep apnea. Caffeine is a stimulant to your brain and if ingested within about six hours prior to your bedtime, can keep you up. In general, avoid drinking too many liquids close to your bedtime as a full bladder will most likely wake you.
TIP #4: Include functional foods into the last meal of your day. Whole grains, lettuce, cherry, kiwifruits, and walnuts. Studies suggest that there are higher functional components in these foods such as tryptophan and melatonin, known for their sleep promoting benefits.
TIP #5: Limit your eating before bed. The timing of your meals can influence your sleep quality. Meals close to your bedtime can cause a spike in your blood-sugar levels, stimulating counter-regulatory hormones and increasing your appetite by the time you wake up. And if you are sleeping on a full stomach, you may feel the effects of gastrointestinal issues such as GERD, IBS, and inflammation. *Bonus Tip: Try sleeping on your left side, as right lateral positions during sleep causes more acid reflux.
TIP # 6: Incorporate Essential Oils. Oils such as lavender, sandalwood and cedar oils cause your olfactory senses to send signals to your brain. In response, your brain releases calming hormones such as serotonin to soothe your nervous system and help you prepare for a restful night’s sleep.
For more information on Functional Medicine visit my website at KiranGrewalMD.com
To Your Health,