Ever heard the saying “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”? Whoever said that was literally making a fatal error. Sleep is so important for your health, including your longevity. Sleep helps you to perform important metabolic processes like cleaning up toxic proteins in the brain, REM sleep, where your brain is busy consolidating short-term memories into long-term memories, and even digestion.
Lack of sleep has been associated with many health issues, including increased inflammation, impaired focus, difficulty losing weight, lowered testosterone production, and GI symptoms such as bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
Getting enough good quality sleep is essential for your well-being and can help you to perform better, reduce risk of disease and make life more enjoyable! This blog will review some of the things that can disrupt your sleep and can help your sleep, as well as discuss the relationship between poor sleep and your gut symptoms.
What can disrupt your sleep
Light helps regulate the human biological clock - The Circadian Rhythm.
The Circadian Rhythm is an internal clock which is set on a 24 hour cycle, that regulates biological processes in all animals, plants, fungi, and even some bacteria. It tells us when it’s daytime, nighttime, when we should have energy, when we should feel sleepy and when it’s food time, and time for activity.
You can finely tune your own circadian rhythm so that you have a healthy, predictable and dependable routine.
While sunlight helps to stimulate the rise of cortisol, we can keep cortisol levels unnaturally high through uncontrolled stress, exposure to sun-mimicking light from computers, phone and TV screens and caffeine. When cortisol levels are elevated into the night this prevents melatonin levels from rising, which prevents us from naturally becoming ready for rest. This pattern continues into the morning when we find it more difficult to wake as melatonin is still in our system. The lack of sleep, chronically elevated cortisol levels and exhaustion can lead to poor digestion, weight gain, difficulty losing weight, stress and illness.
So if you have to use electronics before bedtime, consider installing a program that gradually reduces blue light from the screen after sunset. Fortunately, more and more devices come with such a program preinstalled (e.g.,Night Shift on iPhones and Macs). F.lux is a free app that can be installed on laptops and computers. Also consider the lighting in your house after dark. Do you often have all the lights on? What tone light bulbs do you use? Consider switching for dimmable or yellow tone bulbs, and using side lamps instead of bright overhead lights.
But what if you can’t easily adjust the color balance of your screen? Or if the blue-light source is a lighting fixture in a room you share with other people? In such instances, consider wearing blue-light-blocking glasses a couple of hours before bedtime. Remember, however, that though blue light is the main offender, you should avoid any bright lights in the hours leading to sleep.
Finally, light doesn’t just impact your ability to fall asleep, it can also impact your quality of sleep. If you live in an area where light pollution is a concern, consider installing blackout curtains or using a sleep mask.