The usual prescription for a healthy lifestyle includes a healthy diet and regular exercise. But there’s another critical element that often gets overlooked: Sleep. Experts recommend a minimum of 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Yet most American adults report that they get 6 hours of sleep or less on most nights.
Sleep can completely change your entire outlook on life. It is much more than just a critical building block of our daily lives—a tool to help us be better at work, give a better presentation, come up with more ideas in a meeting, score more goals, or put more points on the board. Change starts with something as simple as it is profound: asking ourselves what kind of life we want to lead, what we value, what gives our lives meaning.
„А good day starts the night before“
As a starter, watch this funny motivational TED talk by celebrity wellness expert Arianna Huffington.
We don’t usually think of sleep as an activity, but that’s exactly what it is. In fact, it’s the most restorative activity you can perform. You need that rejuvenating time to set your internal biological clock, regulate your appetite, consolidate and heal your memories, and refresh your mood.
Our sleep is not empty time. It is a time of intense neurological activity – a rich time of renewal, memory consolidation, brain and neurochemical cleansing, and cognitive maintenance. Our sleeping time is as valuable a commodity as the time we spend awake. Getting the right amount of sleep enhances the quality of every minute we spend with our eyes open. "Getting enough sleep," says Dr. Judith Owens, the director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital, "is just as important as good nutrition, physical activity, and wearing your seat belt.”
Beyond all our struggling and our rushing there is a stillness that’s available to us,
that comes from a place deeper and more ancient than the unending noise that surrounds us.
Sleep allows us to connect with this deeper part of ourselves. Because when we are asleep,
the things that define our identity when we’re awake—our jobs, our relationships, our hopes,
our fears—recede. And that makes possible one of the least discussed benefits (or miracles,
really) of sleep: the way it allows us, once we return from our night’s journey, to see the world
anew, with fresh eyes and a reinvigorated spirit, to step out of time and come back to our lives
But most people hugely underestimate their need for sleep. More than 40 percent of Americans get less than the recommended minimum seven hours of sleep per night so sleep deprivation has become a new pandemic.
The crisis is global. In 2011, 32 percent of people surveyed in the United Kingdom said they had averaged less than seven hours of sleep a night in the previous six months. By 2014 that number had rocketed up to 60 percent. In 2013, more than a third of Germans and two-thirds of Japanese surveyed said they do not get sufficient sleep on weeknights.
We sacrifice sleep in the name of productivity, but ironically, our loss of sleep, despite the extra hours we put in at work, adds up to more than eleven days of lost productivity per year per worker, or about $2,280. Furthermore, there is that level of tiredness where you don’t actually even notice you’re tired because you no longer remember how not being tired feels. If we don’t realize our collective delusion that burnout is the price we must pay for success, we’ll never be able to restore sleep to its rightful place in our lives.
Particularly infamous for sleep deprivation are doctors and nurses, who make life-or-death decisions while dealing with long overnight shifts and the demands of on-call hours. “Health is deeply intertwined with culture: what we eat, how active we are, how much we sleep,” said US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. “When I was training in medicine,…there was a culture that strong people didn’t need sleep.” In the medical community this is known as a “part martyr and part hero” culture. This common philosophy among medical professionals can lead to long-term physical and emotional deterioration. “That we invent slang for a sleep-deprived colleague rather than tackle the problem is strong evidence that we doctors are so inured to its impact, that we don’t even recognize it.”
Currently, there is a consensus that sleep is a key element of our well-being and interacts profoundly with each of the other parts. Although the science of sleep has evolved dramatically over the last century, our cultural attitudes have a lot of catching up to do. Learning how sleep affects your well-being and the ways to enhance it is a necessity for everyone today. We need to rethink our priorities and what we really value if we want to stay healthy and functional.
SLEEP RESEARCH FACTS:
The most common nonmedical causes of insomnia and sleep issues are stress and anxiety, or a state of hyperarousal.
Poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation. Sleep loss is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage. Researchers are even recommending sleep evaluation to help predict outcomes in individuals with long-term inflammatory issues.
Sleep improves your immune function. Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function. One large 2-week study monitored the development of the common cold after giving people nasal drops with the cold virus. They found that those who slept less than 7 hours were almost 3 times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more.
Experiments show that if you're sleep deprived for a single night (have four hours of sleep), there is a reduction in the activity of natural killer cells. That's a concerning state of immune deficiency that increases the risk for developing numerous forms of cancer. Currently, that list includes cancer of the bowel, cancer of the prostate and cancer of the breast. In fact, the link between lack of sleep and cancer is now so strong that the World Health Organization has classified any form of nighttime shift work as a probable carcinogen, because of a disruption of your sleep-wake rhythm. A study showed that getting more sleep greatly increased antibody levels of those who had just received the hepatitis B vaccine, and that averaging less than six hours of sleep makes the vaccine inefficient.
Women who sleep more than eight hours a night have a 72% lower incidence of breast cancer than those who regularly sleep fewer than six hours a night. Women who reported getting five hours or less sleep per night before they were diagnosed were one and a half times more likely to die of the disease than women who reported getting seven or eight hours per night. Fragmented sleep changes how the immune system deals with cancer in ways that make the disease more aggressive.
Good sleep is important for various aspects of brain function. This includes memory, concentration, productivity, and performance. One study found that interns on a traditional schedule with extended work hours of more than 24 hours made 36% more serious medical errors than interns on a schedule that allowed more sleep. In just two weeks of getting six hours of sleep per night, the performance drop-off is the same as in someone who has gone twenty-four hours without sleep. On the other hand, good sleep has been shown to improve problem-solving skills and enhance memory performance of both children and adults.
Sleep almost doubles our chances of remembering previously unrecalled material. While asleep, we actively rehearse information flagged as important. Sleep is required for the processing of recently acquired short-term memories (converting some to long-term memory) and the strengthening of long-term memory.
Sleep is essential for learning and for consolidating new memories. A study found 40% difference in learning between a group that got 8 of sleep and a group that pulled an all-nighter.
Sleep affects productivity. In the United States we lose $63 billion of productivity every year due to sleep deprivation.
While we sleep, the brain is able to get rid of toxins, including proteins that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Which is to say, if we don’t allow the brain time to do this crucial work, the cost can be high. “The brain only has limited energy at its disposal, and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states—awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up. You can think of it like having a house party. You can either have fun or clean the mess.
The less we sleep as we grow older, the faster our brains age. Men who self-reported a sleep problem were one and a half times more likely to contract Alzheimer’s.
Poor sleep can shorten your telomeres (see the article on telomeres in Issue 7). Sleep length and sleep quality are important. Now add sleep rhythm to the list. Keeping a good sleep-wake rhythm—going to bed and waking up at regular times—may be critical to your cells’ ability to regulate telomerase. In one study, scientists removed the “clock genes” from mice. Although normal mice showed higher telomerase in the morning and lower telomerase at night, the mice without the clock gene did not show this telomerase diurnal rhythm, and their telomeres shortened. Then the same investigators turned to humans whose work schedules had, effectively, broken their internal clocks. Emergency room physicians who pulled night-shift duty also lacked this normal rhythm of telomerase. This study was small, but it suggests that good sleep-wake rhythms may be critical in helping to maintain the rhythm of telomerase activity best for keeping your telomeres replenished.
Sleep has links to people’s emotional and social intelligence. Sleep loss reduces your ability to interact socially, including the ability to recognize important social cues and process emotional information.
Poor sleepers have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke. When Americans lose one hour of sleep during Spring daylight saving time, heart attacks go up with 34%.
Skimping on sleep increases stress hormones, which accelerates the aging process. In one study, participants’ skin was analyzed and photographed after they slept for eight hours and then again after sleeping six hours for five nights in a row. Fine lines and wrinkles increased by 45 percent, blemishes went up by 13 percent, and redness increased by 8 percent.
When you are not well slept, you have a physiological and emotional stress response that’s measurably bigger.
Lack of enough sleep (6 hour or less vs 8 hours) can cause detrimental changes in gene activity, or gene distortion, affecting more than seven hundred genes. In particular, genes associated with immune activity are switched off, while genes associated with tumor expression, stress, and chronic inflammation are upregulated. This shift takes place after just one week of getting too little sleep.
Under-sleeping increases insulin resistance, which is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. In a study in healthy young men, restricting sleep to 4 hours per night for 6 nights in a row caused symptoms of prediabetes.
Sleep deprivation affects hormones that regulate appetite–making you feel hungrier than you would if you were well-rested. In other words, good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories. Not enough sleep makes you compensate with caloric snacks.
If you’re losing weight, getting more sleep enhances fat loss (as opposed to lean-tissue loss).
Poor sleep predicts all-cause mortality.
Poor sleep is linked to depression. In addition, sleep deprived people are seven times more likely to experience feelings of helplessness and five times more likely to feel lonely.
Lack of enough sleep can impair your sexual drive and reproductive function. Sleep deprivation is associated with erectile dysfunction (testosterone is produced during the night) and infertility.
Lack of enough sleep is the cause of many traffic accidents. Fact: Twenty-four hours without sleep is the equivalent of a blood alcohol level of 0.1 percent—at which point you are more than legally drunk. Fact: One American falls asleep at the wheel every second.
Self-control requires mental energy, and each of us has a limited reservoir. Sleep deprivation puts us at greater risk of “succumbing to impulsive desires, poor attentional capacity, and compromised decision making.”
If you think you don’t have time to get more sleep, just think of how much more you will be able to accomplish when your body and brain are fully rested and energized. Stop thinking of sleep as a luxury and start thinking of it as an essential part of your prescription for a long and healthy life.
Watch this informative TED talk by sleep researcher Matthew Walker, PhD here https://www.ted.com/talks/matt_walker_sleep_is_your_superpower/transcript?language=en#t-655480
Get at least 7 hours of sleep.
Transition time before sleep. Turn off your phone, computer, and other devices (that emit blue light) at least one hour before bedtime. Do a relaxing activity. Reading works great but Perfectio LED session can do even better. It relaxes you and prepares you to sleep. You can combine it with a breathing exercise and a gratitude mantra.
Keep to regular eating and sleeping times. Regularity is the secret to good sleep. Go to bed and wake up at the same time.
By getting light exposure during the day, and by dimming the lights at night, you keep your internal clock on schedule.
Avoid alcohol at night. A late drink can seriously disrupt your sleep although it gives you the illusion that it makes you sleepy.
Avoid caffeine after 3 PM. When taken even six hours before bed, caffeine can decrease sleep by as much as one hour.
Another thing best to avoid before bedtime is spicy foods, which can cause heartburn and bloating. Eating too many fatty foods can be another culprit in disrupting our sleep. Researchers also link high-fat diets to excessive daytime sleepiness, something often found in overweight and obese people.
Keep it cool. Your body needs to drop its core temperature by about two to three degrees Fahrenheit to initiate sleep and then to stay asleep, and it's the reason you will always find it easier to fall asleep in a room that's too cold than too hot. So aim for a bedroom temperature of around 65 degrees, or about 18 degrees Celsius. That's going to be optimal for the sleep of most people.
Spend more time outside and be more active during the day. We sleep better when we make time for regular physical activity in our lives. But don’t get discouraged if the gains aren’t apparent right away. Studies have found that exercise added around forty-five minutes of extra sleep, but it took around four months for the full benefits to kick in.
Reduce stress through exercise, therapy, or other means.
Acupuncture has a long history as a sleep aid, and now modern science confirms what practitioners and patients have known for centuries.
Lavender has been shown to help us sleep better. Sleep quality improved in a room scented with lavender or when lavender oil was sprinkled on pajamas or pillows. You can also take it orally (80–160 mg containing 25–46% linalool).
Valerian root is a natural sedative whose effectiveness for sleep has been supported by research (take 500 mg before bed).
Calcium, Vitamin B, and Magnesium help you sleep better.
Amino acids. Gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA (a naturally occurring chemical that dampens brain activity), Glycine (3 mg), and L-theanine (an amino acid found in green-tea leaves that induces brain waves connected to relaxation, take 100–200 mg before bed) are other proven ways to improve your sleep.
Don’t drink any liquids before bed. Nocturia is the medical term for excessive urination during the night. It affects sleep quality and daytime energy. Drinking large amounts of liquids before bed can lead to similar symptoms, though some people are more sensitive than others.
Take a relaxing bath or shower. A relaxing bath or shower is another popular way to sleep better. Studies indicate that they can help improve overall sleep quality and help people — especially older adults — fall asleep faster. Alternatively, if you don’t want to take a full bath at night, simply bathing your feet in hot water can help you relax and improve sleep
Get a comfortable bed, mattress, and pillow.
Don’t eat late in the evening. Eating late at night may negatively affect both sleep quality and the natural release of HGH and melatonin.
Do a “Mind dump” exercise when your mind is hyperactive and you can’t fall asleep. Before bed, write down all the things you can think of that you need to do. This can empty your mind and reassure you that you don’t need to remember your tasks through the night—your to-do list will be waiting for you in the morning.
Meditate – The science is loud and clear: meditation and sleep make splendid bedfellows.
Have a breathing practice – One way we can use our breath to relax and put ourselves on the path to sleep is to breathe while focusing on love, grace, peace, or joy. Relax your eyes, relax your jaw, drop your shoulders, and feel yourself floating on a bed of air. Imagine yourself drifting on a raft down the Mississippi or floating on your back in a calm sea. You can also use the 4-7-8 exercise described in the breathing section of the Newsletter. It will relax you and help you sleep.
“Paradoxical Intention Therapy” – In one study, participants were instructed to deliberately try to stay awake (though without getting up and turning on the computer or TV). The group told to stay awake, using what’s called “paradoxical intention,” had a significant reduction in sleep effort, and sleep performance anxiety. “Patients realize when they try to remain awake, they feel sleepier, which is what normal sleepers do."
One thing that works for many people when worry is keeping them from sleeping is to remember that at some point we are going to die. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. This idea of death as something deeply frightening, to be avoided at all costs, affects people’s ability to surrender conscious control over their lives every night. According to the philosopher Montaigne: “To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.”
If death is too heavy a sleep aid, a much less fraught tool is to find a sleep talisman, an object that sends a clear signal to both your body and your mind that it is time to slow down. Place it next to your bed and look at it before you tuck yourself in.
If you’ve been in bed struggling to sleep for twenty minutes, try switching to meditating or reading a book (not on a tablet, which gives off blue light and also often has your emails on it, but a physical book or an e-reader). Also, it is better to move to another room until you get sleepy. The point is not to associate your bed with sleeplessness and struggle to fall asleep.
Naps are great for us even when we are getting good sleep at night. Even a short nap “primes our brains to function at a higher level, letting us come up with better ideas, find solutions to puzzles more quickly, identify patterns faster and recall information more accurately.” Short naps were found to lower stress and boost the immune system. Data suggests a 30-minute nap can reverse the hormonal impact of a night of poor sleep. In one study, participants who napped for forty-five minutes during the day were found to have lower blood pressure after completing a stressful task than those who didn’t nap. Strategic naps can be used effectively to promote performance and alertness in operational settings. Naps can also help you increase your learning power. Experts say that the best “circadian timing” for a nap is the early afternoon.
Winston Churchill is credited with coining the term “power nap.” Here he is, with typical oratorical flourish, on the joys of napping: “You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner, and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do. Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imaginations. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one—well, at least one and a half.”
If you’re deciding between caffeine or nap, the science is clear that, in a productivity version of rock-paper-scissors, naps trump caffeine.
Get some light in the morning. Take a short walk or stay in the sun for a few minutes. There is increasing evidence that exposure to light during the day—particularly in the morning—is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism.
Use a sleep app. Calm is the top-rated app on the market.
Lastly, remember, sleep can completely change your entire outlook on life. It is much more than just a critical building block of our daily lives—a tool to help us be better at work, give a better presentation, come up with more ideas in a meeting, score more goals, or put more points on the board. Change starts with something as simple as it is profound: asking ourselves what kind of life we want to lead, what we value, what gives our lives meaning.
If you like videos, see these 6 scientifically-based sleep tips by Matthew Walker, PhD https://www.ted.com/talks/matt_walker_6_tips_for_better_sleep
5 FOODS THAT HELP IMPROVE SLEEP
Watch the video on the bottom of this article https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-reasons-why-good-sleep-is-important?jwsource=cl#The-bottom-line
Below is a really good article on sleep by Dr. Rodger Murphree, DC, CNS that will improve your understanding of the sleep cycle, sleep hormones, and sleep drugs.
“In twenty years, people will look back on the sleeping-pill era as we now look back on the acceptance of cigarette smoking.”
Poor Sleep: Are You In A Downward Spiral?
Poor sleep has been linked to various health problems, including depression, poor immune function, anxiety, weight gain, muscle pain, low thyroid, irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, CFS, fibromyalgia, and headaches. To make matters worse, when you don’t get deep, restful sleep, your body’s natural defenses become weakened. Whatever conditions you already have often just get worse. Several studies have shown that a lack of sufficient sleep will cause a host of unwanted health issues.
Unfortunately, typical drugs make the problem worse: Many people take sleeping pills, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, or over-the-counter sleep drugs to get them to sleep. But most of these drugs don’t produce deep restorative sleep. Chances are they don’t feel refreshed the next day. In fact, most users of these drugs report that they often feel hung over from these medications. Here’s the worst part: these drugs have side effects that can cause the very same symptoms that fibromyalgia causes: diffuse muscle aches and pain, depression, fatigue, and brain fog.
What Your Body Does During Sleep
Sleep cycles follow our natural “circadian” body rhythms. Research has found that the natural hormone melatonin plays a large part in maintaining sleep. As darkness falls, enzymes in the brain stimulate the release of melatonin from the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin induces sleep, and the release of melatonin is halted when daylight arrives and we experience wakefulness. Upon falling asleep, the brain and body go through four stages of sleep as part of one cycle. Researchers have observed these stages of sleep by monitoring muscle tone, eye movements, and the electrical activity of the brain using an electroencephalogram (“EEG”).
EEG readings measure brain waves and classify them according to speed. “Alpha” rhythms are the fastest waves, followed by slower “beta” rhythms. “Theta” and “delta” waves are the slowest. A sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes or so, during which the brain revolves through each type of brain wave. This sleep cycle is repeated approximately five or six times during the course of the night.
The first three stages are considered to be Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep (NREM) or “orthodox” sleep. The function of these stages is to restore and rebuild the body after a long period of wakefulness. During NREM sleep, your body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure decrease, your muscles relax, and metabolism slows.
Rapid eye movement REM is remarkably different from the previous stages. The brain and body become active, with increased heart rate and blood pressure. The eyes shudder quickly back and forth, giving this stage the name Rapid Eye Movement (“REM”) sleep. EEG patterns for REM sleep are much like those during wakefulness, and include many fast beta rhythms. It may even be that the brain works harder during REM sleep than when awake!
REM sleep usually lasts anywhere from 11 to 25 minutes, typically longer in the later sleep cycles of the night. About 25% of all sleep is REM sleep in adults. In children, it is even higher (up to 50%). On completion of a phase of REM sleep, the brain and body return to Stage I and begin another sleep cycle.
The differences between NREM and REM sleep are dramatic. As mentioned above, NREM sleep deals mainly with the regeneration of the body, especially Stages III and IV, while REM sleep has much to do with the inner workings of the brain.
How Prescription “Wonder” Drugs Do Much More Harm Than Good
Here’s the problem: Many currently recommended sleeping pills do NOT produce deep Stage III and IV restorative sleep. When people take these drugs, they often feel hung over in the morning and have to rely on still more drugs—this time stimulants—to get them going. Taking stimulants (or lots of caffeinated beverages) simply adds to the difficulty of falling asleep the next night. As if that were not enough, most of these drugs have serious side effects.
What’s happening when you take many of these sleep drugs is they deplete your body’s own natural sleep hormone — melatonin. Melatonin is your sleep hormone. It’s your own natural sleep “wonder drug”. Studies show that declining levels of melatonin is the cause of many cases of poor sleep. As we age, our melatonin levels begin to drop. Older adults have one-third to one-quarter the amount of melatonin as younger adults.
Let me summarize what’s happening in your body when you take powerful prescription sleep drugs:
• Those drugs only temporarily help you get to sleep — if they help at all;
• They cause severe side effects;
• They’re often addictive; and
• They reduce your body’s own natural sleep chemicals, thus condemning you to more sleepless nights.
Ambien, for instance, can cause flu-like symptoms, achy muscle pain, sore throat, and fatigue. Sounds like CFS, doesn’t it?
Tranquilizers or benzodiazepines (Klonopin, Restoril, Xanax, Ativan, etc.) are often prescribed for restless leg syndrome; achy, tight muscles; and sleep problems. But these drugs deplete the sleep hormone melatonin, which then leads to a disruption of a person’s circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle). Instead of promoting deep restorative sleep, these drugs prevent it! It’s important to realize that your drug or drugs may be causing or contributing to some or all of your symptoms.
Potential side effects of benzodiazepines: Poor sleep; seizures; mania; depression and suicidal thoughts; tinnitus (ringing in the ears); transient amnesia; dizziness; agitation; disorientation; low blood pressure; nausea or vomiting; fluid retention; muscular in-coordination and tremors; sexual dysfunction; prolonged drowsiness or a trance-like state; fatigue; headaches; body aches and pains; chills; runny nose; cough; congestion; difficulty breathing; feelings of discouragement, sadness, or emptiness; diarrhea; difficulty swallowing; vision and voice changes; and a host of others. Let’s now look more closely at the wonder drugs your body wants to make, if it’s not interfered with:
Your Body’s Natural Sleep Potions: Melatonin
Melatonin is the primary hormone of the pineal gland and acts to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, especially the sleep/wake cycle. A deficiency of restorative sleep leads to accelerated aging, lowered immune function, increased pain, lowered metabolism, and susceptibility to cancer and brain oxidation.
Chronic insomnia leads to a gradual disconnection to our own biorhythms. Once we become out of tune with our sleep/wake circadian rhythm, we begin to lose the ability to right ourselves through homeostasis. This in turn leads to further chemical, physical, and emotional stress. When at its worst, we lose the ability to sense anything our body is trying to tell us.
We begin to lose the very essence of who we are. Restoring circadian rhythm must be the first priority in overcoming FMS and CFS. Deep sleep (Stage III) initiates the pituitary to release human growth hormone (“HGH”). HGH helps boost stamina, immune function, and stress-coping abilities, while repairing damaged or over-used muscle tissue. 80% of HGH is produced during Stage III sleep. Low HGH levels will cause further fatigue, reduced capacity for exercise, muscle weakness, impaired cognition, depression, pain, and decreased muscle mass. The best way to boost HGH levels is to get 8-9 hours of deep, restorative sleep.
Here are other factors that can decrease Melatonin levels:
• Exposure to bright lights at night.
• Exposure to electromagnetic fields, including electric blankets, clock radios, TV’s, ceiling fans, etc.
• NSAIDs: Celebrex, Vioxx, Mobic, Aleve, Bextra, etc.
• SSRI’s: Yes, the very same antidepressants that many take for FMS and CFS, including Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Paxil, Effexor, Cymbalta, and Lexapro.
• Anxiety medications (benzodiazepines): Klonopin, Ativan, Xanax, Restoril, etc.
• Anti-hypertensive medications: Inderal, Toprol, Tenormin, Lorpressor, etc.
• Over 3 mg of vitamin B12 in a day
• Evening exercise (for up to three hours afterwards)
The good news is that several foods are high in melatonin:
• Sweet corn
• Japanese radish
Serotonin: Your Other Natural “Wonder Drug”
There’s another natural chemical — serotonin — which your body needs in order to function properly.
Serotonin is certainly a natural Wonder Drug, given all that it does for you:
• Raises your pain threshold, so you have less pain;
• Helps you fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.
• Regulates your moods. That’s why it’s known as the “happy hormone”;
• Reduces sugar cravings and over-eating.
• Increases your mental abilities and mental clarity.
• Regulates normal digestion.
Looking at it another way, here’s what happens when you don’t have enough serotonin:
• It's hard for you to go to sleep.
• You can't stay asleep.
• You often find yourself irritable.
• Your emotions often lack rationality.
• You occasionally experience unexplained tears.
• Noise bothers you more than it used to. It seems louder than normal.
• You "flare up" at others more easily than you used to.
• You experience unprovoked anger.
• You feel depressed much of the time.
• You find you are more susceptible to pain.
• You prefer to be left alone.
If you see yourself in three or more of the above statements, you’re probably low in serotonin.
Your Stress-Coping Savings Account
You were born with a stress-coping savings account. This account is filled up with the chemicals you need for your body to work properly. These chemicals, which include serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, cortisol, DHEA, HGH, and others, help you deal with stress. Every time you are exposed to stress (chemically, emotionally, mentally, or physically), you make withdrawals from your stress-coping savings account. If you aren’t careful, you can bankrupt this account. Then you start to have health problems like those associated with mood disorders, FMS, and CFS.
You make deposits into your stress-coping savings account by going into deep, restorative sleep. When you’re into deep, restorative sleep, you make more serotonin, which then gets deposited into your stress-coping savings account. The more stress you’re under, the more serotonin you will need.
A Vicious Cycle
You need a good deal of serotonin before you can consistently go into deep, restorative sleep each night. If you don’t have enough serotonin, you won’t be able to get into that deep state and won’t make more serotonin.
How to Increase Your Serotonin Levels
Method #1: Exercise
Walking has been shown to increase the efficient use of serotonin in the brain. There is a direct relationship between walking and the buildup of the brain’s tryptophan reserves.
Why is tryptophan’s important: “The brain tryptophan content, and its dependent neurotransmitter systems, are responsible for maintenance of the ‘homeostatic balance of the body.’
Normal levels of tryptophan in the brain maintain a well-regulated balance in all functions of the body — what is meant by homeostasis. With a decrease in the tryptophan supply to the brain, there is a proportionate decrease in the efficiency of all functions in the body.” I don’t recommend you begin a strenuous exercise program. Even walking should be done with restraint until you become stronger and feel better on the supplements I recommend for improving sleep and building up your stress-coping chemicals. Exercise is a stress — a good stress, but a stress, nevertheless.
Until you build up your stress-coping savings account and are consistently sleeping through the night, I wouldn’t recommend any exercise other than walking for 10–20 minutes a day. Once you start to get stronger, you can increase your walking up to an hour a day. Don’t push it. Start slowly and gradually increase the time you walk each day.
Method #2: Take 5-HTP (see article on 5-HTP in Issue 8)
If you suffer from low serotonin levels, low moods, anxiety, depression, or fibromyalgia, you should take 5-HTP. If you’re not sure if you’re low in serotonin, take the “Brain Function Questionnaire" to find out.
You can find it at: www.yourfibrodoctor.com/brain-function
If you do not suffer from low serotonin states, simply use melatonin supplements.
If you have full blown insomnia, watch this TED talk https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_kwartler_what_causes_insomnia#t-293068