Are you really getting enough sleep? Are you sleeping those recommended 8-10 hours?
More so, are you really getting the right sleep?
If you were hesitant on answering those, you’re in the right place. 🙂
In the health community, sleep doesn’t get enough attention. People talk about eating the right foods… They talk about getting enough exercise… But they don’t talk about sleep. Sleep is so darn important. Sleep is when your body recovers from what life throws at you. Sleep is one of the best things you can do to improve your stress levels.
For a long time I had lots of problems sleeping at night. It would take hours to fall asleep. When I did get to sleep it wouldn’t be for very long. Here’s another question to ask yourself – do you find yourself waking up 3, 4, or even 5 times a night?
In this article I plan to map out why you may be having problems with your sleep. Whether it be falling asleep or even just staying asleep. In future articles I plan to discuss what you can do to improve sleep so stay tuned.
The Top Causes of Poor Sleep
- Eating the wrong foods
- Not following your body’s natural process
- Artificial Light
- Chronic stress (yes, sleep reduces stress but sleep is disrupted by stress)
- Sleeping in the wrong temperature
As you can see there are many causes to sleep. A lot of information discussed here is taken from hours of research and Austin Floyd’s “Hormonal Sleep Solution“. A book that I have gone through and put into action.
Let’s get to the first point.
Eating the wrong foods: There is a lot of hype about “healthy eating”, why I believe people looking to enhance their health should eat foods they enjoy and that have noticeable affects on their mood (for the better), there are a few foods you should avoid when trying to improve your sleep. These foods also happen to be the foods holing you back from getting those 8, 9, or even 10 hours you set aside for rest each night.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA’s) are known for slowing down our metabolic rate and increase inflammation (1). With that said, this causes stress within the body. Here at Tranquilized Mind and for anyone trying to optimize their health, keeping that stress under control is a must. PUFA’s have a very unstable. Having a double-bond, so when exposed to heat they tent to break down and cause internal stress.
Some sources of PUFA’s:
- Soybean Oil
- Canola Oil
- Sunflower Oil
So start using coconut oil already ;). It tastes better and is known to reduce inflammation within – less internal stress, a controllable factor to lowering your stress (1).
Another food to be aware of are spicy foods. Now don’t get me wrong, I love spicy foods and in fact I do still eat them but with an exception – during the earlier parts of the day. The nervous system in your body has two states it enjoys to be in, one being the sympathetic dominated stated and the other being the parasympathetic dominated state. Sympathetic nervous system dominated state is known for its heart rate increasing affects, usually happening when you’re nervous about something or your stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline are ramped up). The parasympathetic nervous system dominated state is known for its activation of certain neurotransmitters that promote relaxation, also known as the “rest-and-digest” state.
Too many spicy foods can activate that sympathetic dominated state (4). Being in the “fight-or-flight” state of mind is not ideal when trying to calm down. So its best to eat those spicy foods earlier in the day if you want guaranteed quality rest.
Next is a common beverage you probably drink on most day.
Well, caffeine isn’t a beverage, its a substance that can be found in certain foods and drinks. Known as 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine in the science world, this substance promotes wakefulness and alertness. Caffeine gives way for an acute stress response, one that binds with adenosine receptors and in turn release cortisol.
Caffeine can be used strategically I discussed in another article here and here to wake you up in the morning and use cortisol in your advantage but too much caffeine is not a good thing. Think of it this way, your body, more specifically your adrenal glands, can get burnt out when aroused with too many stimulants. Is drinking coffee or consuming caffeine everyday really necessary to get you energized? Hell no. Something to start drinking now to get the benefits of wakefulness and the improved productivity is black tea, something that provides the necessary L-Theanine to calm you down after the caffeine.
Avoiding coffee is not what I am trying to get across. Usually it strategically and with caution should be pondered however. Caffeine has a half life of 8 hours, so its best not to have any caffeine after 2 pm. That applies, of course, that you’re going to bed at a reasonable hour.
Not following your body’s natural rhythm: Biologically our body responds best to certain stimuli atdifferent times. Simply put, our body enjoys rising with the sun, being active during daylight, and falling asleep not too long after the sun goes down. Going against this is like fighting an arduous uphill battle. Going to bed late confuses our body, really! Waking up at noon is a foreign language.
I plan on discussing this more in further articles, but understand that staying up late and waking up late can hurt your sleep.
Artificial Light: I’ve tossed around the idea of blue-light a number of times, but it’s worth mentioning again. Staring at the screens from electronics late into the night signals to your nervous system the sun is high in the sky and that its midday (2). This in turn, promotes wakefulness and makes it a pain to get to sleep.
Better get off your electronics when the sun goes down. If you’re like me and enjoy watching movies with friends and family or working into the night on your laptop, consider picking up some blue-light blocking glasses. They also work as darn good computer glasses as they block the blue light from straining your eyes.
Another consideration while we’re on the light topic is sleeping in a completely dark room. This study (3) shows that light can offset the secretion of important hormone for sleep melatonin. Turn off the lights, shut the blinds, pick up this soft and comfortable sleep mask that I’m currently using to sleep long and hard.
Chronic Stress: Stress, elevated cortisol levels is like caffeine to your mind. It blocks the regular secretion of relaxing hormones and neurotransmitters, block activation of melatonin (what makes us sleepy) and gives way to the numerous of trips to the bathroom during the night (7). Stress feeds off of stress, worrying and all information talked about on this website.
Here are some of the common stressors that can be taking away from your sleep:
- Checking your phone avidly later into the night
- Not eating enough food missing out on important nutrients for sleep (certain amino acids and electrolytes)
- Working out late at night
Those are just a few but keep them in mind when you’re wondering why it takes you an hour to fall asleep at night.
Learning how to lower your stress levels naturally can be the missing key to sleeping hard for 8 hours straight. No waking up, no bathroom trips, just long and hard rest. Waking up during the middle of the night largely dependent on an acute stress response signaled by your nervous system. There are many reasons for that, but balancing out your hormones and bringing in more presence into your life are your tools.
Sounds pretty difficult to fix, right? Well not really, in fact a lot of these can be fixed by simple life changes. Just like this one.
Sleeping in the wrong temperature: Waking up in the middle of the night over-heated is no fun. Sleeping in an igloo isn’t ideal either. Sleep.org, a well-renowned database where I learned many tips on improving my sleep and thus lowering my stress levels recommends sleeping in a cool and dark room at around 60-66° Fahrenheit. Cool air induces a sleepy state (6).
So turn down that temperature and sleep like a lion in his natural habitat. This goes hand in hand with following our body’s natural clock. Primally, we slept outside and as we know, when the sun goes down, so does the outside temperature. Naturally, our system wants to sleep in a cool room.
That’s All She Wrote
Well, not necessarily. There are a myriad of reasons you’re getting the 8-10 hours of sleep that you need. Not getting enough sleep is a major red flag for many people looking to enhance their health. Sleep is responsible for all aspects of restoration, memory retention and keeping a healthy hormonal profile.
Bragging about getting 5 hours of sleep isn’t all that cool. Research is clear, Testosterone (the hormone
that makes you want to get shit done) declines by 15% for every hour lost (5). Some people may think they can handle operating on less hours, but trust me and many others, when getting the rest your body needs, you can operate on a much higher level than normal. That alone is enough to start sleeping longer and harder.
In future articles I plan to address some of the ways you can improve your sleep and start taking action. For now, having a good understanding of why you’re not sleeping is important.