By Betty Murray
Is your sleep schedule out of whack after a summer of late nights? Are you still struggling to get your kids back into a routine with the start of a new school year. How much sleep you get each night plays a significant role in your body weight management. If you are finding it difficult to get back into a healthy sleep routine, your weight may suffer.
Why does sleep matter? The circadian system drives the biological activity of your body at the cellular level. When the circadian rhythm is disrupted, it can wreak havoc on your body, causing the above mentioned symptoms, among others.
Your body’s immune system fights off disease and infection, and when it is not functioning at it’s full potential, you are at a higher risk of heart disease and even cancer. When you get plenty of sleep and your body’s circadian rhythm is uninterrupted, your body produces hormones and antioxidants, such as melatonin. When you get less sleep and the circadian rhythm is disrupted, your body produces less melatonin, which in turn decreases your immune system’s ability to fight cancer and can even promote or accelerate tumor growth.
After a summer of late nights, it’s time to move your sleep time forward in a process called “phase advancement.” During this process, you may experience similar feelings as the jet lag experienced after traveling from west to east. Moving your bedtime forward causes a shift in your body’s circadian rhythm.
If simply waking up earlier isn’t helping you readjust your sleep schedule, you may need a little extra help getting your body to adjust to an earlier bedtime and wake time. Here are a few tips to get a better night’s sleep.
Take a shower before bed. The cooling that takes place after a shower helps induce sleep. After a shower, your body temperature decreases, which will help you sleep if your bedroom is hot.
Add a water feature. Get a small, tabletop water feature and keep it close to your bed. The sound of running water will make induce drowsiness, and if it’s hot in your room, the sound of running water may make you feel cooler than you actually are.
Keep it dark. The darker the room at night, the more melatonin the body produces. Even the slightest bit of light from an alarm clock or cell phone can interfere with melatonin production. Even if you have to get up during the night, use “low blue” lights, which will not interfere with melatonin production.
Keep your cell phone away from your head. In a society that finds it difficult to disconnect from technology, it is not uncommon for individuals to sleep with their cell phones on or near their beds. At the very least, keep these devices at least 3 feet away. Not only can a dim light from your cell phone interrupt your body’s ability to produce melatonin, but a phone call or text message during the night can interrupt sleep cycles, which are crucial to feeling rested and overall wellness.
Take a melatonin supplement. Melatonin is a hormone secreted in the brain that is produced by sleep. It is also a sleep aid. The important thing to know about melatonin is that taking too much could actually interrupt your sleep or cause other problems. While there are melatonin supplements available over the counter, they should be used with caution. A small dose of melatonin may help you achieve a normal and healthy sleep cycle, but long-term use of melatonin can interrupt the integral relationship between melatonin production and the body’s adrenal glands. A dose of between 0.3 mg and 1mg is recommended.
Eat a sleep-friendly diet. What you eat before bed could be the culprit that is ultimately disrupting your sleep. Other foods may help induce sleep.
Adults require between six and eight hours of sleep each night. Not getting enough sleep or getting too much sleep has been known to increase weight gain. For a healthy body and a healthy lifestyle, it’s important that you get enough sleep. If you’re struggling to adjust to a new fall schedule try the tips listed above to adjust your body’s circadian rhythm.
Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.