Sleeping Less - you're not alone
Circadian rhythms are regular changes in mental and physical characteristics that occur in the course of a day (circadian is Latin for “around a day”). Most circadian rhythms are controlled by the body’s biological “clock.” This clock, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus or SCN, is actually a pair of pinhead-sized brain structures that together contain about 20,000 neurons. The SCN rests in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, just above the point where the optic nerves cross. Light that reaches photoreceptors in the retina (a tissue at the back of the eye) creates signals that travel along the optic nerve to the SCN. This creates a release of all your awakening hormones for the day.
Signals from the SCN travel to several brain regions, including the pineal gland, which responds to light-induced signals by switching off production of the hormone melatonin. The body’s level of melatonin (and other repair and regeneration hormones) normally increases after darkness falls, making people feel drowsy. The SCN also governs functions that are synchronized with the sleep/wake cycle, including body temperature, hormone secretion, urine production, and changes in blood pressure.
Causes of Sleep Dysfunction:
1. Being Overweight: This creates the rib cage and the sternum to drop, putting more weight on the lungs. This increased pressure makes one breath more often and more shallow.
2. Sleep Apnea: One of the main causes of sleep apnea is serotonin deficiency. Studies using AA tryptophan and 5HTP have shown them to be helpful. Why? First, serotonin directly affects the lungs (my assumption is that is causing more of a parasympathetic response). Second, lots of O2 is required for serotonin production, so if physical obstructions block O2 flow, serotonin production is diminished. Third, if a pre-existing low-serotonin condition caused characteristic afternoon and evening carb craving, increased weight could easily result, contributing to obstructed breathing.
3. Drinking too much caffeine during the day: Caffeine has a half life of 6 hrs. So if you drink it later than noon, it is still coursing through your blood at 6pm.
4. Bright lights at night: TV, computer, etc all create a flickering light. This stimulates your body to release awakening hormones, secondary to the light. This can create difficulty falling asleep. As well, most people watch the news at night, which can be quite stressful.
5. Hormonal Imbalances: If you have adrenal gland problems, in the beginning stages you will be releasing more cortisol later in the day (when it should be going down). This will create disturbed sleep.
6. Sugar: Sugar inhibits your immune system, is a large stress to the body (which in turn makes the body release cortisol, which keeps you awake) as well as creates a roller coaster ride of insulin dips and spikes during the day. This can create highs and lows, which create highs and lows at night.
7. Dehydration: The first place the body steals water from when you are dehydrated is the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and colon. If the central nervous system looses water, one might feel anxious and wired.
8. Overthinking and worrying: For one, you are what you think! So if you can’t shut your mind off at night and it is still working, well the body will not shut off as well. Overthinking is typically a sign of not staying present with oneself and always focusing on the what was and what could be. Stillness is created with being present.
1. Consult a nutrition and lifestyle coach, to help customise your diet and make the lifestyle changes you need.
2. Low serotonin, food allergies, being overweight, low/high cortisol and low progesterone have been shown to create sleep apnea. We recommend getting some Functional Lab testing done at The Therapy Room Cambridge.
3. Drink 1 cup of coffee in the morning with no sugar or sweetener. Do not drink any caffeine after 12 noon.
4. Eliminate bright lights one hour prior to bed.
5. Learn adaptive stress techniques (Qi gong, Tai Chi, etc) that you can adapt into your life, take time out during the day for you, start picking up some hobbies and remember time is something we create so we think we are in control! You could also consult with our mind body specialist at The TherapyRoom Cambridge
6. Eliminate all sugar!
7. Work up to drinking 0.033% of your weight in kgs in litres of water per day.
8. Using essential oils at night (lavender), drinking tea at night (Lian Zi Xin) or taking the neurotransmitter GABA Calm with help reduce anxiety and overthinking. You could also consult with a homeopath, kinesiologist or our integrated health consultant, all available at The Therapy Room Cambridge.