How Lack of Sleep Is Affecting Your Health

Posted by Sabrina Sarabella on Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sleep is something that our body expects from us, we need it to survive.  During the hours we are awake we are in a catabolic state, meaning we are breaking our body down.  When we sleep we are in an anabolic state, meaning that we are restoring and repairing our building or building it body back up.  During our deep sleep we release all of our repairing hormones so that we can undo the damage we have done while we were awake. 


Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is a hormone that we excrete when we are sleeping.  It is mostly released during our 3 and 4th stages of sleep, our deep sleep.  HGH is most responsible for helping to repair our body and has sometimes been called the anti aging hormone.  HGH declines as we age, which causes more breakdown in your body as you get older.  We also tend to sleep less as we age causing a decrease in HGH.  If you have children or are around children at all you may notice how much they sleep.  They sleep around 10-12 hours a night and take numerous naps throughout the day.  Children have the most HGH which helps them grow and that is why they have so much energy!


Sleep affects every part of our life.  I’m sure you have had some nights where you don’t have a good night’s sleep or you have been sleep deprived and you feel horrible the next day.  It is hard to think efficiently, you tend to have more sugar cravings, you gain weight, and you can’t perform optimally at a high level when you don’t get enough sleep. 


Fat loss and sleep.  A Canadian study looked at two groups of subjects. They both ate and exercised the same but one group was sleep deprived and the other group got at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night.  The group that slept more lost more weight.  When we are sleep deprived we tend to be more stressed and we have increased levels of cortisol.  Cortisol works in opposition to melatonin, the hormone that relaxes you and helps to sleep.  When cortisol is high then our melatonin is low which causes us to sleep less.  It is a viscous cycle, the more stressed you are the less you will sleep.  The less you sleep the more stressed you are and the more cortisol leading to weight gain or fat loss resistance.  If you are sleep deprived and you have an option to get an extra hour of sleep or use that extra hour for a workout, I always recommend using that hour for sleep.


Cravings. When you are deprived of sleep your cravings for sugar and fats will increase. When you are sleep deprived you get less glucose to the brain and your brain needs glucose to survive.  So when your brain is deprived of sleep it craves glucose to work.  When you brain is deprived of glucose, your brain knows that simple sugars, like cookies, candy, cakes, will give you an immediate increase of blood sugar to the brain.  Have you ever noticed that you never crave a salad at 2am! It’s usually cookies, cake or pizza!  Your body knows that it needs to survive so biology will always win over willpower. 


Decreased Optimal Performance.  When you are sleep deprived your brain also gets deprived of glucose.  Our brain needs glucose so when we deprive our bodies of sleep and glucose it will actually makes us less effective.  One study took a group of doctors and gave them a task to perform. Then it gave them the same task but deprived them of sleep, the sleep deprived group were 20% less effective and had 10 times more mistakes when performing the tasks.  So, you could say the less you sleep the dumber you become!


How to get a better night’s sleep:


Set up a sleep sanctuary. Your bedroom should be a room for sleep and sex only. Putting plants like a snake plant can help to convert more carbon dioxide to oxygen at night and can improve sleep.  You may want to have a white noise maker or have a fountain that has a running water sound.  Be sure that your room is completely dark when you sleep and invest some black out curtains.  When your body senses light it starts to stimulate your body to wake up.  You also want to remove all electronics from your bedroom, leave your iPad, phone, etc. outside of your room.


Set up a bedtime ritual.  Letting your body know it is time for sleep by setting up rituals before bed will help to get a better night sleep.  Try and do the same rituals every night in the same order so your body starts to get used to it.  Some ideas for a bed time ritual are; talking a bath, reading a few pages of a book (not on your iPad/kindle), Say the things you are most grateful for, write in your journal, or prayer.  Whatever feels most comfortable for you to incorporate before bed start doing those as your bedtime ritual. 


Have an orgasm.  When we have an orgasm we release multiple hormones that help us to relax and feel good.  Having an orgasm before sleep or if you get up in the middle of the night can help you fall asleep and into a deeper sleep.


Magnesium supplementation.  Studies have shown that most insomniacs are deficient in magnesium which is a mineral that is helpful for relaxation of muscles and stress reduction and is important for many processes in the body, including regulating muscle and nerve function and blood sugar levels.  Taking a magnesium supplement before bed or using a magnesium supplement can help to increase sleep. 

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Relaxation techniques. Try a relaxation meditation before bed to help fall asleep and relax your body and mind.  Doing a relaxation before bed helps to shift your brain waves to be ready for sleep.  Lying in your bed and starting from your toes, think about relaxing everybody part till you get to your head. 



The Reasons You Are Not Sleeping Well


Eating before bed as well as not eating before bed can have an impact on your sleep and each can affect each person differently.  If you are eating a large meal before you go to sleep it can interfere with your sleep quality.  Your body need to break down the food you just consumed which can usually take a few hours.  If you are eating a large meal before bed it may be keeping you up at night especially if the meal is larger then you are used to eating.  For example, after a social dinner out you may have indulged in  foods that don’t always agree with your body and will keep you up at night.  When eating later at night be sure to try and keep your meals smaller and similar to foods you usually eat and stop eating around 1-2 hours before bed. 


Not eating before bed.  I just told you not to eat before bed to help sleep and now I am telling you to eat? Let me first explain some biochemistry to you, when you go to bed at night your cortisol should be low and melatonin high, these hormones always work in opposition.  Your cortisol should be low at night so that your body can relax and you can sleep.  Your cortisol will spike in the morning and that is how your body knows to wake up.  If your adrenals are not functioning optimally, the gland that makes cortisol, your cortisol rhythm can be off.  If you tend to wake up in the middle of the night try eating a small meal before bed.  What usually works best is having a 1/2 serving of a complex carbohydrate and protein before bed.  Having a small snack before bed can help to keep blood sugar regulated throughout the night keeping cortisol from spiking and waking you up.  Try to experiment with food and timing before bed to see if it helps you sleep better. 


You went to bed too late or early. Going to bed later then the ideal time of 10/11pm can make it harder to fall asleep. Your body can get it’s “second wind” because it is over tired and get that wired feeling that leaves you tossing and turning all night.  On the other hand, when you go to bed too early your body may get up earlier in the morning when you are not ready to get up and won’t be able to fall back asleep.  Try to experiment with your sleep cycle see what time works the best for you to fall asleep and stay asleep for 7-9 hours a night. 


Your adrenals are unbalanced. When your adrenals are stressed and overworked you tend to have that wired but tired feeling at night.  You feel physically exhausted yet your brain feel wired and can’t fall asleep.  This usually means that your cortisol has an irregular rhythm throughout your day.  The best way to balance your cortisol throughout the day is by eating small meals consisting of fibrous vegetables, lean proteins and a 3-8 bites of a starchy carbohydrate. Managing stress throughout the day is also important for adrenal health, leisure walking, mediation, breathing exercise can help to control stress and cortisol levels.  A product that I really love that helps to balance adrenals and help to lower cortisol at night is product called Adrenacalm. (contact me at for more info about this product)



You drink alcohol.  You may be thinking that having a glass of wine or a martini before bed will help to unwind and fall asleep.  Unfortunately, alcohol can have the opposite effect.  It may help to put you to sleep at first but the sleep is usually a restless sleep and causes you to wake up throughout the night.  If you are having trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep at night try to limit your alcohol consumption. 



You have too much on your mind.  It is hard to sleep at night when you are constantly thinking about work, life, money etc.  When our minds are running around with ideas and stress about life our body cannot relax and fall asleep.  If you are finding that you are stressed out at night and can’t fall asleep take a few minutes to write down with pen and paper what is on your mind.  Having a clear mind before bed will help increase sleep quality. 



Too much technology before bed.  Most of us can be pretty guilty of engaging in too much technology not only during the day but before bed time.  TVs, iPads, Smart Phones, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchap, Twitter...ahh there is so much to check and see before bed!  Shutting down the electronics before bed will help to increase melatonin and sleep.


Coffee and caffeine. The average person has a half life of 8 hours of caffeine, so after 8 hours your body still has about 1/2 the amount of caffeine you consumed.    Everyone metabolizes and reacts to caffeine differently and it is important to know how your sleep is affected by caffeine consumption.  If caffeine negatively affects your sleep then instill a caffeine curfew.  A good time to usually cut coffee from your day is around 2pm but you may want to play around with what works best for you.




How to set up the perfect sleep system


The perfect sleep system allows the body to go along with nature not against it.  It is best to go to sleep between 10pm and 11pm and wake up around 6am.  This may be adjusted slightly with the change of seasons and day light savings times.  During winter you may find yourself wanting to sleep more and go to be earlier.  If your body is giving you these signals listen to your body and head to bed earlier.


As soon as you wake up in the morning drink a large glass of water.  Drinking water first thing in the morning will help to rehydrate you after hours of sleep and help to increase digestion and lymph system.  Soon after you wake do some sort of physical activity, whether it be a workout or short burst of exercise.  It has been studied that people who do physical activity first thing in the morning sleep better at night. 


Begin to establish a meditation practice in the morning.  Even just a few minutes of meditation in the morning can help you to sleep better at night and give your more energy during your day. 


It is also important to get sun exposure first thing in the morning.  We convert sunlight into Vitamin D and also lets the body know it is time to get up, get moving and can boost metabolism and energy for the day. 


Throughout your day enjoy your work, physical activity, healthy eating habits and time with family and friends. 


About 2 hours before you are ready for bed start to wind down, do some relaxation, do your bedtime rituals and start to get off of any electronic devices.  Studies have shown that using an iPad within 2 hours of bed can cause melatonin levels to hit rock bottom, we want melatonin high at night because it helps us sleep.  If you do need to be on your phone or iPad/tablet at night look into getting flux screen (can be found in your app store).  The app will adjust the color of your screen according to time to help reduce exposure to high powered light that will interfere with melatonin production. 


Go to bed by 10/11pm.  It is more important when you invest in sleep then how many hours you invest in sleep.  Between the hours of 10pm and 2 am is when you are getting the most impact of your anabolic hormones (repairing of the body).  Always aim to go to bed earlier and get up earlier to get tasks completed. 


If you are looking to better control of your health set up a consultation with me by emailing