Don’t Wake Up on the “Wrong Side” of Your Health: 4 Tips for Better Sleep
By Dr. Taylor Krick
We all know what it feels like to wake up on the “wrong side of the bed” after a poor night’s sleep, but waking up on the “wrong side” too often can have devastating effects on your body’s ability to fight disease and repair itself, and it can lead to very serious Real Health problems down the road. Poor sleep is horrible because you don’t just deal with it at night. It affects every area of your life during the day, and if it is a chronic problem it continues to get worse and worse.
How We Sleep
At least 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders, and an additional 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems. Sleeping problems account for an estimated $16 billion in medical costs each year, while the indirect costs due to lost productivity and other factors are without a doubt much greater. Sleep deprivation not only interferes with your ability to think, work, and drive safely, but it also interferes with your body’s ability to heal itself. 1
Chemical messages in the brain called “neurotransmitters” control whether we are asleep or awake by acting on different areas of the brain. These neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, are produced at the base of the brain in the brainstem. These messages keep some parts of the brain active while we are awake. Other cells located in the base of the brain begin to send signals for us to fall asleep, such as melatonin from the pineal gland, which is triggered by the presence of darkness and by our sleep cycles. These signals, when working properly, “switch off” the messages that keep us awake which leads to drowsiness and eventually sleep. If these signals are dysfunctional, our “awake” signals never get switched off.
During sleep, we cycle through five stages of sleep: stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep. These stages progress from stage 1 through REM sleep and then repeat, with the largest amount of time spent in stage 2 sleep. Stages 3 and 4 are known as “deep sleep”. All five stages are necessary for the body to rebuild, regenerate, and repair all of its cells and tissues. Proper sleep is also required for the immune system to function properly. In fact, research has shown that even a moderate loss of one night’s sleep will decrease the number and activity of circulating white blood cells, natural killer (NK) cells, lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells, and decrease production of interleukin-2 (IL-2).2 In simpler terms, losing sleep decreases the function of your immune system and your body’s ability to fight off invaders like bacteria and viruses, therefore decreasing your body’s ability to fight cancer or regulate autoimmunity.
How much sleep do you need each night, and how can you be sure you are getting enough? Each person’s individual needs for sleep are different. For example, infants typically require about 16 hours of sleep per day, while teenagers require about nine. Adults require an average of seven to eight hours per night. Some adults need as few as five hours and others need as many as 10 hours per night.1 The key is to listen to your body every day and decide how much sleep you require each night to feel rested and base your sleep schedule around your individual needs. If you feel like your sleep could use improvement, here are a few tips to ensure you get a proper night’s sleep for your body:
Get the right mattress. Your mattress is your home for about one-third of your life. You want a mattress that provides proper support for your spine, yet comfortable enough that you have no problem falling asleep on it. It is important when mattress shopping to take your time, spend plenty of time on each mattress and don’t make quick decisions that you will regret. Make sure you know your preferences, and then ask the experts to help you find the right match. The right mattress can make all the difference in the world. I am a huge fan of Intellibed for 3 big reasons - 1 - it supports your spine better than any other mattress (see the pressure point picture on our website) 2 - they take toxicity seriously - no off-gassing toxic foam and 3 - they have an amazing 30 year warranty.
Exercise regularly. Studies have shown that regular amounts of exercise increases the amount and quality of sleep in older adults.4 Exercise has also been shown to increase energy and concentration, making you feel less tired throughout your day. Movement is great all day, but exercising hard in the morning is the most effective for better energy and sleep. Not only do you get your exercise done while you still have the most will-power, but it also helps balance the hormonal cycles that regulate sleep. My favorite way for patients to exercise is performing high-intensity, short duration “bursts” or “surges” of exercise (20 seconds to 1 minute) followed by an equally short period of rest and repeated for 10-15 minutes, because these surge-type exercises have been shown to have the greatest impact on your hormones with the least amount of time required. Too much long-distance endurance exercising without proper recovery can negatively impact sleep and health. If you are having sleep problems and you are already exercising a lot, you may need to cut back!
Get your spine adjusted. Chiropractic adjustments have been shown to increase patient’s quality and duration of sleep. In fact in a study of 154 participants, one-third of patients stated that their sleep pattern was changed immediately following a chiropractic adjustment.5 Long-term correction of spinal misalignments also has a positive effect on sleep outcome, especially misalignment of the C1 (or atlas) vertebra, which surrounds and protects the brainstem, the area where the brain meets the spinal cord and where many sleep-related neurotransmitters (such as serotonin) are produced. Many of my younger, healthier patients (in other words no chronic pain or disease) state that improved sleep is one of the reasons they continue to get adjusted.
Mind your melatonin. This does not mean take your melatonin. Melatonin is most commonly known as the over-the-counter natural sleep aid, but it’s actually a hormone known as the sleeping hormone or the darkness hormone, and you can naturally control melatonin through lifestyle habits. Not only does melatonin regulate the circadian rhythm, or sleep cycle, but it is a powerful antioxidant. Melatonin is triggered by the presence of darkness and even the anticipation of darkness, which is why it’s so important to turn off the electronics early in the night and dim the lights. Doing something as simple as turning on a bright lamp will immediately decrease melatonin, which is why it’s so important to “mind it”! Read my article Mind Your Melatonin here to learn more ways to manage and regulate your sleep cycle by managing melatonin.
The last thing you should ever do to get a good night’s sleep is to take a sleeping pill. Sleeping pills are dangerous drugs that do not provide you with a natural good night’s sleep, and have been linked to dozens of adverse side effects including cancer, increased mortality (early death), and suicide.3 If you or someone you know is taking these dangerous drugs, talk to your physician about getting off of them now!
If you are taking these basic steps and you are still not getting a good night’s sleep, you need to do something about it. During sleep you are not only recharging your body’s energy stores, your body is repairing and regenerating new cells and tissues, and chronic poor sleep will always create problems. Often our stress hormones are so out of whack that we are tired all day but then can’t fall asleep at night, this can be addressed naturally, but it’s hard to do on your own. Many people have imbalanced neurotransmitters in their brain and have trouble concentrating, and either feel wired or tired all day, this can be addressed also, but once again is hard to do on your own. Let Real Health Coaching help you put the pieces of the puzzle together. All of these are Real Health problems with Real Health Solutions. Remember we don’t ‘treat’ sleeping disorders, we support Real Health, because people experiencing Real Health don’t have sleeping problems. Schedule your Free Phone Consultation today.
M Irwin, et al. Partial night sleep deprivation reduces natural killer and cellular immune responses in humans. The FASEB journal, 1996 – FASEB
Dr. Daniel F. Kripke, M.D. The Dark Side of Sleeping Pills. http://www.darksideofsleepingpills.com/
King, A. et al. Moderate-Intensity Exercise and Self-rated Quality of Sleep in Older Adults. JAMA.1997;277(1):32-37.
Jamison, J. PhD. Insomnia, Does Chiropractic Help? Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics Volume 28, Issue 3, March–April 2005, Pages 179–186.