Sleep, Stress, and the Holidays

Mike CarragherAge Management, Anti-Aging, belly fat, DHEA, fatigue, HGH, Hormone Optimization, Human Growth Hormone, loss of energy, low energy, low libido, low sex drive, Melatonin, The Body Well, Thyroid, Uncategorized, Visceral Fat, weight gainLeave a Comment

Guest Blogger: Lisa Marlene Thompson is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who specializes in all areas of health and wellness, specifically: digestion, sugar handling issues, hormone balancing and general nutrition and lifestyle. She’s a core part of The Body Well Age Management team.

Holiday season is here and with it comes all the joy and good feelings coupled with the stressors of trying to fit everything and everyone in to your life!   It’s challenging – there are parties and get-togethers with friends, coworkers and family; the special kids events; the bit of extra work that needs to get done before the break can begin; the shopping for gifts and food as well as the preparation of these things… and the list goes on….

I cannot stress enough how important sleep is – if you’ve worked with me, I’m sure you’ve heard me say “It doesn’t matter what your mission statement is in life – if you’re not getting good sleep, it’s likely not going to happen”.  With poor quality sleep it’s probable that you’ll experience the following:

  • Poor memory/concentration
  • Performance affected
  • Weight gain
  • Mood / Depression

Over 60 million Americans are sleep deprived, and of those, 40 million have diagnosed sleep disorders.  These disorders range from sleep apnea (when you stop breathing during your sleep) to insomnia (when the brain doesn’t shut off) and circadian rhythm disruption (when we deviate from our natural internal clock and regular sleep time) – the most diagnosed of the 80 recognized and defined sleep disorders that exist.

Sleep is a basic human need, and it needs to be made a priority – just like nutrition and exercise.  Consistency and quality are paramount when it comes to sleep.  It’s important to be consistent with our sleep cycle – going to bed and waking at about the same time each day.  During this season this can be tricky, but try to stick as closely as you can to your regular sleep cycle.

Try incorporating these pre-bedtime rituals:

  • Power down ALL electronics about an hour or so before you want to go to sleep (the brain stimulating blue light emitted from all of our electronics wreak havoc on our sleep – make sure you have this free download https://justgetflux.com/ on your computer which offers an amber veil to block that blue light – tied into your time zone you don’t even have to think about it
  • take a bath or hot shower – exposure to the cool air when you get out signals the body it’s time for slumber
  • read something inspirational – not too engaging to lull you into sleep
  • light some candles and listen to relaxing music

In addition to getting good sleep, I also want to talk about keeping your stress levels low… so that sleep is an actual possibility.

Here’s a primer on what happens when the body is put into a stress-response, and that hormone we’ve all been hearing so much about, comes into play: Cortisol.

Cortisol is a powerful hormone produced and secreted by one of our endocrine glands: the Adrenals (two tiny button shaped glands that sit atop each kidney).  Cortisol is triggered to release when our “fight or flight” or survival response kicks in – a Sympathetic Nervous System response.  The kicker here is: our bodies have not evolved enough to distinguish the difference between being chased by a wooly mammoth and meeting a deadline.  A stressor is a stressor is a stressor!  It’s all the same to the adrenals, the output is the same, with effects as far reaching as: increased heart rate and blood pressure, shortness of breath, digestion shut down, and a whole host of physiological and biochemical events occur.

The Standard American Diet (SAD) with it’s never ending sugar spikes and crashes also trigger the release of cortisol…. And when there’s too much cortisol in the blood, where does it go?  You got it: Directly to FAT storage.

The body’s main goal is to always be in homeostasis, equilibrium, and balance.  The body’s natural state is health, not dis-ease.  It strives to be in a Para-Sympathetic state (aka: Rest and Digest=RELAXED as opposed to a Sympathetic state=SURVIVAL).  Simply put, when we are stressed we absolutely work against ourselves – all those things we so desperately want to achieve, get hijacked by a hormone.  The anti-dote you ask?  Finding ways to stay in that para-sympathetic state, things that might include:

  • meditation and deep breathing exercises,
  • consciously visualizing yourself in a peaceful setting, breathing in the beauty and quiet of this place
  • closing your eyes and seeing your inhale move through your body while using your exhale to blow out any toxins or debris that aren’t serving you.

Another great place to live in your mind is in a state of gratitude.  Perhaps the penultimate symbol of the holiday season.  A truly great place to reside.

When we focus on gratitude, be it someone or something we are truly grateful for, or if we can hold in our thoughts someone who we aspire to be more like, one who embodies the true essence of living in a state of grace: compassion, loving kindness, humor, respect of self and others, sense of peace and well-being.  When we are living in a state of gratitude, stress cannot exist there, nor can fear, anger, frustration, shame or any other number of emotions that ultimately do not serve our wellbeing.  When we live in a state of grace and gratitude, we more easily return to homeostasis, equilibrium and balance.  In closing, I’d like to share a TedTalk by Louie Schwartzberg entitled Gratitude http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXDMoiEkyuQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

I’ve shared it with friends and clients alike and I never tire of watching it.  I hope you enjoy it too, as well as some good sleep during your holidays!

Be Well,

Lisa M. Thompson, NTP

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