Sleep, Sleep sleep, how is your sleep? Do you naturally wake up at a certain time or feel just as tired as you went to bed? Maybe some days one while other days….well you struggle. What’s the big deal with sleeping? Why do we need to have it? When you are eating food that doesn’t benefit you, you are still hungry right? When you are eating food that is meeting all of your nutritional needs you are full pretty quick and feel great! The same thing goes with a good nights sleep. When you don’t get one, you want more sleep and when that sleep meets your needs, you are ready for the next day with a little pep in your step. Let’s talk about how food and sleep work together. As we all learned in biology class, sleep has 4 stages, each stage lasts approximately 90 min: Stages 1&2 are light sleep stages. Stage 3 is deep and restorative. During this deep sleep the body creates growth hormone, testosterone, thyroid hormone and immune mediators. So that it can repair items such as muscles, tissues, bone and anything else that needs healing or replenishing (Kohlstadt, 2013). It’s almost as if your body is having a status meeting with every cell and chemical in your body and starts to address the issues. Stage 4 is known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM is 25% of sleep. It is the dream cycle and during the lightest sleep portion on this stage we consolidate memories and provide energy to the brain (NSF, 2017). This would explain why babies and children need more sleep than adults since they are constantly growing and learning. This is also why we need so much of it when we are sick.
When I was a kid, there was the series of Freddy Krugar movies. They were so scary, now if I watched it I would laugh at how fake the effects are (ha!). The plot was Freddy would come and get you when you fell asleep. It also talked about how after a certain amount of time your body would begin shutting down in different ways the more it becomes sleep deprived. Isn’t that the same with nutrition? Although, the shutting down process is different and faster that nutrition it is definitely something to think about. The condition of insomnia which is also known as sleep disturbance inhibits the body from achieving stage 3 sleep and in doing so inhibits the restorative properties that occur during it. So no new hormones are created, no repairing of muscle, tissue and the immune system also does not create new moderators to keep an eye on things in the system.
Changes in the sleep patterns typically consist of a loss of deep sleep and an increase of REM sleep. Usually due to deep sleep occurring early in the morning which is when people typically have their early morning wakefulness. During REM sleep, the brain stops serotonin production to help us ease out of sleep. When deep sleep is bypassed, a person can wake up tired. Problems with staying asleep can be due to anxiety and drains the adrenal system. Problems staying asleep is typically due to depression. When there is too much REM sleep it depresses the immune system and lowering the natural killer cells. When it comes to anxiety which we spoke about before, a depleted adrenal system needs to be rebuilt. I could ramble off the b-complexes, vitamins C, minerals and amino acids that would be needed to rebuild or I could just talk about taking foods like organ meats, bone broth and cod liver oil that will also do the same with less hardship since it is in food form which absorbs easier. There have been many studies that link depression with a lack of b complexes such as B6 and B3 (organ meats), amino acids ( bone broth or gelatin), essential fatty acids ( Cod liver oil and my personal favorite Emu oil) and fat-soluble vitamins D, E, K & A.
There is also a connection with caffeine and REM sleep. Over 250 milligrams a day will increase the percentage of REM sleep and it will lower the amount of time a person’s able to spend in deep sleep. A cup of coffee contains 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine. When we start talking about Starbucks it can be as high as 475 for the blonde roast 20oz. Teas especially black teas range from 5mg to 90mg. Honest teas is where the 90mg. Making your own cup instead of buying may help in lowering your caffeine intake. Sodas can be from 90 on down. A typical chocolate bar has on average, 20 milligrams of caffeine (Hawthorn, 2013). I have a link in the references section to see how much your caffeine intake is. It covers beverages to candy and snacks. It’s from the center of science and public Interest just in case you’re interested.
Chronic pain can also decrease deep sleep. Anyone that is dealing with chronic pain. It could be arthritis, fibromyalgia, cramps whatever, if pain is interfering with sleep, it is unlikely they will get into a deep sleep state. All of these happens to deal with a deficiency that needs to be replenished. Finding out what your particular combination of nutrient deficiencies are is key,
People might have sleep apnea, four percent of the adults suffer from this condition (Hawthorn, 2016). Sleep apnea is when a person stops breathing while they are asleep. The average person does this about five times a night. A person with apnea does it over 100 times a night. They catch themselves not breathing and they gasps to help them renew their breathing, this is what knocks that person out of deep sleep and into REM sleep. Apnea can be caused by many things such as to much weight on the chest, weak lungs or soft tissue in the mouth and throat. If it is not a weight loss issue, then you are looking to build up your tissue in the lungs, mouth and/or throat. A good way is to try consuming lung and tissue, which you can get fresh or powdered the other is a good lining builder is aloe.
Alcohol can contribute to an inability to go into a deep sleep but not just alcohol, tranquilizers or anti-anxiety medications reduces deep sleep as well. These have other side effects, such as A loss of libido which is very common, whether they are on medications. Other times it is a consequence of the biological effects that are taking place within another symptom like depression (Hawtheorne, 2013).
This lack of deep sleep is a lack of growth. If there is ongoing or chronic loss of growth it compounds. Think about what helps to re-calcify the skeletal bone, this would put someone at a risk for osteoporosis since the creation and repair of hormones are addressed during deep sleep. The lack of one causes the lack of the other and things continue to compound until it presents problems in the body such as depression, insomnia, constant pain, anxiety. Sleep is just as important as your diet. They both need to be good quality in order to be healing.
Hawthorn (2016) Depression lecture 6 class nervous system from https://portal.hawthornuniversity.org/Course_AudioLectureDetails.aspx?id=51
Kohlstadt, I. (2013) Advancing Medicine with Food and Nutrient. second Edition: Boca Raton, Fl: CRC Press
p (2013) The Human Body
National Sleep Foundation NSF( 2017) What Happens During Sleep from https://sleep.org/articles/what-happens-during-sleep/
Center for Science and Public Interest (2017) Caffeine Chart from https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/ingredients-of-concern/caffeine-chart