We all know that sleep is important for our bodies to rest, heal and rebuild. For example when melatonin is released from the brain into the blood stream, the body naturally starts to cool down in temperature and slowing down overall. However this release during sleep triggers the release of another important hormone - growth hormone. Growth hormone will initiate the repair of damaged cells, re-build muscles and bone and indirectly contribute to fat loss. Therefore it is vital to maintain a solid sleep to promote recovery from illness or inflammation, weight loss and physical well-being.
Taking the example of weight loss and the contribution of good quality sleep, Dr. Natasha Turner (author of “The Supercharged Hormone Diet” pg 54-55) has come up with a list of the top 10 tips to decrease interference of fat loss (from release of growth hormone) while you sleep. Some highlights are as follows:
Top 5 Tips to Sleep Better
1) Stop eating and drinking 3 hours before bed.
Higher insulin levels lead to less melatonin and growth hormone release.
2) Sleep in the dark.
Consider black-out blinds and remove that alarm clock. Light inhibits release of melatonin. This also leads to the discussion of stopping the use of screens (TV, computer, phone) at least 1 hour before bed! Try a book instead.
3) Avoid intense exercise 3 hours before bed.
Stimulation of brain activity from endorphins can lead to a decrease in melatonin release.
4) Ensure that you sleep in a cooler environment.
Crack the window open, lower the room temperature and consider sleeping in light PJs or nude. Warmer body temperatures will decrease melatonin and growth hormone activity and lead to an overall poorer quality sleep.
5) Go to bed before midnight
(10pm would be great!) and work towards getting 8-9 hours of sleep per night. The quality of sleep before midnight is better than the sleep after midnight.
These are simple tips to get you started on a more balanced sleep/wake cycle which will have positive impacts on mood, energy, dietary cravings, body composition and more. Sometimes even though all of the effort is made, sleep can still be challenging to maintain or initiate. It is in those cases that a closer look at individual hormone levels and balances is required. For example the stress hormone cortisol can often be blamed for waking during the night when in high levels. Melatonin production declines with age as does growth hormone. These hormones can be supported through natural therapies such as supplementation, acupuncture, yoga and more.