Natural Ways to Bio-hack Your Sleep
There's no question that we all want better sleep! But, with all of the distractions, and stresses of daily life - it's a wonder how any of us can ever get the chance for a night of solid shut-eye!
I mean, when was the last time you woke up without an alarm? And, when you wake, are you refreshed and well rested, or do you regularly need a big bucket of coffee to get going in the morning?
Truth is, not getting enough sleep impacts our brain health and memory long term. Even our body's ability to maintain and restore itself through cellular turnover and repair becomes affected. Guys, this is especiall troublesome because it accelerates our physiological deterioration as we get older.
As a result, our population experiences an exponential increase in diseases like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer's, autoimmune disorders, and adrenal dysregulation. In fact, lack of sleep messes with our hormones in such a way that diminished emotional and physical health are the result - and, before you think otherwise; YES, guys have hormones that go out of whack, too!
Speaking of hormones - did you know that we have 400 times more MELATONIN (our body's natural "sleep hormone") circulating around in our gut than in our brains? Just another reason we should focus on gut health as part of a healthy sleep routine!
To give you a little more insight on what happens to us when we don't get enough zzz's, I've listed a few little known facts below:
GHRELIN - This "hunger hormone" can increase by 15% after just one night of poor sleep. And, it can also plummet your levels of LEPTIN (the hormone that tells us when to STOP eating). It's this cycle that pushes us to eat a big pile of carbs or caffeine when we're tired - we want a big fat energy fix!
As if daily stress related to work and family life weren't enough; chronic sleep deprivation can further elevate nighttime levels of CORTISOL (the stress hormone). The problem with elevated cortisol levels is, while higher amounts of GHRELIN is making you eat more than usual, CORTISOL takes those additional calories and converts them into visceral fat; stuffing them right into the abdominal area = dreaded "dad-bod" of belly fat!
A primary benefit of adequate sleep is the release of our extraordinary "fountain of youth" hormone (HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE, aka; HGH). It's at its peak during what's known as the Delta sleep stage - the first half of our sleep time. This is when we get into our deepest sleep, and restoration takes place. For us 'older' guys this is important because aging generates its own physiological challenges when it comes to building muscle. It's not impossible to build more/new muscle; it's just more difficult than when we were younger.
Thus, getting the body to produce adequate amounts of HGH helps protect existing muscle from breaking down, aids in building new lean muscle tissue, and boosts energy. More muscle means you're able to lose weight more efficiently and maintain lean body mass.
Now, there are some natural ways you can bio-hack your body's circadian rhythm and improve your chances of having a restorative night's sleep, and here they are:
KEY NUTRIENTS: Remember Melatonin; the sleep hormone? You can try taking a supplement of the stuff about 30-minutes before bed, but first, make sure you're treating your gut well! Since certain bacteria in your gut can interfere with Melatonin production, it's essential to eat a diet rich in both prebiotic & probiotic foods.
You can also try eating foods dense in "sleep nutrients."
For example; Potassium helps us stay asleep and can be found in bananas, coconut water, and avocados. Magnesium is another relaxant that can help us to fall asleep. Unfortunately, it's estimated that 80% of us are deficient in this multi-tasking mineral.
A BALANCED DINNER: What I mean by a balanced dinner is it should include an ample amount of protein, vegetables, healthy fats, and a small amount of "slow, low" glycemic starch like sweet potatoes, wild rice or quinoa.
LIMITED ALCOHOL: Believe it or not, Alcohol inhibits deep REM sleep - this is our dream stage of sleep when memories get crystallized from short to long-term.
Best to be safe - limit Alcohol, especially right before bed.
GET GOOD AT SLEEP HYGIENE: It’s the environment, rituals, and routines you create around bedtime that all add up to sleep hygiene. So, sticking to a set bedtime + practicing good sleep hygiene = better sleep!
POWER-DOWN THOSE DEVICES: This is probably the most challenging exercises when pursuing good sleep hygiene. My advice; power down your devices early. Studies suggest the light our electronic devices emit can lower melatonin production by up to 50%!
MELTDOWN WITH MASSAGE: Today, more than ever, guys are turning toward massage to help lower stress, manage pain, improve sleep, and boost their immune systems! Less pain, less stress, improved workout recovery, and a calm mind are all benefits that can be attributed to massage.
Remember; getting enough quality sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health! Yes, it can take practice (and possibly a few biological "hacks"), to balance your life with body's natural circadian rhythm, but a better night's sleep is not only achievable - It's better than the alternative!
Until next time; get some sleep, and keep moving toward a better you!