Are you getting your ZZZ's .. World Sleep Day 2024
We spend approximately 1/3 of our lives sleeping. Sleep is one of the key pillars of health, next to healthy diet and exercise.
Sleep is foundational to our physical, mental and social wellbeing. 
A lack of good quality sleep can affect our daily lives and long-term health in a myriad of significantly negative ways including.

- Limiting our ability to make decisions
- Affecting our general wellbeing and ability to work
- Increasing our risk of conditions like heart disease, stroke and diabetes. 
- Increased risk of cognitive impairment 

World Sleep Day offers a timely reminder of an often-neglected aspect of our health: sleep. In the bustling pace of modern life, sleep is frequently sacrificed for productivity, entertainment, or stress. However, from a functional medicine standpoint, sleep is not just a passive state of rest; it's a critical pillar of our health and well-being. Today, we're exploring how sleep impacts our health and providing tangible tips to improve your sleep quality, all through the lens of functional medicine.

## The Science of Sleep and Health

Functional medicine approaches health by addressing the root causes of disease, focusing on the person as a whole. It understands that sleep is intricately connected to numerous bodily processes and that its deprivation can lead to chronic illnesses and imbalances.

### Chronic Illness and Sleep

Research shows that insufficient sleep is linked to a higher risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even certain types of cancer. During sleep, our bodies undergo essential repair processes, including the regulation of hormones like insulin and cortisol. Prolonged sleep disruption can lead to insulin resistance and increased stress hormone levels, both of which contribute to chronic disease.

### Mental Health and Cognitive Function

Sleep is also paramount for our mental health and cognitive performance. It helps in consolidating memories, processing emotions, and clearing brain toxins. Functional medicine recognizes the bidirectional relationship between sleep and mental health; poor sleep can exacerbate anxiety and depression, while these conditions can, in turn, affect sleep quality.

### Immune System Support

Moreover, adequate sleep is a cornerstone of robust immune function. It enhances the body's ability to fend off infections and reduces inflammation. In the era of global health challenges, never has the connection between sleep and immune health been more pertinent.

## Tips for Improving Sleep

Understanding the vital role of sleep is the first step. Here are functional medicine-inspired tips to help you improve your sleep quality:

### 1. Create a Sleep-Promoting Environment
- **Keep Your Bedroom Dark**: Use blackout curtains or eye masks. Darkness signals your brain to release melatonin, the sleep hormone.
- **Maintain a Cool Temperature**: Around 65°F (18.3°C) is ideal for most people.
- **Minimize Noise**: Consider white noise machines or earplugs.

### 2. Establish a Relaxing Pre-Sleep Routine
- **Limit Screen Time**: Blue light from screens can inhibit melatonin production. Aim to disconnect at least an hour before bedtime.
- **Incorporate Relaxation Techniques**: Try meditation, deep breathing exercises, or gentle yoga to unwind
-**Use the bed for sleep and sex only** Get out of bed when you are tossing and turning

### 3. Pay Attention to Nutrition and Exercise
- **Avoid Stimulants**: Reduce caffeine and sugar intake, especially in the second half of the day.
- **Mind Your Meal Timing**: Eating a heavy meal right before bed can disrupt sleep. Aim to have dinner earlier and opt for lighter meals.
- **Regular Exercise**: Physical activity can promote deeper sleep. However, avoid vigorous workouts close to bedtime.

### 4. Manage Stress
- **Journaling**: Write down worries or to-do lists before bed to prevent them from lingering in your mind.
- **Mind-body Therapies**: Consider acupuncture, massage, or nutritional supplements (after consulting with a healthcare provider).

Yoga is a personal favorite, it helps me move my body and clear my mind. It is difficult to be in stuck in your head while you are focused on balance, breath and posture. I also enjoy Tai chi and Qigong

### 5. Respect Your Body's Sleep-Wake Cycle
**Stick to a Consistent Schedule**: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps regulate your body's internal clock.
Some experts believe each hour slept before midnight is equivalent to two hours slept after midnight in terms of your body's rejuvenation experts. 

- **Expose Yourself to Natural Light**: Natural light exposure during the day helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. - Aim for 15-20 minutes of early morning sun (without sunscreen) to help trigger your body's automatic sleep rhythm. 

By viewing sleep through a functional medicine lens, we begin to understand its profound impact on our overall health. This World Sleep Day, let's commit to making sleep a priority. Remember, investing in your sleep is investing in your health and future.
**Unlock the Power of Optimal Nutrition and Supplements for Enhanced Well-Being**

- **Practice Mindfulness**: Engagement in mindfulness practices can dramatically improve your sleep quality by reducing stress and anxiety levels.

### 5. Consider Research-Backed Nutrition Interventions and Supplements

In addition to these lifestyle interventions, functional medicine also considers the role of specific, research-backed nutrition interventions and supplements in supporting sleep health.

- **Magnesium**: This essential mineral plays a role in supporting deep, restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. Research suggests magnesium supplementation can improve sleep quality, especially for those with insomnia.

- **Melatonin**: As the natural hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, supplementation with melatonin can be beneficial for individuals struggling with sleep onset or for those experiencing jet lag.

- **Omega-3 Fatty Acids**: Studies have found that omega-3 supplementation can increase sleep duration and efficiency by promoting overall sleep quality.

- **L-Theanine**: An amino acid found in tea leaves, L-Theanine has been shown to promote relaxation without drowsiness and may improve the quality of sleep.

- **Valerian Root**: Often used as a natural treatment for symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, and stress, valerian root has been shown to help people fall asleep more quickly and to enhance the quality of sleep.

- **Tart Cherry Juice**: Contains high levels of phytochemicals including melatonin, which can help improve sleep duration and quality.

- **Probiotics**: Emerging research suggests gut health may play a significant role in sleep quality. Probiotics can help improve gut health, which in turn, may support better sleep.

Remember, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking other medications. Functional medicine's approach is centered on individualized care and understanding that each person's health needs are unique.

If you would like to read more about sleep, or take an assessment of your sleep hygiene, I recommend visiting Sleep Foundation | Better Sleep for a Better Y


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