OK In Health - Healing Yourself Naturally

You Snooze, You Win: The Power of Sleep - June 2021

Are you tired of being tired?

By Dr. Melissa Bradwell

lady have a snooze to catch up on her sleep

Have you decided that you’re never going to get another good nights’ sleep ever again? Well, you’re not alone. In times where there often doesn’t feel like there’s enough hours in a day, the area that usually gets affected is our sleep. 

 While people are often striving for that perfect ‘8 hours’ of sleep a night, sleep disturbances and health concerns, as a result, are becoming more and more prevalent.  This has just as much to do with the importance of sleep quality as well as its quantity.

 Stats Canada conducted a study in 2005 using close to 20,000 participants and highlighted how, while 8 hours may not be practical for all Canadians, that other lifestyle characteristics can affect your sleep.

Some interesting points in this study are:

  • Single (never married) and widowed Canadians had the highest average levels of sleep compared to people living with a partner and those separated or divorced.
  • Compared to Canadians with no children, those with 2 or more children averaged 25 minutes less of sleep.
  • Working longer hours was associated with sleeping less, as was higher levels of income. Incomes over $60,000 per year was associated with sleeping 40 minutes less than people who made less than $20,000.
  • Commutes over 60 minutes cut sleep back by about 22 minutes on average, compared to workers with shorter commutes of 1 to 30 minutes.
  • Shift work has a significant effect on worker fatigue and affects quality of sleep for both men and women shift workers.
  • Men slept 8 hours and 7 minutes, 11 minutes less than women. Although women sleep more than men, they reported a higher rate of trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • The gender sleep difference disappears for people who care for children over 90 minutes a day, for unmarried Canadians, for part-time workers and people not in the labour force, and for the weekend nights of Friday and Saturday.
  • The gender gap remains for men and women that fall into the following groups: work full-time; have no children living in the household; and, live with a partner.

Shift-Work and Your Health

As soon as work hours start to merge with ‘typical’ sleep hours, your natural circadian rhythms become affected. Your internal clock is designed to use cues such as clock time, light/dark cycle, meal times and social activity to stay on track. This natural rhythm can easily become out of sync when the body starts to receive confusing signals. One major hormone in the body called cortisol is produced by your adrenal glands and is what keeps us awake during the day and puts us to sleep at night. Obviously, working shifts opposite to this pattern will affect our sleep/wake cycle. This puts a lot of ‘stress’ on the body and can disrupt the body’s natural pattern of rest and rejuvenation. Studies have shown that this disruption is related to a variety of physical and mental problems, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, asthma, diabetes and depression.

 

Keeping Rhythm

While you can’t necessarily change jobs or add more hours to the day, there are things you can do that will help improve both the quality and quantity of sleep and maintain a natural rhythm.

  • Set a routine. Weekdays and weekends should be set to the same clock. Try and maintain the same sleep/wake times as much as possible.
  • Try not to eat too close to bedtime. Having a full belly can affect the quality of your sleep if your body is too busy ‘digesting’ instead of relaxing. Ensure your last meal before sleep also has good levels of protein to help keep your blood sugar levels balanced during sleep.
  • Avoid too much caffeine, especially later in the day when cortisol levels are starting to decline. Sugar cravings are a sign that you are not getting enough sleep as we reach for carbohydrates or sugary foods to give us that ‘pick-me up’.
  • Turn off the TV and extra lights (cell phone chargers, computers, etc). Any light will cause brain stimulation and affect the quality of your sleep. Ensure that, especially in the summer, your room is as dark as possible for your entire sleep. 
  • Exposure to daylight in the morning will set your levels of melatonin (the sleep hormone) for that night. Exercise or having your breakfast outside will do the trick.
  • Relaxation and stress management. You need serotonin to make melatonin and serotonin is our feel-good hormone. Reduced levels will not only affect your mood, but also your sleep, resulting in a very slippery slope.
  • Supplements such as melatonin and 5-HTP, Valerian, Passion flower, and Chamomile can be very beneficial when used properly. Magnesium-rich foods or as a supplement can also provide a nice relaxing sleep when taken in the evening.

For shift workers, an additional adrenal supplement to help manage fluctuating cortisol levels can help reduce the side effects of poor sleep and the incidence of illness associated with it.

 

References:  www.statcan.gc.caShields, M. (2002). Shift work and health. Health Reports, 13(4), 11-33. Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 82-003-XIE., M. (2002). Shift work and health. (4), 11-33. Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 82-003-XIE.

 

Dr. Bradwell is a big fan of her sleep and taking full advantage of it before she has children. She would also like to credit her mom for the title of this article.




Dr. Melissa BradwellDr. Melissa's Bio: Raised in Kamloops, BC, Dr. Bradwell graduated from CCNM in Toronto and returned home to work as a Naturopathic Physician in 2006. She offers a variety of services and treatment options for her patients, including IV therapy, acupuncture, botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, hormone and allergy testing. Dr. Bradwell is now practicing downtown Kamloops, she can be reached at (250) 374-9700. - Dr. Melissa Bradwell Website - Email


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