Category: Stress

Sleep: The Foundation of Life

2019 is ramping up to be the “year of healthy” for many people. With modern science, a plethora of information at our fingertips, and a better understanding for the need to take care of ourselves people are buying up the latest gadgets, apps, and anything else they can get their hands on. But, the foundation of a healthy, happy lifestyle might be a lot easier than any of us expected: begin with sleep. Sleep is the baseline for a lot of aspects we want to improve on including our personal life, professional life, and our bodies. As the world becomes more connected and our lives more hectic, we are at a height of sleep deprivation as a society globally and it only seems like it’s going to get worse.

So, why is sleep so important?

Weight loss

Sleep plays an important role in weight loss. First, proper sleep gives the energy needed during the day to be active. Often when people feel sluggish or tired they are less likely to work out or keep their routines. Insufficient sleep can also disrupt hormone production. In this case, specifically ghrelin and leptin which are both related to appetite. Simply put, ghrelin is linked to the feeling of hunger while leptin makes us feel satiated and poor sleep increases ghrelin levels while lowering leptin. This can be where midnight munchies kick in—staying up late can lead us to eating more and later than we normally would. It’s not too hard to see how those hormone level changes along with lack of exercise could inhibit weight loss goals, so save the snacks and get those 8 hours of sleep in.

The Brain

For the brain, sleep does a number of things. A person’s memory and processing may improve with proper sleep and it gives the brain a chance to clean itself. Reaction time, cognitive abilities, and mood are seriously affected by sleep deprivation. A person’s ability to handle stress diminishes without sleep and are at risk for increased likelihood of anxiety and depression. Traffic incidents increase around daylight savings time when drivers lose an hour of sleep so their alertness, reaction, and overall cognitive functions are impaired.

The Body

Sleep doesn’t just affect us mentally but also physically. After a really good workout, despite how energetic a person might have been during it, the body gets sore. Exercise creates micro-tears that lead to the forming of more muscle which leads to our soreness sometimes days after. While there’s a few ways to help with that delayed onset muscle soreness—stretching, ice baths, epsom salts, etc—sleep helps with that healing process. For any injury or sickness, rest is extremely important in the body’s recovery process. There’s a number of things going on for the body while you sleep but growth hormones and prolactin, an anti-inflammatory, is released during deep sleep. Research has also shown that a person’s sensitivity to pain and sleep have an inverse relationship, meaning the less sleep a person gets the more pain they may experience.

The Organs

This is a separate topic from the body because the organs deserve their own spotlight. Sleep’s reach and effect on all parts of a person is astounding. Insufficient sleep is associated with poor cholesterol and blood pressure levels thus increasing the risk of stroke and heart disease. Like bad accidents during daylight savings times, heart attacks and strokes increase during that time as well. Some research shows multi-organ injury through successive sleep deprivation, which is a common problem in society and may explain chronic disease increases. Cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone, is regulated by the adrenal gland which can be disrupted by inadequate sleep. Cortisol controls a number of things in the body so when there’s too much of it problems can arise such as headaches, memory issues, trouble sleeping, weight gain, anxiety, depression, heart disease, and blood sugar issues. There’s also some research that suggests poor quality sleep could lead to an increased risk of certain cancers. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and may suppress tumor growth.

Skin and Hair

Beauty sleep isn’t just a saying. A restful night does wonders for the face and hair. Bags under the eyes is one of the more obvious signs of poor sleep but wrinkles and a dull complexion are also key indications. Collagen is produced while sleeping which can prevent wrinkles and even just 5 hours of sleep can make skin drier making fine lines more noticeable. Blood flow is increased during a long slumber giving a glowing complexion and stronger, fuller hair. Cortisol, the stress hormone mentioned earlier, can cause hair to fall out! A full night sleep is crucial for healthy skin, hair, and nails.

This only scratches the surface of the benefits of restful sleep and the pitfalls of sleep deprivation. It is critically important to everyone’s health to do their best to get enough sleep. It can be difficult in this ever-busy and connected world, and there’s no replacement for a full night of sleep, but a nap can offer some benefits as well. It’s also important to remember, there is no such thing as “catching up on sleep”; once it’s lost, it’s gone. Set a bedtime and get in those ZZZs.

We wish you all a good night’s sleep!

Don’t Be A Grinch. Get Some Sleep!

sleep to keep stress at bay for the holidays

It’s no mystery that sleep (rather, lack of) and stress can go hand in hand. Being overstressed keeps you awake at night and leads to unrestful sleep, while being sleep deprived causes things to stress you out easier and less able to handle the tasks of the day, inevitably becoming a cranky person. It’s a vicious cycle to be in. The holidays, full of cheer and merriment, are no stranger to stress either. Between holiday parties, pageants, gift buying, family visits, and who knows what else is on that to-do list how is anyone supposed to actually find time to rest? Here are a few tips to help guide your way to a fun and well-rested holiday.

Stay organized

Even if you don’t usually keep a calendar, agenda, or task list, do it for this time of year. Print out a calendar, draw your own, or fire up that calendar app and write down every event, task, and person you want to see, or thing you want to do. Staying on top of your daily and holiday to-dos will keep you from getting blindsided by anything and help you to not procrastinate on tasks. Get your shopping done, clean the house, wrap the gifts, and when you get to have some fun you won’t have to be worried about ‘the next thing’. The last thing anyone wants is for everything to snowball into an overwhelming mess preventing you from enjoying your time with friends and family.

It’s OK to say ‘No’

Saying ‘no’ can be really hard but it can also be empowering. Think about yourself and what you can give, or want to give, in terms of your time or commitment to something or someone. Maybe you can’t get out of volunteering for the school pageant, but you can minimize the time you spend this holiday with people that stress you out or you find unpleasant. Your time is limited so don’t feel too bad about prioritizing people, sometimes you can’t see everyone or do everything. You could try getting everyone together for one event rather than go to 4 different ones to see everyone on your list. This one might take some reflection and thought, but staying organized can help you put your time in perspective.

Go easy on the food and alcohol

Without getting too much into how to manage your diet (there are tons of articles that do that already), just be sure not to eat too close to your bedtime as it can cause sleep disruptions. Watch out for sugars since they’ll make you crash and pay attention to your coffee intake since too much or too late can mess with your sleep schedule. While we’re on the subject of sleep schedules, mind your alcohol too. While alcohol may seemingly help you fall asleep, as your body processes it, it will interfere with your proper sleep cycle leaving you feeling groggy the next morning—and possibly hungover.

Don’t stop working out

With an increase of other things to do it’s easy to knock exercise to the bottom of the list but that shouldn’t be the case. If you can get into your usual routine, fantastic! Exercise helps you manage stress, feel better (thank you endorphins), and sleep easier—all things that are pretty important right now. If not, try modifying your work out. Maybe find a HIIT routine so that you spend less time but still get a good work out, find time to stretch between activities or tasks, take the stairs if you can, or even park further away from the store to get some extra steps in (it might even save you time getting in and out of the lot). And, bonus points for getting sun exposure while doing any of this. You’ll soak up some vitamin D and help keep your circadian rhythm regulated.

Keep your regular sleep schedule

Do your best to stick to your normal sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking at the same time will help you get the rest you need to tackle your busy days. As mentioned before, sleep is important for managing stress but it also keeps you alert, balances your hormones (like the stress one, cortisol, and the one that makes you hungry, ghrelin) and mood, and helps your memory. You don’t want to have fun things planned but then be too tired to enjoy them or snap at anyone during a holiday party. If you need to, schedule a nap in your day to help with your alertness but remember: keep it to 20-30 minutes and try not to have it after 3 pm.

Stick to your nighttime routine—or create one!

If you don’t have one yet this is a great time to start. At least an hour before bed, it’s time to put all your blue-light emitting devices away and get ready for sleep. Your routine can include a variety of things but the point is to do it consistently so your brain recognizes that now is the time to mellow out. Reading, a hot bath, listening to relaxing music, drawing, or journaling are some options you can try out. Anything that helps calm you down and doesn’t require bright lights. Whatever your takeaways from this are, the important thing to remember is to have fun and enjoy your holiday season. Get some sleep, take care of yourself, and don’t be a grinch!  


We wish you the happiest of holidays!

The Integrated Neurology Services Team