The kind of sleep you get can affect not only how you feel when you wake up, but also the many hormones that help to regulate your bodily functions. Hormones are chemicals that are part of the endocrine system, which, like all our systems, benefits from quality rest. It is important to get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis for optimum hormone regulation.
“Circadian rhythm” refers to the wake and sleep cycles of day and night that your body experiences over the course of each 24 hours. When this rhythm is disrupted by poor sleep, then several hormones are also disrupted.
An extensive study was conducted in 2015 evaluating the hormones that are affected by the circadian rhythm of the body. They found that sleep disturbances and especially sleep deprivation are associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and glucose metabolism as well as apparent dysfunction of leptin and ghrelin, which negatively impact human health. Also, circadian disruption may negatively affect glucose and lipid homeostasis. (1)
The hormones studied included melatonin, cortisol, the hunger hormones insulin, leptin, and ghrelin, growth hormone, the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, and thyroid hormones. (1)
Missing sleep can lead to:
- reduced immunity
- more frequent infections
- increases in illnesses
- spikes in appetite
- higher calorie consumption
- weight gain
Too much sleep can lead to:
- daytime fatigue
- reduced metabolism
- impaired focus
- disrupted sleep cycles
12 Ways to Sleep Deep
Deep sleep is the slowest brain wave time, what is called “slow-wave sleep.” This is when the body and brain rejuvenate themselves.
In 1960, US adults slept an average of 8.5 hours a night. By 2002, that had fallen to less than seven hours a night. Now, only 23.5 percent, or less than one out of four young adults, sleeps at least eight hours a night. (2)
To improve your sleep experience, first look at how much you sleep vs. how well you sleep. Keep a regular sleep schedule. Big swings in your sleep schedule or trying to catch up on sleep after a week of late nights can cause changes in your metabolism.
Aim for a consistent uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep a night. To sleep deeply, try these recommendations from the American Sleep Association. (3)
- Sleep in a dark cool room: Exposure to artificial light and electronics is associated with an increase in disturbed sleep.
- Don’t eat right before bed: Eating late keeps your stomach full and hormones working to digest instead of allowing your body to relax.
- Reduce sugar, alcohol, and caffeine intake: Stop these substances several hours before bedtime. They rev up your system.
- Be an early bird: The best time to sleep deeply is between 10 pm and 6 am.
- Get regular exercise: Especially if that exercise involves natural light. While even taking a short walk during the day may help improve sleep, increasing daily activity can have a more dramatic impact.
- Eat a healthy diet: Disturbances in your gut can affect your sleep. Be sure to include plenty of fiber in your diet for optimum digestion.
- Drink plenty of water: Dehydration can disturb your sleep by waking you for more water.
- Invest in a quality mattress: This will assure a more restful sleep.
- Relax: Once you are in bed, try to relax every muscle starting from your toes to the top of your head.
- Meditate: Before going to bed or after lying down, close your eyes and quiet your mind. Meditation music can help.
- Take a sauna or hot tub: Research shows that increasing the body temperature shortly before bed increases deep sleep.
- Aromatherapy: Try lavender essential oil which helps reduce stress and increase relaxation.
Since 1953, the University of Chicago has become famous for studying sleep patterns. Since 1999, the Van Cauter Laboratory there has published a series of studies describing the metabolic and hormonal consequences of chronic partial sleep loss. In addition to being detrimental to our health and quality of life, sleep loss may increase the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, major challenges in today’s society. (4)
So, if you are someone with chronic sleep problems, try to make the changes described here to not only improve the quality and depth of your sleep, but also of your daily life.