This was originally published as my Holistic Outlook column in The Times Herald Record.
Want a quick and effective way to lose a few pounds, improve your focus and energy, and strengthen your immune system all at the same time? Try sleeping 8 hours a night. You might be very pleased with your results.
Getting enough good quality sleep is foundational to health. But did you know sleep is a component of successful weight loss? It’s all about how sleep effects your hormones.
Recent research confirms that sleeping less increases the power of your primal brain to demand high caloric food, while reducing the executive part of your brain’s power to “just say no”. It’s not related to hunger, and is not reduced by eating, so when tired, you continually crave and eat poor quality foods. Your impulses are stronger; your rational mind is weaker. Without sleep, the checks and balances don’t work.
In my practice, I employ a variety of methods to help clients achieve sound sleep.
1. Detoxification to lower cortisol levels. It’s amazing how different you feel emotionally, mentally, and physically, when your cortisol levels drop to lower levels again. Most people don’t realize to what extent they live in a chronically stressed state.
2. Sleep Hygiene: Sleep in complete darkness for optimal melatonin production. Turn off lights, LEDs, cell phones, computers, TVs, and block outside light.
3. Develop rituals such as a Detox Bath (see recipe), calming music, reading, and herbal tea. No electronics or TV for an hour before bedtime; they stimulate the brain in ways that work against sound sleep.
4. Reduce caffeine. Caffeine effects the body for 12 hours, so skip that mid-day coffee break. Other sources: tea, colas, and chocolate. If you are dependent on coffee to get you through the day, try one cup in the morning, then decaf and green tea after, and slowly reduce the overall amount. Tired? That’s the truth the caffeine was disguising. Solution? Get more sleep.
5. Supplements. I don’t like sedatives, even natural ones. I prefer to support the body’s natural ability to re-balance neuro-transmitters and hormones. For people with a lot of “mind chatter”, sugar addiction, and mental or physical restlessness, GABA can be helpful. Tryptophan is often helpful for those who also experience some depression, as tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin. Melatonin is often incorrectly thought of as a “natural sleeping pill”, but is only useful if the sleep issue is caused by its deficit.
As always, consult a knowledgeable professional before using supplements for any chronic issue.
Detox Bath: 2 cups of epsom salts, 1 cup of baking soda, 2 cups white vinegar. Soak at least 20 minutes. If you like, add lavender, or other soothing and calming herbs or essential oils. Be sure to hydrate before during and after.