Sleep is a cornerstone of long-term brain health and vibrant energy. It also plays a surprising part in weight control. Many studies have shown that chronic failure to get enough sleep increases the risk of being overweight or obese. You should get at least seven hours of sleep per night, that is why I want to discuss the new challenge I recommend for you to take.
Sleep deprivation lowers levels of leptin (the hormone that tells you to stop eating when you’re full), and increases levels of the hormone ghrelin (which promotes appetite) and levels of orexin, a neurotransmitter that increases food cravings. In other words you actually feel fuller, more satiated, and get thinner by sleeping!
Being overtired also interrupts healthy glucose metabolism, making your body more resistant to insulin, which over time can lead to type 2 diabetes. Lack of sleep is also linked to high blood pressure, heart attack, and increased risk of car accidents, depression, and substance abuse. And you don’t need scientific research to tell you that when people are exhausted they become forgetful, inattentive, and irritable.
You are more likely to make poor decisions when you don’t get enough sleep. When you feel refreshed and rested, you feel energized, think clearly, and are much more likely to make smart choices about eating and exercising.
One study conducted on soldiers to test the effect of sleep on accuracy with firearms showed that soldiers who slept seven hours were 98% accurate during target practice. Soldiers who slept six hours were only 50% accurate. With five hours of sleep accuracy dropped to 28%, and with four hours of sleep they were a dangerous 15% accurate!
The Sleep Hygiene Challenge
For this challenge, I want you to focus on improving your sleep. If you’ve been following the The Brain Warrior’s Way* or The Omni Diet*, you may already have noticed a dramatic improvement in your sleep patterns. If not, now’s the time to find out why sleep eludes you and ways to improve it.
Work on assessing your sleep and making whatever changes are necessary to improve it. Focus on correcting anything that is hindering your “zzzzs.” Once you improve your sleep, you’ll see a big difference in your mood and your health 24 hours a day.
What is Keeping You Awake? Assess following:
- Do you have sleep apnea? If so, take it seriously, as it’s a disaster for brain health. Ask your partner if you snore obnoxiously with periods of holding your breath when you sleep. If so it’s a good indication that you should seek medical attention for sleep apnea.
- Do you take medications that interfere with sleep? Antihistamines, asthma medications, steroids, and anticonvulsants can interrupt sleep. Consult with your healthcare provider to look for options that won’t impact your sleep.
- Supplements such as green tea, rhodiola, SAMe*, and ginseng, which boost energy and focus, can interfere with a good night’s sleep if taken too late in the day. Limit these supplements to morning and early afternoon use if you have trouble sleeping.
- Are you hooked on caffeine? Caffeine is one of the primary culprits for robbing people of precious sleep. Try to limit coffee to one cup per day. Avoid caffeinated drinks after 12 noon. And read labels—caffeine is sometimes an unexpected ingredient in foods and medicines.
- Do you drink alcohol? Many people drink alcohol to induce relaxation and sleep. But it actually does the opposite. Alcohol can cause a hypoglycemic rebound reaction that leads to sleeplessness. Avoid it for a while and see if your sleep improves.
- Are your hormones out of balance? Hormone fluctuations in women, especially during pregnancy and menopause, are classic sleep disruptors. Pre-menopausal and menopausal women should consider seeing a hormone specialist to help soothe their sleep.
- Do you have a medical condition? Thyroid disease, congestive heart failure, chronic pain, and many other conditions disrupt sleep and can have long-term detrimental health ramifications if left untreated.
- Do you work odd hours? Shift work (nights and odd hours) can wreak havoc on overall health and well-being. If you are a shift worker, do your best to keep your schedule consistent so you can at least adjust to one time schedule.
- Do you give yourself enough time for sleep? You can’t get eight hours of sleep every night if you go to bed at midnight and get up at 6. Make sure there’s enough time in your schedule for a good night’s sleep.
- Is your bedroom sleep-friendly? Light, sound, electronics, mattress comfort, temperature, and a host of other factors can cause tossing and turning. Look around at your sleep space, identify any roadblocks to sleep, and correct them.
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