How to beat sleep loss

Loss of sleep can have serious effects on your health … including wrecking your sex life, good looks and brain power. However you can beat sleep loss with a few natural remedies.

Many type 2 diabetics need to wake up several times a night in order to urinate. I know I do … at least once, sometimes twice, occasionally three times, a night.

This, of course, interrupts a good night’s sleep.

The resulting sleep loss can cause a variety of medical disorders. Indeed it can exacerbate the risks of conditions such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, neuropathy, blindness etc that constitute the burden of being a diabetic.

Medical disorders caused by sleep loss

You probably know that after a poor night’s sleep you will wake up groggy and grumpy.

But did you know that sleep loss can impair your judgement, mess up your memory, and wreak havoc on your general health, sex life and good looks?

Here are six broad categories of disorders caused by a lack of sleep:

[1] Serious physical health problems … can be caused by persistent sleep loss.

These disorders include heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes. As a diabetic, your risk of developing these serious medical conditions rises even further when your sleep is interrupted constantly night after night.

[2] Impaired cognitive processes … are another consequence of a lack of sleep. For example, sleep is crucial in giving your brain space in which to sort out and consolidate your experiences and memories of the day.

French and American researchers discovered that brain events called sharp wave ripples are responsible for consolidating memory. These ripples also transfer stored information from temporary memories (in the hippocampus) to long-term memory storage (in the neocortex).

Sharp wave ripples occur mostly during deep sleep. So, if you don’t get enough sleep, chances are you’ll forget what you have experienced or learned during the previous 24 hours.

But that’s not all. Lack of sleep impairs your alertness, attention, concentration, reasoning and problem solving skills which also makes learning and remembering difficult.

[3] Accidents … are more frequent with people who are sleepy.

The basic reason seems to be that, besides impaired cognitive abilities, a lack of sleep causes blurred vision and together these make for poor judgement and decision-making.

In one study, workers who complained of excessive daytime sleepiness had significantly more work accidents, and repeated accidents in particular, compared to their fresh-awake colleagues.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the USA has estimated that fatigue is a contributory factor in 100,000 crashes and more than 1,500 road deaths a year in that country.

Sleep deprivation was a factor in some of the biggest industrial disasters of the 20th century … such as the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in 1979 … the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in 1986 … and the Exxon Valdez crude oil spill in 1989 which created one of the worse environmental disasters ever caused by humans.

[4] Your sex drive … can be killed off by a lack of sleep.

Men and women who have been deprived of sleep often state that they have lower libidos and less interest in sex than they used to have, according to sleep specialists.

Men who suffer from sleep apnoea―pauses in breathing while you sleep―secrete abnormally low levels of testosterone (the principal male sex hormone) during the night, which would explain why these men have reduced sex drives.

But so far, scientists have been unable to explain why a lack of sleep lowers the sex drive in other men and in women.

[5] Old looking skin … a skin that lacks elasticity and smoothness, and dark circles under your eyes … can be caused by a lack of sleep.

There are two reasons for this:

Firstly, when you don’t get enough sleep your body releases more and more cortisol, the stress hormone. But excessive cortisol can break down collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and supple.

Secondly, a lack of sleep reduces the release of human growth hormone. When we are young, HGH helps us grow. As we get older it is involved in increasing our muscle mass (which declines as we age), keeping our skin thick and supple, and strengthening our bones.

HGH is released during deep sleep, as part of normal tissue repair. If the usual wear-and-tear of the day is not patched when we sleep we will soon begin to look old. Unfortunately sleep loss interrupts the release of HGH.

[6] Weight gain … is another serious effect of sleep loss, especially if you are diabetic and need to slim down in order to beat you diabetes.

People who sleep less than six hours a night are almost 30% more likely to become obese compared to those who sleep seven to nine hours, according to a study published in 2004. This suggests that there is a link between lack of sleep and an increase in appetite.

Here’s the explanation:

Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, stimulates the appetite while leptin, the satiety hormone, suppresses the appetite. Recent research indicates that loss of sleep is associated with increases in ghrelin and decreases in leptin.

But not only does sleep loss stimulate your appetite … it also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carb foods.

Diabetics beware!

Cures for loss of sleep

Given the seriousness of the numerous medical disorders that loss of sleep can bring, finding a cure or at least some way to improve the quality and duration of your sleep is vital, especially if you are diabetic.

You could of course start taking sleeping pills. But these do not, in my personal experience, give you quality sleep.

Most people who take sleeping pills wake up feeling groggy and remain semi-somnambulant for several hours until the effect of the chemicals in these sleep aids wears off.

Thus it would be better to avoid drugs and try natural remedies.

Here’s a few you might find effective:

[1] Exercise early … in the day … as morning exercise seems to affect the body rhythms that influence sleep quality.

In a study published in the journal Sleep, researchers reported that women who exercised moderately for at least 30 minutes each day on 7 mornings of the week enjoyed better sleep than those who exercised less or later in the day.

Why is the timing of exercise and sleep interconnected like this? There is no firm answer.

A possible explanation may relate to bodily temperature. Your temperature rises during exercise and takes up to six hours to drop back down to normal. Cooler bodies are linked to better sleep so if you exercise earlier in the day you’ll be well cooled off before bedtime.

[2] Green tea … before bedtime is great for relaxing your body in my experience.

Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that is reputed to prevent the anxiety that interferes with sleep. L-theanine was shown, in a study in 2007, to reduce the heart rate and immune response to stress. It also induces brain waves that are linked to relaxation.

[3] Warm milk … sipped before bed is an old-fashioned natural remedy for sleeplessness.

It may work to relax you because it invokes pleasant memories of your mother rocking you to sleep on her breast.

It is best to sip warm almond milk as it contains a lot of calcium which helps the brain make melatonin, a hormone involved in the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle.

[4] Melatonin … is an internal pacemaker that controls the timing of your drive for sleep.

Melatonin induces drowsiness, lowers bodily temperature and puts the body into sleep mode. The hormone is produced naturally within the body.

Research on the effects of melatonin supplements on people who have insomnia has delivered mixed results. It restores sleep and improves its quality in some insomniacs but has no affect on others.

Melatonin supplements are available over-the-counter. But, due to a lack of regulation, they are not always subject to careful or consistent manufacturing and should be treated with caution.

[5] Magnesium … plays a key role in sleeping.

Research has shown that even a minor lack of magnesium can prevent the brain from settling down at night.

Good natural sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds and almonds. Integrating these foods into your regular diet is easy.

But be cautious and check with your medical advisor before taking magnesium supplements as magnesium can interfere with several common medications and too much of it can be harmful.

[6] Lavender oil … is calming and can encourage sleep in some people.

Try taking a hot bath with lavender oil before bed is a pleasant experience that may relax your body and your mind. Try it.

[7] Valerian root … is a medicinal herb with a sedating effect that has been used to treat sleep problems since the time of the Ancient Romans.

However scientific research on the effectiveness of valerian is mixed and any benefits always take several weeks to become effective. Check with your doctor before using it.

[8] Avoid bedtime snacks … like the plague, as the digestive process can disturb your sleep and prevent the onset of deep sleep.

Don’t eat anything for at least two hours before your sleep.

[9] Bedroom ambience … is really important for getting a good night’s sleep.

Here are a few tips for keeping your sleeping environment as tranquil as possible:

  • No TV or other players in the bedroom … to avoid distractions
  • Keep the temperature cool but not cold
  • Make sure the bedroom is dark
  • Filter out unwanted sounds, using a white noise machine if necessary
  • Use a firm but comfortable mattress that has good support
  • Use a firm pillow that supports you head and neck
  • Use linen sheets … their breathability reduces sweat, body odour and skin irritations.
  • Wear pyjamas … to send appropriate signals to your mind

Final tip … If you don’t fall asleep within 30 minutes of getting into bed and turning off the light, get up and leave your bedroom. Read or do something else that requires concentration until you feel sleepy again. Then return to your bed.

Author: Paul Kennedy

Paul D Kennedy is a qualified accountant and an international business consultant who used his skills as a researcher to uncover the mysteries of type 2 diabetes and gain control over his health and wellbeing.

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