As we age, we have changes in sleep, and I have been researching sleep recently... do you need some?
Your morning routine is important to set off your day in the right direction (Morning Makeover workshop).
However, without sleep, your day starts off wrong anyhow. Let's look into sleep cycles and more...
We all have a biological clock. This biological clock is sometimes referred to as your circadian rhythm, or your sleep-wake cycle.
In fact, there is a small part of your brain that controls when your organs secrete hormones necessary for life.
The reason that this is important is to understand how your biological clock works, is so that you can understand HOW to improve your sleep.
If you understand some of the hormones involved, for example, it will help you know whether you should be using natural supplements to help your sleep.
We will look at two specific hormones (melatonin and cortisol) and a compound (adenosine) that are important for your sleep, and how they play an important role in the functioning of your biological clock.
Melatonin is a hormone that is produced in your brain. It is actually synthesized from another hormone called serotonin. Melatonin production is stimulated by darkness, or when blue light is no longer entering your eyes.
Melatonin contributes to feeling sleepy. It plays a role in the reduction of aging in your brain and body, as well as to have cancer-fighting properties.
Melatonin production comes to a halt when blue light enters your eyes by way of daylight. As an aside, these blue wavelengths are what make the sky look blue when it scatters in the atmosphere.
It is also important to realize that special “daylight lamps”, used by people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or the “winter blues”, also provide the eyes with blue light required to elevate mood and reduce the fatigue associated with this disorder.
As you can see, blue light is what regulates your wake and sleep cycles. Blue light is received by natural sources such as the sun, but also by artificial sources from electronic devices such as televisions, computers, and your phone, as well as fluorescent and LED lights.
It is therefore important to reduce blue light exposure in the evenings and while you sleep, in order to get quality sleep. Our bodies were never designed to need blue light at nighttime, but the use of artificial light sources has made it nearly impossible to avoid.
Your body continues to think that it is daytime, and does not produce adequate volumes of melatonin, thus confusing your body’s natural cycles. This is a modern-day issue, because years ago, lanterns and oil lamps were the norm and these items did not emit blue light.
That is why you have some of your best sleeps when camping, as long as you pay attention not to use artificial lighting in the evenings. The setting sun and the natural light of the fire do not interfere with your body’s biological clock, and actually encourage it to do what it’s supposed to do – release melatonin required for sleep.
This is another important hormone that affects your sleep. Under normal, healthy conditions, cortisol levels should rise in the mornings, and decrease in the evenings.
In contrast, the sleep hormone, melatonin, is supposed to rise in the evenings when darkness prevails, and decrease in the mornings for waking. So as melatonin levels decrease, your cortisol levels pick up.
Both hormones are similar, they both work on a 24-hour cycle in your body, supporting your body’s biological clock.
Cortisol is known as one of the “fight or flight stress hormones.” It is released by your adrenal glands in your body. When released, cortisol increases your blood sugar levels, so that your muscles and brain get the energy needed to act.
Until I did the research, I never knew I could BUY cortisol as a supplement. I am fairly sure, though never diagnosed, that I have a cortisol deficiency. How did *I* never know you can buy this? I've read about cortisol many times, but never looked on Amazon! That's why I'm adding Amazon links... just in case any of this makes sense to someone else!
Unfortunately, too much cortisol is not a good thing either, especially when your cortisol levels remain high throughout the evening. This occurs when you are experiencing emotional or physical (i.e. sickness) stress. ** COVID Times **
Even having an upsetting conversation, learning of exciting news, or watching a thrilling television show in the evening, can increase your cortisol levels. These elevated cortisol levels in the evenings can then keep you from falling asleep and prevent you from having a restful sleep.
Unfortunately, if your adrenal glands continue to secrete cortisol, as is the case during periods of prolonged stress, eventually they burn out (this is what is referred to as “adrenal fatigue”), and normal surges of cortisol in the morning no longer occur. In fact, if your adrenal glands are no longer producing adequate volumes of cortisol, your blood sugars levels are not going to be high enough at nighttime, so your sleep will suffer as you wake up earlier from the brain signaling its hunger.
To complicate matters, if you do not get enough sleep one night, your cortisol levels will be elevated the next night.
As you can see, your body’s systems and hormones are all inter-related. What happens to one, affects another, and together, they impact the quality and quantity of your sleep.
It is believed that when you exert more energy through physical exercise and physical labor, that your adenosine levels build up more, causing you to feel sleepier at nighttime. That is why you notice feeling very sleepy after a long day of skiing or surfing, for example, compared to when you exert less energy during the day.
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