Not getting enough sleep is quickly becoming as American as apple pie and baseball.
With over a quarter of American’s1 not getting enough shut eye, it’s practically time to label our nation’s sleep problem’s an epidemic.
Things have gotten so bad that some people have stopped fighting it and are even starting to wear their weariness like a badge of honor.
You’ll find them standing around the coffee machine at work yawning and bleary eyed comparing “war stories” about how long it’s been since they ‘ve gotten a good night’s sleep. Trying to one up each other in their competition to be the least well rested.
But in their quest to be the best at being the worst they’ve missed one very important thing. Poor sleep doesn’t just make you feel under the weather, if it goes on long enough it could put you six feet under the ground.
Sometimes it’s simply overcommitting and burning the candle at both ends that robs us of sleep. At other times it’s tossing and turning with insomnia.
Poor sleep sends your disease risk rocketing
But no matter the cause, not getting enough sleep raises your risk for a number of dangerous conditions and deadly diseases including high blood pressure, obesity,2 cancer,3 brain damage,4 stroke5 and diabetes.6
With 1.4 million American’s being diagnosed with diabetes every year,7 that last one is particularly important. Because yes, it turns out your poor sleep habits could be behind your blood sugar issues.
Research had already uncovered links between rising blood sugar, diabetes risk and poor sleep before. Not getting enough rest knocks our hormones out of balance causing our cortisol levels to skyrocket and our weight and blood sugar right along with it.
And now a new study published in the journal Diabetologia has confirmed that women suffering from sleep problems have a stunning 200 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.8
It turns out just one sleep problem alone… insomnia, snoring, sleep apnea, short sleep… sends a woman’s diabetes risk soaring by 45 percent. But for every additional one her risk doubles!
And don’t think this means you are off the hook guys. Although this study happened to be on women other studies have found a link between blood sugar and not getting enough quality sleep in both men and women.
Clearly getting enough sleep is critical to our health and well-being. And if you’re not getting enough shut eye it’s time to commit to doing something to change that.
4 slumber tips to help you sleep better
You can get started tonight using our 4 Simple Steps to Healthy Sleep…
Step 1. Lay Off the Stimulants:
Let’s begin with the obvious, caffeine. If you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep you may be caffeine sensitive.
You should cut back on—or even better eliminate—the caffeine containing stimulants from your diet including soft drinks, coffee and caffeinated teas.
But let’s face it, cutting down on caffeine is an obvious change that you probably already knew you should make. What you might not know is that there are other foods, supplements and drugs can be sleep thieves too.
Ginseng, glucosamine and chondroitin and B12 can interfere with sleep for some people.
If you’re taking any of these supplements in the evening and having trouble sleeping you might want to try adjusting your schedule to take them in the morning.
Snacking on high carb foods close to bedtime can cause your blood sugar to bounce around and can make it difficult to sleep. And foods that contain the naturally occurring compound tyramine can spur the release of brain-stimulating norepinephrine.
Tyramine containing foods to avoid close to bedtime include:
- and tomatoes.
Insomnia is a common drug side effect. Any medication you’re on might affect how you’re sleeping, but the following drugs are reportedly among the worst offenders:9
- SSRIs for depression (Brand names include Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Lexapro and Celexa)
- Alpha blockers for high blood pressure or BPH (Brand names include Flomax, Hytrin, Uroxatral and Cardura)
- Beta blockers for high blood pressure or arrhythmias (Brand names include Coreg, Toprol, and Tenormin)
- ACE Inhibitors (Brand names include Zestril, Lotensin, and Vasotec)
- Corticosteroids for inflammation, Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis (Generic names include cortisone and prednisone)
- Statins for cholesterol (Brand names include Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor)
If you’re suffering from sleep issues and you are on any of these drugs talk with your doctor about alternatives.
Step 2. Keep it Simple:
Your bedroom shouldn’t be a multitasker. For many of us our bedroom has become part office, part entertainment space and part family room. But there are essentially just two activities you should be participating in in your bedroom, and those are sleeping and sex.
Now of course that includes preparations for those activities such as reading for relaxation or spending quality time with your partner. But do your best to keep things simple in the bedroom by having work and the kids stay on the other side of the closed door.
Step 3. Create a Sleep Haven:
Your bedroom should practically whisper “relax” when you walk into it. To create a true sleep haven seriously consider kicking the TV out of the room and replace or remove any electronic equipment that has blinking or bright indicator lights. You can even trade in your digital alarm clock for an old fashioned one with a bell.
Make sure the temperature is comfortable for sleeping (slightly on the cool side with a lightweight blanket is usually best). Think about adding black out shades to the windows to shut out any sleep-disturbing lights. And stick to a regular sleep schedule even on the weekends whenever possible.
Step 4. Ban the Backlights:
One of the sneakiest sleep-stealing bandits in our modern world are backlit electronic devices including cell phones, tablets and many e-readers.
Backlit devices produce light in the short wavelength or blue spectrum which wreaks havoc with our circadian rhythms. They literally confuse our brains suppressing the natural release of melatonin that prepares us for sleep.10,11
Spending too much time staring into one of these devices could be the hidden culprit behind your own sleep issues. If you absolutely MUST use them in the evening make sure to shut them down at least an hour before bedtime.
Beat your sleep problems with supplements
Okay, you’ve now made some major changes to improve your sleep patterns, but you’re still not sleeping as well as you should and you’re wondering what’s next.
First things first, DON’T turn to sleep drugs. They come with dangerous side effects and research shows they don’t do much anyway, adding mere minutes to our sleep time even when the do “work.”
Opt for some safer (in some cases temporary) natural help from supplements instead.
The majority of American’s—some estimates say up to 8o percent of us—don’t get enough magnesium in our diets.12 Low magnesium can play a role in insomnia and is linked to anxiety. So if you’re having sleep problems raising your magnesium levels may help.
Magnesium supplements are available (try 500 mg) or you can simply try eating more magnesium rich foods such as almonds, spinach, cashews, peanuts, black beans and avocado.
You’ve probably heard of L-tryptophan before. It’s the naturally occurring amino acid that famously makes us feel drowsy after eating turkey on thanksgiving. Other good sources of this nutrient are chicken, tuna, eggs, figs, bananas and dates.
However to get a good healthy dose before bed a supplement is likely the better choice.
Our bodies naturally produce the “sleep” hormone melatonin. But as we age production tends to drop off.
If you’re young melatonin is probably not the supplement for you, but folks 40 or older might consider taking a melatonin supplement in the short term to help get their sleep cycle back on schedule.
Start with the smallest dosage, around 1.5 mg at bedtime, to see if it helps.
Chamomile is rich in apigenin a compound that natural helps relieve depression and anxiety. In addition, chamomile is proven to be physically relaxing. Sip on a cup of chamomile tea before bedtime or look for a supplement to try.
Remember getting a good night’s sleep each and every night is critical for your health and wellbeing.
Regularly skipping out on slumber raises your risk for everything from cancer to diabetes. And trust us when we tell you winning the award for the most worn out person at the water cooler the next day is nothing by a booby prize.
With your new approach to sleep, and a few helpful supplements, before you know it you can be the one crowing about how great you feel—and how well rested you are—as you power through your day!
Have you beaten your own sleep problem? What changes or supplements worked for you? Share your story–and how you did it–with us in the comments below.
1. “Sleep and Sleep Disorders,” National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention, cdc.gov
2. Lack of sleep is linked to obesity, new evidence shows,” American Journal of Human Biology, PUBLIC RELEASE: 17-APR-2012, EurekAlert.org
3. “Sleep problems may increase risk for prostate cancer,” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, PUBLIC RELEASE: 7-MAY-2013, EurekAlert.com
4. “Penn Medicine Researchers Show How Lost Sleep Leads to Lost Neurons,” March 18, 2014. Uphs.upenn.edu
5. “Insomnia May Raise Stroke Risk: Researchers in Taiwan found strongest connection among people younger than 34,” April 3, 2014, webmd.com
6. “Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes in Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea in a Multi-Ethnic Sample,” J Clin Sleep Med. 2009 June 15; 5(3): 215–221.
7. “Statistics About Diabetes: Data from the National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014 (released June 10, 2014)” American Diabetes Association, diabetes.org
8. “Sleepless Nights Might Raise Women’s Type 2 Diabetes Risk,” January 29, 2016, nlm.nih.gov
9. “10 Types of Meds That Can Cause Insomnia,” Dr. Armon B. Neel Jr., AARP, April 8, 2013
10. “Evening exposure to a light-emitting diodes (LED)-backlit computer screen affects circadian physiology and cognitive performance.” J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011 May;110(5):1432-8.
11. “Q&A: Why Is Blue Light before Bedtime Bad for Sleep? Two neuroscientists discuss how blue light negatively affects health and sleep patterns,” Scientific American, 9/1/2015
12. “Magnesium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals,” National Institutes of Health, nih.gov
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