By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
December 26, 2016
- If you aren’t sleeping well, you’re aging too quickly
- Sleep your way to a younger you
- Here’s how to get more shuteye
So many of my patients would love to get a good night sleep, but they just haven’t found the way that works for them. Others simply don’t make the time for it. “I have too much to do. I’ll sleep after I’m dead,” they tell me.
Well, if you don’t (or can’t) give you body the rest that it needs now, that old “sleep when I’m dead” saying could come true sooner than you think.
Now, we all have those nights when we just can’t fall asleep… or stay asleep. But if you’re regularly getting less than seven hours a night, it could be a big problem. For many of us, a biphasic sleep pattern (three or four hours at a time) is the best that we can do…
And can be sufficient, if a days’ worth of oxidative stress byproducts of the brain can be washed away with the increased flow of restorative cerebrospinal fluid that is supposed to occur during regenerative sleep.
Poor sleeping habits are associated with all sorts of health issues. It throws the hormones that control your hunger out of balance, making you crave high calorie foods that pack on the pounds. It also affects your glucose metabolism and insulin response, which can greatly increase your chance of diabetes.
A lack of sleep increases inflammation levels, raises your blood pressure and boosts your risk of a stroke or heart attack. It even adds to your chances of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
How can such a seemingly minor thing like regularly missing a couple hours of sleep cause all of these chronic health conditions?
Well today we’re finding that shorter periods of sleep accelerate cellular aging. Here’s what happens.
If You aren’t Sleeping Well, You’re Aging too Quickly
Telomeres are the protective DNA caps on the end of your chromosomes. The thing is, each time your cells divide your telomeres lose some of their length. The shorter they get, the faster you age and the sicker you become.
What do these telomeres have to do with sleep?
It turns out that not getting enough sleep shortens them. For example, people who sleep five hours or less a night have telomeres that are significantly shorter than those who sleep more than seven hours a night.
And here’s something interesting. Older adults who regularly get seven or more hours of sleep have telomere lengths comparable to middle-aged adults.
When your telomeres are shorter, it causes all kinds of problems within your body. This includes mitochondrial damage, reduced immune cell activity, increased oxidative stress (inflammation) and damage to your heart tissue – all of the things that make you old and sick.
Luckily there are some strategies you can employ to help you sleep well, night after night.
Here’s how to get more Sleep
You probably already know you shouldn’t drink caffeinated or sugary beverages and foods in the evening.
But eating high-protein foods at your evening meal can interfere with sleep, too. They contain tyrosine, which converts dopamine and norepinephrine. These are both stimulants that promote alertness and activity.
A better choice for your last meal of the day is non-starchy, organic veggies from all colors of the rainbow. These foods will help control your blood sugar and hunger while you sleep – and help keep you sleeping all night long. I do recommend a few nighttime pieces of sliced rolled turkey for the tryptophan benefit and its’ slower conversion to sugar over the rest of the night, for some people.
It’s also a good idea to get your more active and mentally challenging chores completed early in the evening. After all, when your body is in motion and your mind is racing, it takes awhile to calm down your senses so you can fall asleep. So give yourself an hour or two to wind down before hitting the sack.
Better yet – if you can – take a warm bath with 2 scoops of Epsom salts. The magnesium in the salts relaxes you and the heat you lose when you get out of the bath drops your body temperature and makes you sleepy.
Smartphones, computers, televisions and other electronics may also be interfering with your sleep. These light-emitting devices have a decidedly negative impact on both your circadian rhythm and melatonin levels. This, in turn, affects your ability to fall asleep and stay that way.
With this in mind, it makes good sense to shut down your devices well before you’re ready to turn out the lights. Oh… and no blinking LED’s.
If you still have a hard time falling asleep, try 2-3 mg. of time-released melatonin before bedtime. It works like regular melatonin to put you to sleep quickly. However, it lasts longer, keeping you from waking up during the night. Use it only as long as it takes to re-establish your natural sleeping pattern.
Jackowska M, et al. Short sleep duration is associated with shorter telomere length in healthy men: findings from the Whitehall II cohort study. PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47292.
Cribbet MR, et al. Cellular aging and restorative processes: subjective sleep quality and duration moderate the association between age and telomere length in a sample of middle-aged and older adults. Sleep. 2014 Jan 1;37(1):65-70
Prather AA, et al. Shorter Leukocyte Telomere Length in Midlife Women with Poor Sleep Quality. J Aging Res. 2011: 721390.
Kiecolt-Glaser JK, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids, oxidative stress, and leukocyte telomere length: A randomized controlled trial. Brain Behav Immun. 2012 Sep 23. pii: S0889-1591(12)00431-X.