We’ve hit that fall time again. Back to school is just around the cover, and for many of us and our families, that means finding regular rhythms—including our sleep patterns. Getting into a sleeve groove is about more than reducing the mid-afternoon slump. Sleep is one of the pillars to a successful foundation in health and can be a predictor for health outcomes.
Adequate sleep is connected to the much-talked-about human growth hormone (HGH). It’s associated with stimulating tissue regeneration, muscle and bone growth, and fat and sugar metabolism. This powerhouse hormone is primarily secreted at night in our deepest sleep phase. It’s one reason that there’s truth to the “beauty sleep” mantra—quality sleep helps improve HGH output, keeping us feeling (and looking) more youthful.
Newer research also shows that sleep is an antioxidant to the brain. In 2012 studies, scientists discovered the glymphatic system, an amazing garbage disposal system in the brain that utilizes astroglial cells to remove proteins and other metabolites from the central nervous system. Simply put, it helps to detox your brain, all while you catch your zzzzzs.
Deep Sleep: Quality vs. Quantity
You’ve likely heard that quality sleep is more important than the quantity of sleep you get. That’s true to an extent, but deep sleep is really what qualifies sleep as “good.” Deep sleep should account for at least 15 to 20% of your total sleep time (ideally, you’d hit closer to 25% deep sleep).
The bulk of your deep sleep happens in the first half of your total sleep time. Because REM sleep increases in length as the night goes on, deep sleep is concentrated in that first 50% of each night’s rest. That makes the time you fall asleep really important. To ensure an adequate amount of the deep sleep you need, the midpoint of your whole sleep cycle should fall between 12 and 3 a.m.
Now, who are my night owls out there—whether by choice or by busy work-life schedules? You might just be missing out that deep sleep + the beautiful benefits I mentioned above. Going to bed at midnight or later reduces the amount of deep sleep that you are able to get. That throws off your body’s natural rhythm to release hormones, such as growth hormone, and the brain’s ability to remove waste products at night.
7 Ways to Improve Sleep Quality
Struggling with sleep (or even insomnia) and think hitting the hay before midnight is crazy talk? Here are my tips to get you in bed and resting deeply earlier.
- Reduce the amount of evening alcohol you consume. Alcohol has been shown to change the body’s natural rhythm of sleep waves during the night, which inhibits the restorative phases of sleep (not to mention more trips to the bathroom and aggravation to your body’s sugar regulation).
- Swap out electronic time for you time. Less blue light exposure and more time for a relaxing warm bath is a great way to prepare for a good night’s rest.
- Avoid stimulants late in the evening. This includes caffeine, coffee, energy drinks, and sugary snacks.
- Allow for some evening movement. Opt for moderate to light exercises after dinner rather than high intensity exercise.
- During the day, schedule in time to see the sunlight. I know we often get busy at work but light is so important for our circadian rhythm.
- And, oppositely, your bedroom should be a dark and comfortable den for sleeping and intimacy only. Leave work and TV in your office space or living room.
- Balance your plate. To reduce midnight blood sugar crashes, or sneaking to the fridge to eat in the middle of the night, ensure that your dinner contains a greater amount of healthy fats and proteins compared to your carbohydrate load.
If you’ve tried all this (and our other sleeping tips), and you’re still struggling with sleep habits or insomnia, we can help. Not only can we give you guidance for better sleep, we can also work to ensure there aren’t underlying issues like anxiety or hormonal imbalances that could be root causes. Schedule an appointment to get your personalized plan for better health.
Dr. Jones graduated from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon as a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine and with a Master of Science in Nutrition degree. She believes that the most important part of any treatment plan is first establishing a solid foundation of health. This looks different for each patient and changes over time, and Dr. Jones’ guidance on your health journey will depend on your needs.
Dr. Danielle Vogler-Bos is a Naturopathic Doctor, registered and licensed in both Minnesota and Arizona. Her passion is educating and empowering her patients to take back their health, partnering with them to find the root cause of their struggles, and helping them feel better, faster. After graduating from Gustavus Adolphus College with a Bachelors of Arts in Biology, Dr. Vogler-Bos earned her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, a fully accredited and nationally recognized institution in Phoenix, AZ.
During her clinical training, Dr. Vogler-Bos completed a rigorous internship gaining experience in the diagnosis and treatment of hormonal imbalances, thyroid disorders, and adrenal fatigue using both traditional naturopathic medicine and bio-identical hormone therapies.