"I read recently that lack of sleep can lead to chronic disease and other problems," writes this week's house call. "I have kids, a job with crazy hours and personal stress. I struggle to get a great night's sleep."
Sadly, your situation has become all too common in our stressed-out, super-busy, hyper-caffeinated, modern world. Among the numerous responsibilities we juggle daily, quality sleep often takes the back burner, and those repercussions show up in our health and around our waistlines.
Inadequate sleep can quickly sabotage your efforts at getting healthy and losing weight. Sleep is a major cornerstone for an energetic, joyful, healthy life. Not getting enough sleep or getting poor-quality sleep adversely affects hormones that make you hungry and store fat.
One study found just one partial night's sleep could create insulin resistance, paving the path for diabesity and many other problems. Others show poor sleep contributes to cardiovascular disease, mood disorders, poor immune function, and lower life expectancy.
I've seen inadequate sleep's repercussions play out numerous times among patients. One struggled with his weight for many years. He was probably 60 to 70 pounds overweight and often felt extremely tired. His situation became so bad that he had to stand up at his desk at work (this was before a stand-up work station became common) just so he didn't fall asleep.
I diagnosed him with sleep apnea, an extreme form of sleep deprivation where you wake up several times throughout the night. You can't sleep, you can't breathe and as a result, you lack oxygen. You don't even realize you're waking up throughout the night.
With my help, simply fixing his sleep (using some of the tips below) enabled this patient to lose about 50 pounds. Without changing much else, his sleep apnea subsided, and the weight loss powerfully impacted his health.
As a doctor, I understand how stress can become an issue. I juggle what feels like about 10 jobs. I have kids, a house, many employees and patients, plus I'm rarely home because I often travel for work.
I realized that lack of sleep adversely impacts my health. I know I have to make sleep a priority, so I give myself a goal to get seven or eight hours of sleep every night. By experimenting, I figured out that when I get eight hours of good sleep, I feel much more alert and focused.
Trust me; I know what a challenge that can become. Here are eight ways to achieve a better night's sleep:
- Get on a regular schedule. Going to sleep and waking at the same time each day creates a rhythm for your body. Only use your bed for sleep or romance. Don't keep a television in your bedroom: Studies show the artificial, bright light can disrupt brain activity and alter sleep hormones like melatonin. Your bedroom should be a quiet, peaceful haven.
I've found these eight strategies help me get a better night's sleep; and I encourage you to give them a try. If you want even more ideas, you can get 19 of my top sleep tips here.
If you employ these strategies and still struggle with sleeping, please see a Functional Medicine practitioner who can determine whether things like food sensitivities, thyroid problems, menopause, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, heavy metal toxicity, stress and depression are interfering with your sleep. Consider getting tested for sleep disorders, which I discussed here. If you suspect deeper issues like sleep apnea, I also recommend The 8-Hour Sleep Paradox written by my friend and colleague, Dr. Mark Burhenne. This book dives deep into causes of fatigue and sleep troubles while providing excellent tips and tools for better sleep immediately.
You can improve your sleep, lose weight and feeling better by joining our Eat Fat, Get Thin May Challenge starting 4/28.
Wishing you health, happiness, and sweet dreams-
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, M.D. believes that we all deserve a life of vitality -- and that we have the potential to create it for ourselves. That's why he is dedicated to tackling the root causes of chronic disease by harnessing the power of Functional Medicine to transform healthcare. He is a practicing family physician, a nine-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post, and has been a regular medical contributor on many television shows including CBS This Morning, the Today Show, CNN, The View, the Katie Couric show and The Dr. Oz Show.