Are You Missing One of the Most Vital Ingredients in a Healthy Lifestyle?

March 27, 2012
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sleep

Hint: it helps you lose weight and live longer, it’s enjoyable, you probably don’t do it nearly enough, and there’s important new research about it that you need to know.

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, besides eating whole foods and moving your body, the most important thing you can do for your health is to get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation makes you fat, and leads to depression, pain, heart disease, diabetes, and much more.

Even mainstream medicine agrees. In its report “Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem,” the Institute of Medicine recently estimated that 50 to 40 million Americans chronically suffer from a sleep disorder, hindering daily functioning and adversely affecting their health and longevity.

Harvard Health Publica points out that lack of sufficient sleep can have consequences ranging from the mild to the life-threatening:

  • A 2009 study in Archives of Internal Medicine showed that people who slept an average of less than seven hours per night were three times as likely to get sick from viral infections as those who averaged at least eight hours.
  • A 2008 article in the journal Obesity that analyzed findings from 36 different studies of sleep duration and body weight found that lack of sufficient sleep tends to disrupt hormones that control hunger and appetite, and the resulting daytime fatigue often discourages you from exercising. A recent US survey found that the states reporting the most sleep problems—West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama—also have the highest obesity rates.
  • A 2009 report found health difficulties in people with persistent insomnia (sleeping less than six hours per night): a threefold increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes, and a three-and-a-half times greater risk of high blood pressure.
  • A study of about 1,000 young adults found that, compared with normal sleepers, insomniacs were four times as likely to develop major depression within three years. Sleep problems in the teenagers preceded depression 69% of the time and anxiety disorders 27% of the time.
  • A Japanese heart disease study noted a 1.3-fold increase in mortality in sleep-deprived patients compared with those who got sufficient sleep. Severe sleep apnea raises the risk of dying early by 46%. Although only about 8% of the men in the study had severe apnea, those who did and who were between 40 and 70 years of age were twice as likely to die from any cause as healthy men in the same age group.

Teenagers are taking classes earlier and earlier, with buses picking kids up at 5:45 a.m. and classes starting at 6:30 a.m. But is this good for their health? A coalition of Virginia parents, teachers, and administrators says no: adolescents on average need 9¼ hours of sleep per night, but average only 7½ hours of sleep per night (with 25 percent sleeping 6½ hours or less).

Sleep deprivation affects teens’ ability to think, perform, and react appropriately and safely, including when driving a car. As parents know, teenagers for some reason naturally become night owls and late risers. Band practice at dawn doesn’t help. Since sleep deprivation contributes to depression, and adolescent brains are undergoing dramatic chemical changes, going without sleep to accommodate a school schedule may also set them up for a dangerous SSRI prescription.

How much sleep do the rest of us need? According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night, keeping in mind that individual needs vary and it is important to listen to your body. Similar recommendations come from mainstream and integrative medical experts.

Here are a few vital tips for improving your sleep:

  • A healthy diet and vigorous exercise help tremendously in allowing your body to fall asleep naturally.
  • Get regular exposure to daylight for at least 20 minutes daily — the light from the sun enters your eyes and triggers your brain to secrete and then release specific chemicals and hormones like melatonin that are vital to healthy sleep.
  • Honor the natural circadian rhythm—sleep when it’s dark, wake when it’s light. Studies suggest that this will make a tremendous contribution to overall health. It’s not really surprising. Our bodies evolved with sunlight, not electrical lights.
  • Don’t use artificial light in the evening after going to bed—it shuts down melatonin release. Any sort of light can suppress melatonin release, but recent experiments have pointed the finger at one type in particular: the blue wavelengths produced by many kinds of energy-efficient light bulbs and electronic gadgets. Computer monitors, cell phones, and LED television screens are especially bad. Special glasses to remove blue light will help protect you if you must turn on lights after going to bed. A special nightlight with a red wavelength can make all the difference if you need a nightlight. (None of this should be surprising. Blue light is the light of dawn. No wonder your body is confused when your computer flashes blue lights in the wee hours of the night! And those people who, unable to sleep, get up and turn on their cell phone or computer or iPad are doing the worst thing they possibly can. Maybe we all need to learn to count sheep again.)
  • Avoid both alcohol and caffeine 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Make the room you’re sleeping in as dark and quiet as possible. A cool (though not cold) room is often the most sleep-inducing. If you can’t get away from noise, install some white noise from an air cleaner or similar source. This will cover the other noise and not interfere with sleep. When traveling, you can use some soft ear plugs made by Flynt.
  • Dr. Mehmet Oz recommends melatonin if you are having trouble going to sleep, but notes that the commonly listed dosage (five milligrams) is more than what most people require; instead, he recommends starting with one milligram and work up to 2.5 milligrams if necessary. Up to 5 or 6 milligrams might be needed on special occasions, such as when you are jet lagged. Melatonin (taken at your new bedtime at the travel destination) is by far the best cure for jet lag.
  • It is not surprising that melatonin is such an effective supplement. It is the same substance that our bodies use to put us to sleep. It is also a highly important antioxidant and a vital part of our immune system. No wonder our immune systems do so much of their work at night when we are asleep! One word of caution however: a small minority of melatonin supplement users report that it gives them overly vivid dreams. In the unlikely event that you experience this, you can simply discontinue use.
  • Dr. Hyman also mentions melatonin, and recommends trying supplements like 320 mg to 480 mg of valerian one hour before bedtime; 200 to 400 mg of magnesium citrate or glycinate before bed to calm the nervous system and muscles; as well as theanine (an amino acid from green tea), GABA, magnolia, and 5-HTP. Other authorities mention passionflower for its calming effects. Passionflower can also be used during the day.5-HTP is a close relative of the amino acid tryptophan, which the body needs to make serotonin. When anti-depression drugs (which inhibit the break down of serotonin) first appeared, the FDA banned tryptophan as a supplement, using one contaminated batch as the excuse. Tryptophan is now once again available as a supplement, although at a much higher price than before. It should be taken at night, preferably with a bite of food, such as a few walnuts and a bit of fruit, which will help you make use of the tryptophan.
  • GABA in particular is the natural hormone that calms us down from an over-anxious state, but many GABA supplements either don’t seem to get through the stomach or else fail to work effectively for some other reason. Pharma GABA by Thorne is effective, although some other brands may work as well.

In general, though, the key to getting a good night’s sleep isn’t supplements. It is sleeping while it is dark and avoiding light, especially blue light, once you have gone to bed.

16 Responses to “Are You Missing One of the Most Vital Ingredients in a Healthy Lifestyle?”

  1. David S. Clark says:

    FYI – if anyone has been watching Dr. Oz this past year they would of seen shows where he trashes melatonin and recommends not to take it, he brings on other so-called experts that say it is harmful. I don’t even watch his show much anymore, because he is nothing more than an information broker who is getting bad information from his research team. Once in awhile he will have good informative shows, but lately it is corny, silly, game show type programs. And when he does have a serious show, it seems like he is trying to be the town cryer warning people that supplements are dangerous………….’who’ is paying his wages?……makes ya wonder!

       2 likes

  2. Rolf Hefti says:

    Contrary to the mainstream view, substantial research data exists (see http://www.supplements-and-health.com/tryptophan-side-effects.html ) -but which is commonly ignored- showing that melatonin, serotonin, and tryptophan/5-HTP are problematic -suggesting they shouldn’t be taken longterm. These substances have been causatively implicated with inflammation, free radical production, brain degeneration, circulatory impairments, muscle pain, cancer, and so on.

       1 likes

  3. janna says:

    I had insomnia for 9 years, without taking a drug. I kept believing that God would heal me. I tried every natural remedy I read about. I was miserable. Finally, I agreed to take a drug. It felt so good to not toss and turn all night long. I decided if that’s what it took to sleep, then that’s what I had to do. I have taken sleeping pills for 9 years, the last 5 on Lunesta, because I don’t feel so drugged when wake up. I would love to go natural, but I don’t feel hopeful after trying so many things in past. I rarely ever get sick, have good blood pressure, but I know my memory is affected and who knows what is going cancer wise in the body, after reading your report. Thank you for letting me express my frustrations.

       1 likes

  4. Tim Bigelow says:

    I’ve always had sleep problems since my immune system was almost wrecked by Mercury poisoning back in 1992 (amalgams). Since then I’ve been using several types of help for my sleep problems.

    !. Bananas – Are very effective sleep aids. Eat one about an hour before bedtime.

    2. L-Glutamine – A wonderful amino acid that turns to Gaba as it easily penetrates the Brain Blood Barrier.
    Gaba helps tremendously with sleep, also stimulates the Pituitary to produce HGH which is responsible for repairing and building the body as you sleep. Also a big muscle builder.

    3. HGH – A great supplement to take if sleep is really lacking. This supplement will help rebuild a tired body
    if your body just isn’t producing any HGH because of lack of sleep.

       1 likes

  5. Wayner says:

    How should one measure sleep time when sleep and waking time are intersperced and have unclear boundries. I can notice the waking times by leaving a radio on and noticing when I remember hearing it but that is no way to keep track of the waking time.

       0 likes

  6. Susan says:

    GABA; “Gamma, Amino Butyric Acid” comes in different forms,; from what I have read, If it is made from the natural L form, then it is synthetic, and it will not cross over the blood brain barrier, and it will sell for a very cheap price..

    If it comes from a Japanese plant, then it will cross the blood brain barrier and then level out the alpha and beta waves, which are what are upset when a person is bipolar. In fact the big pharma has used GABA to make a medicine for bipolar disorder. I’m not sure, but think it’s called Gabapentin. That’s probably spelled wrong. The best place to find quality GABA [not synthetic] is from http://www.Biosynergy.com

    Also if you really want something natural to calm the nerves, Health Freedom Nutrition makes a product called Prosera. I wrote an article about it a few years ago titled: Much Needed Relief from the Stress of War. It doesn’t make you sleep, but rather calms the nerves so you can function through your day without anger, and feeling stressed. It’s one I believe in.

    Well, that’s my two cents. It’s what I have read. Hope it helps.

       2 likes

  7. J.A. Dingman says:

    I knew the answer, but I haven’t figured out how to get the ZZZZZs.

       0 likes

  8. Carla Herwitz says:

    It is important to point out that people with liver problems should not take melatonin.

       1 likes

  9. Glenn Ross says:

    Why is the FDA so slow and apparently misdirected in their job to govern the the drug industry. It appears the the drug companies OWN the FDA outright.

    From what I am seeing the FDA is just a real good lap dog for the drug companies, waiting for the next comand. it seems odd to me the director is a doctor, and most of these issues are just simple plain common sense. Stop the drug companies from controlling the FDA. Urge Congress to properly fund the FDA so they can do independent testing.

    Let’s get out of the dark ages.

       1 likes

  10. Grace Adams says:

    I need more sleep but suffer from insomnia.

       0 likes

  11. Pope McElvy says:

    Great article and excellent recommendations. I’ve had a problem sleeping soundly for years until I found Laminine. From the very first two capsules I’ve been sleeping through the night. Getting more quality sleep has changed my life. Laminine stimulates the production of serotonin and decreases stress hormones plus nourishing and directing stem cells. There is nothing else like it. WeHelpAll.com for info on Laminine.

       1 likes

  12. Thank you all at the Allilance for Natural Health for all that you do to advance the Human condition. If I were not poor, I would donate as much as I could… Perhaps someday I will be able to donate to all organizations like yours that not only give genuine Hope, but also take real Action to help Humanity in our quasi-eternal battle against ignorance & oppression!

    As bleak as things may seem, we must NEVER give up this battle for TRUE Freedom!
    We WILL eventually have victory, manifesting a world of Peace, Liberty, Good Health & Propserity for ALL of Humanity!
    We WILL eventually prosecute all of these elitist, corporatist conspirators- & all their willing puppets- for their crimes against Humanity!
    It may take generations; it may take many centuries. Whatever the case, we MUST remain vigilant yet patient. This is a selfless Movement… a Movement as old as self-aware Humankind on this planet. I firmly believe this is the ultimate Human Purpose- to contribute to the 3V0|ution of Consciousness, & thus the Human condition.

    I know in my Soul we will eventually succeed becuase of the Intuitions I Feel.
    I know in my Mind we will eventually succeed because of how far we have come, & the benevolent Light I have seen shining in the noble heroes of Divine Progress.

    To a better Future…
    * ! * ! *! ON WITH THE R3V0|UTION * ! * ! *

       1 likes

  13. Maria says:

    I have read that If you take Melatonin for several weeks your body will have a hard time making it on it’s one when you stop taking it. You will not be able to sleep without it. 0.3 mg. is what the body produces at night naturally and is safe to take for an extended period of time. Herbatonin is one of the products that you can find with this dosage. It is by a company called Naturalhi. It works amazingly well. It is wise to start with the smallest safest amount first, especially with small children.
    I know so many children who are addicted to Melatonin. They can not sleep without it. Their parents tell me the Dr. recommended it for their children to sleep, especially those children diagnosed with Autism or Add, but never told them to only use for a few nights and then take a break from it. I also know numerous adults who can not sleep without it now that they have been taking it for so long.
    Please do your own research on this product before using it as well as any other supplement or prescription.

       1 likes

  14. Tami says:

    I’ve heard this before about sleeping in the DARK. Who makes these special nightlights with a red wavelength? And where do you get them? Anyone know?

    I’d like to try this with my son. He insists he must sleep with his “moon” light on which is a small lamp (w/ an old-fashion Christmas bulb) which reflects a crescent moon onto his ceiling.

       0 likes

  15. Jeff Pens says:

    Great Information to Gettng a Good Nites sleep!

       0 likes

  16. Rix says:

    Very good article that reinforces all my research. Pray that I could sleep without the harsh meds they bombard me with. Another piece of advise; never let them hook you on a grave or swing shift if you can help it.

       0 likes

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