Sleep is a fundamental element in our health and wellbeing. In fact, acute sleep loss of 4 hours per night for 6 days can lead to 40% reductions in rate of glucose clearance, 30% reduction in insulin effectiveness, decreased thyroid hormone, increased evening cortisol, increases sympathetic nervous system activity and decreased physical activity.
Having a good night sleep allows our body to regenerate, repair and rest which is important for:
1. Boosting memory, concentration and productivity
2. Helping you lose weight through reducing hunger hormone leptin and insulin resistance.
3. Regulation of the immune system
4. Improving mood and ability to interact socially and emotionally
5. Maximises muscle growth
6. Increases athletic performance
During sleep our body goes through 4 different stages:
Stage 1: Non-REM
This stage is an interim between conciseness and sleep and will last for 5-15 minutes. You are lightly asleep and can go quickly back to being fully awake.
Stage 2: Non-REM
Stage 2 kicks in and things start to get serious! Heart rate slows, brain does less complicated tasks. Another 15 minutes and you move into the Delta Stage.
Stage 3: Non-REM Delta Sleep
Body makes repairs as our brainwave slows down and become larger. This is the most beneficial state and will last 35-45 minutes after falling asleep.
Stage 4: REM-Sleep
Body temperature and blood pressure decreases. Move into REM sleep approximately 90 minutes after first feeling sleep. Your body will increase eye movement, heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and temperature. Then back to stage 1 in the interim between consciousness and sleep.
How to get to get a good night sleep?
Stress and anxiety are commonly associated with insomnia and can impact sleep onset, duration and quality. Stress occurs when we perceive a threat in our external or internal environment which triggers a chemical reaction in which our adrenal glands pump out cortisol. Cortisol blocks the sleepy chemical melatonin to wake you up and increases blood flow to your peripherals to get you up and moving. Cortisol can also block serotonin receptor sensitivity which may cause insomnia, low pain tolerance, poor dream recall, anxiety and depression.
Prolonged stress, inflammation, injury, pain, some medications, lifestyle and diet are some of the factors that can increase cortisol levels and cause a dysregulation in the circadian rhythm.
This can cause fatigue, poor muscle repair, insomnia, poor immunity, feeling of running on pilot mode, poor memory, poor short and long term memory, weight gain, sensitivity to light and hormonal imbalances.
One of the most effective ways to bring your body back into its natural circadian rhythm is to support the production of neurotransmitters that are essential for sleep onset, duration and quality. Vitamins and minerals are essential for supplying the cofactors to promote neurotransmitter synthesis and control. Listed below are the main neurotransmitter that play an important role in sleep:
• Serotonin is involved in mood, regulation of arousal and converts into melatonin. The biosynthesis starts with the amino acid Tryptophan where is converted into 5-hydroxytrytophan (5-HTP) using the cofactors iron, folate, vitamin B3, Vitamin C and Vitamin D. 5-HTP is then further synthesised into Serotonin using B6.
• Melatonin is required for the regulation of circadian synthesis promotes sleep and up regulates GABA receptor complex. A deficiency in Melatonin has been linked to insomnia, headaches, fibromyalgia and anxiety. The cofactors of Melatonin are iron, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and folate.
• Acetylcholine is important for the parasympathetic nervous system which is also known as ‘rest and digest’. Acetylcholine is also important for the maintenance of REM sleep, memory, learning and attention span. Deficiency sign include light sleeping and poor sleep initiation. Cofactors needed for its production are Acetyl-L-carnitine, choline, B1, B5, B12 and folate.
• GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter that is needed for sleep maintenance. Deficiency signs include insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks and alcohol cravings. Cofactors include glutamine, taurine, Zinc and B6.
Obtaining these cofactors through a healthy diet is essential to promote a rejuvenated sleep. Eating nutrient dense foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds will optimise nutrient status. Amino acids which are the building blocks in our body also play an essential role in the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters. Eating good quality organic meats, eggs, and fish can supply your body with correct amino acid profile for restorative sleep.
Due to farming practices, processing and shelf life of the foods we eat today, obtaining the correct amounts of vitamins and minerals can sometimes be unreliable and therefore taking a supplement can be beneficial. ATP Multifood is the perfect supplement that contains bioavailable, natural forms of vitamins and minerals from plant sources which can improve your sleep dramatically. These naturally occurring vitamins and minerals go to work straight into the pathways to promote not only the neurotransmitters needed for production, but enzymatic pathways needed for energy and increased performance.
Herbs that offer an anxiolytic and apoptogenic action can offer immense support to reduce high cortisol levels to allow the body to become para-sympathetic dominant (rest and digest) when it is in a sympathetic (fight or flight) mode. Some of the most powerful herbs available are:
1. Withania somnifera has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine as a remedy for debility, stress, nervous exhaustion, insomnia, loss of memory and to enhance cognitive functioning. GABA is the most important inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and is involved in a variety of physiological and pathological processes such as sleep, mood, anxiety, epilepsy and cognitive disorders (iii)
2. Rhodiola rosea has beneficial effects on the central nervous system with its ability to influence levels and activity of the biogenic monoamines serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the cerebral cortex, brain stem and hypothalamus (i). Rhodiola also has profound anti-anxiety, mood enhancing, anti-inflammatory effects as well as regulation of cortisol activity and release.
3. Schisandra chinensis has been used traditionally in Chinese medicine for treating insomnia for centuries. Schisandra enhances cholinergic function and works as an acetylcholine esterase inhibitor, thereby preserving acetylcholine levels and activity in the nerve synapse. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is important for the parasympathetic nervous system, memory, learning and REM-sleep. Schisandra contains Lignans, which are considered to be the bioactive component. These lignans showed to have strong hypnotic effects in mice that had caffeine induced insomnia. The study also showed improved sleep recovery and duration with the mechanism believed to work on the serotonergic and g-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic system (v)
4. Tongkat ali has traditionally been used in South East Asia as a general health tonight and an ‘anti-aging’ remedy to help older individuals adapt to the reduced energy, mood and libido. TKA blocks the catabolic effects of stress by changing the adrenal priority from cortisol production to hormonal regeneration and repair. This allows the body to become parasympathetic dominant where it can rest, digest, sleep and repair.
ATP Cort RX offers is an adrenal support complex that contains Schisandra, Withania and Rhodiola. The supplement works directly on the hypathlamus pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis to restore an internal balance of all hormonal profiles. It can significantly improve sleep if taken at night and following a specific adrenal support protocol.
The Tongkat Ali can be found in the Alpha Prime and Alpha Mars. Both products work at modulating the bodies hormonal profile to improve endurance, recovery and rejuvenation. Depending on your health and wellness goals will depend on a therapeutic protocol with these supplements.
1. Routine is KEY: wake up and go to bed at the same time, even on weekends to keep your hormone cycle regular.
2. Avoid coffee and other caffeinated drinks (cola, pre-workouts, chocolates and some medications) after 1.pm.
3. Avoid Alcohol 4-6 hours before going to bed.
4. Get up and try again if you cannot get to sleep within the first 20 minutes.
5. Bed is for sleeping and sex. If your bed is a place to watch Netflix, read, scroll through your phone, eat and do work on your laptop- you will not make this connection.
6. Download an App called F.lux or Twilight on all computer and devices to reduce blue light and help you sleep better!
7. Sleep Rituals can help you get into a relaxed mood to prepare you for a rejuvenated deep sleep. You can make a cup of chamomile or sleepy time tea, practice deep breathing, meditate or do some stretched.
8. Dump your mind in a journal. Write down everything that is on your mind and know you can come back to it tomorrow.
9. Visualise your mind as a computer and ‘shut down’ your body. Close your eyes and picture a computer screen. Each tab is a thought, for example, washing the clothes, paying a bill, prepping food for tomorrow. With each thought that you have visualise a cursor going to the top corner and exiting it off. Now go down to the bottom corner and select shut down. Now go to sleep.
10. Regular exercise will help you regulate your hormone levels to improve sleep quality. Get up in the morning and go for a walk. Avoid strenuous exercises like high cardio 4 hours before bed.
11. Set the scene for a good night sleep. Make sure the room is dark as possible with no lights from the street or bedside clock and have a cool temperature
12. No electronic devices from 9pm onwards. Start reading a book or do some painting. This is your time to have peace and connection with yourself and not worry about the outside world. Honour it.
13. Eat at least 2 hours before bed time.
14. Buy a comfortable mattress
15. Use essential oils like lavender oil and chamomile oil
16. Go for morning walks. There is a number of benefits to waking up in the morning and going for a walk. Exposing your skin to sunshine can boost endorphins and vitamin D levels and regulate normal cortisol rhythm.
17. Engage in full body exercise like a high intense interval training style that will fatigue your muscles and make you fall to sleep easier.
(ii) Canderlario, M, et al, 2015, ‘Direct evidence for GABAergic activity of Withania somnifera on mammalian ionotropic GABAa and GABAp receptors, <http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.endeavour.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0378874115003980?>.
(iii) Martinez-Delgado, G et al 2010, ‘An update on GABAp Receptors’, Current Neuropharmacology, pp.422-4333.
(iv) Hechtman, L 2012, Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, Elsevier, Sydney
(v) Zhu, H et al 216, ‘Sedative and hypnotic effects of supercritical carbon dioxide fluid extraction from Schisandra chinensis in mice’, Journal of food and drug analysis, vol.24, no.831-838, <http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.endeavour.edu.au/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=2&sid=37c1ccbe-ea6c-4b96-a349-286a183804dd%40sessionmgr102&hid=114>.
(vi) Premier Integrative Functional Medicine 2016, ‘Natural Solutions to depression, anxiety and mood disorders Part 2’, <http://premierifm.com/blog_files/depression-anxiety-mood-disroders-part2.html>.
Blog written by ATP Naturopath Racheal Lee