Sleep quality and quantity may be the most important component of the biochemical balance that promotes health. This should be addressed first with any chronic illness unless pain is involved. Sleep not only serves an essential restorative function for the brain but also has been linked to an increased risk factor for diabetes, obesity and insulin resistance (a pre-diabetic indicator). J Broussard PhD, etal. “Impact of sleep disturbances on adipocyte function and lipid metabolism”. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. May 2010
Your sleepiness at bed time and wakefulness in the morning is a product of the circadian (daily) rhythm between cortisol and melatonin . According to Andrew Huberman PhD, a Stanford University professor and researcher, the effect of light on your eyes sets the clock for this rhythm. The cells on the back of the retina are actually brain cells. Early morning exposure to sunlight, within 1 hour of waking, starts the clock for the new day. All organs have different daily rhythms which are influenced by the sleep wake cycle. It is fundamental for health and wellness as it relates to sleep, immunity, metabolism and mood.
2-10 minutes of early morning sunlight exposure when combined with walking and side to side eye movement stimulates what Dr. Huberman calls optic flow. This sends information to the brain which quiets the amygdala, the emotional center, to decrease fear and anxiety by increasing dopamine , the feel good chemical, and elevates your mood.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, peaks shortly after waking, the cortisol awakening response, and decreases throughout the day. Melatonin increases during the day peaking at bedtime, about 16 hours later. Stressors such as: obstructive sleep apnea, toxins, anxiety, excessive blood sugar drops can increase cortisol levels and decrease the ability to sleep. Mineral imbalances such as low magnesium and zinc and high copper levels as well as an acidic PH (see my thoughts on balancing PH). Alcohol may reduce sleep quality.
There are ways to improve sleep. Practice sleep hygiene by eliminating sources of evening bright light, lowering bedroom temperature and avoiding electric media 1 hour before bed time or between the hours of 11:00 PM and 4:00 AM . The negative effect of bright light can be mitigated by exposing your eyes to evening sunlight. Your eyes are more sensitive to light during the evening and less sensitive to light during the day .Try having a regular bed time and rising time to get about 8 hours sleep. The 60 minutes prior to bedtime can go as follows: relax with a warm Epsom salt soaking bath with a few drops of Lavender essential oil for 20 minutes or a banana tea (!/2 banana with peel in 3 cups of water. This will provide magnesium. Tart cherry juice can be helpful. Try 0.5 mg- 1.0 mg melatonin. Afterwards try a mental relaxation technique such as: counting backwards from 300 by 3s and taking slow diaphragmatic breaths (see diaphragmatic breathing exercise), focus thoughts on daily aspects of gratitude or other meditative techniques.