Vail Daily column: Sleeping shouldn’t be difficult |

Vail Daily column: Sleeping shouldn’t be difficult

Do you know what the difference is between getting up on the right vs. the wrong side of the bed? No, this is not the prelude to a joke. Getting up on the right side of the bed often means you’ve started the day well — happy, rested and ready to charge forward. However, getting up on the wrong side of the bed could mean more than you started the day feeling tired, unhappy, uncomfortable or grumpy; it could mean problems such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure are knocking on your door.

Sleep is a very important time for the body to repair. When the body is deprived of sleep, it doesn’t complete all of the phases needed for muscle and tissue repair, memory consolidation, release of growth hormones, and the regulation of cortisol and blood pressure.

Sleep deprivation also leads to brain shrinkage. A University of Oxford study has found that people who experience sleep deprivation have a greater occurrence of cortical shrinkage than people who get proper amounts of sleep.

Are you sleeping enough?

There are biological reasons that people who are sleep deprived find themselves hungrier than normal. Sleep deprivation affects glucose and insulin levels.

Unfortunately, many of us are so used to irregular and short sleep cycles that the signs of sleep deprivation may not be clear. Knowing and being aware of some of the signs your body needs more sleep may be helpful.

If you are having days when you feel that everyone around you is miserable and nobody is smiling, you may be deprived of sleep. Matthew Walker at the University of California, Berkeley authored a study of young healthy people’s reactions to facial expressions after 24 hours without sleep. According to the study, participants couldn’t distinguish a smile from a scowl when deprived of sleep.

MRI scans of the brains of people who do not getting enough sleep show that the emotion-sensing regions, called the anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex, have difficulty distinguishing between threatening and friendly faces.

According to Walker, “Sleep deprivation appears to dislocate the body from the brain.”

Want a better libido? Get some sleep.

While low testosterone levels do not always equate to low libido, there is a great deal of research indicating that low testosterone is one of the possible causes of low libido. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, young healthy men who underwent one week of sleep restriction of five hours per night experienced a 10 to 15 percent decrease in daytime testosterone levels.

Lack of sleep and weight gain

There are biological reasons that people who are sleep deprived find themselves hungrier than normal. Sleep deprivation affects glucose and insulin levels. When your body is tired and in need of energy, high calorie and high fat foods provide quick energy fixes.

Two hormones that effect weight are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is produced within our gastrointestinal tracts and sends hunger signals to our brain. When our stomachs are empty, ghrelin is secreted. The leptin hormone helps to tell you that you are full. Leptin is secreted primarily in fat cells, as well as the stomach, heart, placenta and skeletal muscle.

According to a study at The New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center, after just two consecutive nights of four hours of sleep, test subjects had a 28 percent higher ghrelin (hunger) hormone level and 18 percent lower leptin (satiety) hormone level in their blood compared with subjects who had sept 10 hours a night.

Possible remedies

There are many tools available to monitor your sleep throughout the night. Many of today’s fitness monitors are able to track wake and sleep times. FitBit, Jawbone, Zeo, Sleep Cycle and Sleep As Android are just a few readily available products that will inform you rather quickly of your sleep patterns and any issues you might be having, and they can assist you in understanding your sleep patterns, movement, snoring, REM and breathing.

Keeping the temperature of your bedroom cool is another tool that will help you to get better sleep. Because your body temperature drops during sleep, researchers believe a bedroom temperature between 60 and 70 degrees may be helpful in quality sleep.

There is research that supports eating a snack that is high in protein several hours before bed can help sleep. It is believed that high protein snacks such as cheese or peanut butter assist in production of L-tryptophan which is needed for melatonin and serotonin production.

Sleep is important to our entire body. If you are not getting enough sleep, perhaps it’s time you look into the situation. The effects are deeper than just being tired. Consult your doctor and ask questions. You need to be your best advocate.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visiting or call 970-328-5526.

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