We all need it.
When we’re young we seem to think we don’t, and as we get older it can get harder to get a full night’s rest.
If you’re struggling with sleep, a Toronto naturopathic doctor from Annex Naturopathic can help you figure out what the issue is. From there, we’ll offer sleep solutions to help you get a good night’s rest.
Keep reading to learn more about why sleep is important, and why you might not be getting enough. In our next article, we’ll look at what you can do about it.
What Does Sleep Do, Exactly?
There’s no question that when we’re tired and sleep deprived it’s hard to feel our best. And waking up from a restful night’s sleep? This leaves us feeling refreshed and ready to face the day ahead.
But why? What exactly is it doing for our bodies?
Oddly, though we spend a third of our life sleeping, we don’t fully know why. Scientists don’t have a clear-cut answer to this question, but they have some theories.
Keep reading to learn more.
Energy Conservation Theory
According to this theory, the reason we sleep is to conserve energy. Metabolism slows down by as much as ten percent when we sleep. As your body conserves energy, you don’t have to consume calories during this time to keep going.
Of course, this isn’t as important in today’s world, where food is abundant. However, this would have been great for our hunter-and-gatherer ancestors.
Another theory of why we sleep is it restores and rejuvenates us.
This is backed-up by studies which have shown animals who are sleep-deprived lose immune function.
Additionally, some processes, such as muscle growth and repair occur primarily during sleep.
Sleeping can also restore cognitive function. During sleep, adenosine, which builds up in our brain during wakefulness has a chance to clear out.
Adenosine build-up can lead to a perception of tiredness. Flushing it out helps us feel more alert after having slept.
The Inactivity theory goes back to the days where we lived in caves and had to steer clear of larger predators. It states inactivity during nighttime keeps us out of harm’s way when we’re most vulnerable.
But if the goal is to remain safe, it seems like a better strategy would be to remain awake and alert, not asleep.
Brain Plasticity Theory
The Brain Plasticity theory says sleep correlates to changes of structure in the brain. Sleep has been shown to play an important role in brain development in infants.
In adults, sleep deprivation has been shown to impact the ability to learn and perform various tasks.
What’s Causing Your Insomnia?
Now that we’ve looked at the reasons why sleep is important, let’s investigate why you might not be sleeping as well as you’d like to.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid is overactive and producing too many hormones.
This can lead to the nervous system being overstimulated, making it difficult to sleep. Additionally, hyperthyroidism can cause night sweats, which can make it harder to stay asleep.
2. Anxiety & Depression
Sometimes, you can’t sleep because you’re nervous about an important job interview, or feeling depressed after the loss of a loved one.
But these feelings generally pass.
However, if you have chronic anxiety or depression, these can affect the length and quality of your sleep. Anxiety symptoms which can affect sleep include:
● Mulling over past events
● Worry about the future
● Feelings of being overwhelmed
● Being overstimulated
Sleep issues can also show up as a symptom of depression, and insomnia can make changes in mood during depression more severe.
3. Poor Lifestyle Habits
If shouldn’t come as a surprise that consuming too much caffeine can affect your ability to sleep. It’s a stimulant which many people rely on to help them get through the day.
You don’t have to give up your morning cup of coffee or tea, but try to limit your intake, and not drink it within eight hours of bedtime.
As well, alcohol as a sleep disruptor may come as a surprise to some people.
It’s a depressant and can make you feel sleepy. But although it might help you to fall asleep, drinking close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep later in the night.
Sometimes, we forget we haven’t drank water in a while because we’ve drank some coffee, tea, or alcohol. But while they are “wet”, they also contribute to dehydrating you. So make sure you’re drinking a lot of water.
Other lifestyle factors which can impede sleep include nicotine, which is a stimulant, and eating too much, too close to bedtime. Heavy meals can cause discomfort and make relaxing difficult.
4. Certain Prescription Drugs
Some prescription drugs can interfere with sleep.
These include antidepressants, and medications for asthma and blood pressure.
Certain medications may also include stimulants. These include some allergy medications, as well as weight-loss products. Always read the labels, and when in doubt, discuss with your doctor or pharmacist the best time to take medications.
5. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a disorder in which the airway becomes blocked during sleep.
This will result in a person waking up repeatedly through the night for brief periods of time.
6. Heart Disease
The medication used for heart disease can lead to loss of sleep and insomnia.
However it’s a two-way street, as insomnia is also linked to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
7. Digestive Disorders
Gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome and GERD can cause discomfort. This often makes falling asleep and staying asleep more difficult.
People who experience insomnia are more likely to report GI issues than those who do not.
8. Menstrual Irregularities
Shifts in hormones during menstruation can play a role in how much sleep you get.
As well, night sweats and hot flashes during menopause can be disruptive to sleep, and insomnia is common during pregnancy.
Fibromyalgia can cause pain and muscle stiffness throughout the joints and muscles. For people with fibromyalgia, the pain can make sleep more difficult to come by, but the lack of sleep then makes the pain worse.
People with fibromyalgia may use sleep aids, however their effectiveness over the long term has yet to be looked at.
10. Other Causes
Other factors which can affect sleep include:
• Your work schedule (for instance, shift work)
• Changes in sleep patterns as you age
• Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease
Book an Appointment with Annex Naturopathic
Are you having trouble getting enough sleep? Have you tried changing lifestyle factors, like no caffeine in the afternoon or not drinking alcohol close to bedtime, but you’re still having trouble falling or staying asleep? Annex Naturopathic can help.
Contact us for a consultation today – we can help you determine the reasons for you inability to get enough sleep, and work with you to find natural ways to help you get your Zzz’s.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
Annex Naturopathic Clinic is a clinic in Toronto that offers integrative healthcare solutions from Drs. Marnie Luck, ND, and Tanya Lee, ND