Sleep for Better Hormonal Balance and a Healthy Aging Brain
I think sleep is underrated. I want to use this time to explain how sleep literally changes your life; it’s like night and day.
When we sleep, we are repairing cells in our body. Who doesn’t want more healthy cells? One vital sign that you are not getting enough sleep is that your brain may be a bit foggy. What happens when we’re awake is that our brains collect a plaque (just like the plaque on your teeth) and when we sleep, it’s as if someone comes in with a broom and cleans off all of the excess plaque that has accumulated from all of the heavy lifting that the brain does throughout the day.
This buildup of plaque throughout the day is normal. What is not normal is our brain’s inability to “clean up” the plaque that’s been accumulating throughout the day because without the proper sleep the brain’s plaque accumulates and science tells us today that the plaque buildup is a cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, and Dementia.
When you sleep is just as important as getting that sleep. Your glands and hormones all work together like a fine symphony. When one section is not playing, other glands are affected and usually for the worse. Your body has a rhythm to it. That rhythm is extremely important to keep humming along so your body’s hormones can work the way they need to.
If you have a dog, watch their reaction once the sun goes down. They begin to get sleepy. Humans may want to consider taking their queue from nature because our brains do the same thing . Melatonin is the hormone that helps bring on sleep and makes us want to close our eyes. This happens when the sun goes down for us, too. If you want to change how you feel, be aware of this. Our bodies want us to go to bed early (no later than 10 but why not try for 9!) rather than sleeping in later the next morning because of melatonin. Our other glands (the pineal gland produces melatonin based upon how much daylight we get) depend upon the pineal gland and melatonin working properly..
How do we train our bodies to sleep by 9 or 10? Well, remember I mentioned that your pineal gland will secrete melatonin based upon the amount of time you spend outside? Make sure you spend time outside in natural daylight (computer-generated light will keep your pineal gland working overtime and not release melatonin when it benefits you) every day. Make sure, too, that your eyes have a break from your devices for at least an hour before bedtime to send a message to that pineal gland to release melatonin. Try going to bed about 15 min earlier each night and see what happens by day 3 or 4.
The Importance of Relaxation Before Bed
Your body wants to slow down when it’s dark out so I advise you to allow that. If you don’t feel tired,try the following activities to better increase your chances of becoming deeply relaxed and getting a good night’s sleep:
- Get outside everyday (even if it’s cloudy you will still receive the light that your pineal gland needs).
- Turn off all devices one hour before sleep.
- Completely darken your room. Any light penetrating through from shades or devices will keep your brain from releasing the proper amount of melatonin.
- Make sure your room is a bit on the cool side so that when you’re under your blankets your body temperature is regulated.
- Take the hottest shower or bath possible. This completely relaxes your body. Try a lot of bath salts, too (a couple to a few cups worth) to release positive ions from the day and allow in more negative ions, but that’s another article.
- Practice deep, slow, relaxation breaths. Exhale longer than you inhale. Try this: breath in for 4, hold for 2 or 4, exhale for 6 or 8.
- Focus on one thought. This is what meditation is. It can be a phrase or a sound that you create. I like, “I am peaceful” or “I am breathing in (inhale), I am breathing out” (exhale)
- Practice a Yoga Nidra. This is done while not moving. At night, preferably in your bed. A yoga nidra meditation puts your body to sleep but the mind remains awake (so you can practice during the day, too) but if your intention is to fall asleep in your bed , a yoga nidra helps by putting your body into such a deeply relaxed state that the serotonin (hormone) start out with actually turns into melatonin and can put you right to sleep. More about YN in my next article.
For now, experiment with acquiring new habits in order to begin going to bed as early as 9pm. I assure you, with practice you will see amazing results in how much better you feel during the day. Your mood will be lighter, you will be more focused and you will feel more peaceful and energized!