Sleeping Trouble? Discover Why Winter Is the Ideal Time to Learn How to Sleep Right
It may seem like you never get enough sleep, and during the busy winter season things like stress, travel, hectic holiday schedules, and more can really keep you from getting a good night’s rest.
But sleep is essential to properly recharge your body and achieve good health. And winter is without question the best time to focus on your sleep. With the shorter days, Mother Nature is providing us with extra hours of darkness to help us catch some extra ZZZs. Doing so is much more important than you may realize.
If you’ve ever woken up feeling just as tired as when you went to sleep, your adrenals might be depleted. Resting, supporting the adrenals with essential minerals, and taking easily digestible protein each day can help. The Body Ecology Immune Power Protein Shake is a tasty source of vegan protein that may help to restore energy, even in cases of extreme exhaustion and fatigue.
Given the nature of our “go, go, go” society, it probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that one in three adults aren’t getting enough sleep, according to the latest numbers from the CDC. This means that at least a third of us are falling short of the recommended seven hours or more a night in all 50 states.1 Starting at a young age, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine is staunch in its 2016 recommendations for sleep as a means to recharge and promote optimal health — clocking babies at a recommended 12-16 hours a night, including naps, and teenagers at 8-10 hours.2 Falling into sleep debt can create health problems that could stick with you, increasing the risk of emotional disorders in children later in life, disrupting brain function in cases of sleep apnea, and even doubling death risk (if you get too much or too little).3,4,5 Sleeping less in late childhood has also been linked to earlier drug and alcohol use.6
The Vicious Cycle
It turns out that many people have trouble sleeping, even if they are tired! The key to this mystery lies with the little-known glands on top of your kidneys — the adrenals. Ten years ago, researchers discovered that the adrenals function as yet another internal clock in the body to keep physiological and metabolic rhythms in sync.7
These days, most people have weakened adrenals caused by a diet low in minerals and high in sugar, stress, poorly digested foods, and over-the-counter and prescription drugs. And once the adrenals are already weak, the vicious cycle continues. In 2013, Stony Brook University School of Medicine researchers observed that sleep-deprived teens were more likely to make bad food choices, while well-rested teens were reaching for the healthier stuff.8 Poor nutrition only continues to burden the adrenals and exhaust the body, leading to more poor food choices.
When your adrenals are healthy, they help you sleep more deeply and for longer periods, but you need sleep to keep them healthy!
You may recognize one of these 10 common symptoms of weak adrenals:
- Difficulty falling asleep at night, sleeping lightly, or waking early or often
- Hormone imbalances and low sex drive
- Difficulty relaxing – nervous, anxious, or hyperactive
- General exhaustion
- Memory problems and feeling “spacey”
- Weight gain, especially in abdomen and waist area
- Cravings for sugar and salt
- Early aging
- No energy for digestion of foods
Your Adrenal Bank Account: Is It Empty?
Think of your adrenals as a bank account: You make withdrawals every time you experience too much stress, a poor diet, and too little sleep or poor quality sleep. If you don’t make regular deposits of healthy food, relaxation, and plenty of rest, you deplete your adrenals, hamper their performance, and disrupt the natural rest/renewal cycle of your body.
What do the adrenals do? Your adrenals are responsible for:
- Participating in all other systems of your body.
- Determining your body’s response to stressors of all kinds, from food and viruses to your environment and your job.
- Affecting the level of cortisol in your body — key for metabolism and sleep.
- Providing the main source of sex hormones in your body.
Body Ecology teaches that the adrenals are intricately linked to the thyroid, another small organ that is crucial for hormone production, balance, and metabolism. Together, they directly affect your energy and vitality. But there is one more piece of the puzzle — along with weak adrenals and thyroid function, you may also be protein deficient or have a difficulty digesting protein if you are constantly struggling to maintain energy. Dull hair or hair that doesn’t grow, hang nails, and anemia may all signal protein deficiency or a lack of essential amino acids. Vegan pea protein, like that found in Body Ecology’s Immune Power Protein Shake, contains easily assimilated amino acids that help to make protein in the body. Taking vegan pea protein daily for 3 to 6 months can replenish the body and repair any damage that has been done, supporting immunity, energy, and overall health.
Why Winter Is the Perfect Time to Hibernate
Sleep is especially important for your adrenals because while you sleep, your adrenals are hard at work trying to repair your body.
Adrenal fatigue affects every part of your body. And here’s that vicious cycle again — you may know that common feeling of being exhausted and desperately needing to sleep, only to wake up exhausted again. If you’re dragging throughout the day, it’s hard to recoup and restore energy levels when the adrenals aren’t getting enough support.
The body’s tireless little clocks need plenty of reinforcement to keep ticking on time. Adrenals thrive on adequate minerals — so be sure to nourish them with minerals from dark, leafy green vegetables and ocean veggies. The Body Ecology system of health and healing also uses grain-like seeds for minerals and for vitamins, fiber, and protein.
Now is also the time to take advantage of the shorter days of fall and winter and resist the urge to get everything on your “to do” list done. After all, longer nights are nature’s way of telling you to sleep a little bit more right now, before the onset of a busy spring and summer.
While animals hibernate for the winter to help maintain their body temperature (something we humans aren’t genetically equipped to do), we can learn from this seasonal cycle that occurs in nature. Traditional Chinese Medicine encourages us to live in harmony with the five seasons — winter, spring, summer, late summer, and fall. Winter in Chinese Medicine represents Yin, a dark, slow, cold, and inward energy cycle. You may naturally observe that winter is a time of turning inward and reflecting on self. As the days get shorter, you may feel like going to bed earlier and sleeping later as your body signals you its need to repair and heal.
A cozy and comforting season like winter may also present the perfect time to teach your body to sleep, if you’ve had sleep struggles in the past.
Regular exercise and daily meditation can help to release anxieties and prepare your body for a night of rest.9,10,11 Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 sleep breathing pattern has also been buzzing around the Internet as a method to “teach” your body to fall asleep within just 60 seconds. Using this breathing technique as little as twice a day may help to release stress, avert food cravings, and get you sleepy as soon as your head hits the pillow.
And wouldn’t you know it — resting, relieving stress, and eating well are all ways to nourish the adrenals and encourage a better night of sleep.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Sleep is one of life’s luxuries it seems we can never get enough of. And yet we need a good, solid night of rest to help properly recharge the body and promote good health each day. As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, this might be the perfect time to work with the seasons to restore your body and teach it how to sleep. Most people have difficulty sleeping, even when they’re tired, and it may have everything to do with the adrenals. These small glands that sit on top of the kidneys work as internal clocks to keep physiological and metabolic rhythms in the body in sync. The adrenals can easily become weak and depleted because of poor diet, poor digestion, stress, and over-the-counter and prescription drug use.
If your adrenals are weak and your sleep is suffering, there’s still plenty of time to get your health back on track. We encourage you to take advantage of the fall and winter seasons as a time of rest and replenishment. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter is a dark, cold, slow, and inward energy cycle, where you may naturally find yourself wanting to go to bed earlier. To encourage consistent and restful sleep, try turning off your TV and computer as soon as it gets dark outside, and go to bed early whenever you can. Better yet, take a long weekend with at least four days of rest to give the adrenals a total reboot.
Once you’re replenished, you can keep the adrenals on track with the daily dose of minerals and ocean veggies they need to balance and energize the body. Fermented vegan protein, which is predigested and easy for the body to use, can also help to correct any underlying protein deficiencies that may be causing exhaustion and fatigue.
- “1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep.” CDC.
- “Recharge with sleep: Pediatric sleep recommendations promoting optimal health.” American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
- Cara A. Palmer, Candice A. Alfano. Sleep and emotion regulation: An organizing, integrative review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.smrv.2015.12.006.
- Paul M. Macey, Manoj K. Sarma, Rajakumar Nagarajan, Ravi Aysola, Jerome M. Siegel, Ronald M. Harper, M. Albert Thomas. Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with low GABA and high glutamate in the insular cortex. Journal of Sleep Research, 2016; DOI: 10.1111/jsr.12392.
- Cappuccio, Francesco. “Researchers say lack of sleep doubles risk of death… but so can too much sleep.” University of Warwick.
- Thomas B. Mike, Daniel S. Shaw, Erika E. Forbes, Stephanie L. Sitnick, Brant P. Hasler. The hazards of bad sleep—Sleep duration and quality as predictors of adolescent alcohol and cannabis use. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.08.009.
- Oster et al.: “The circadian rhythm of glucocorticoids is regulated by a gating mechanism residing in the adrenal cortical clock.” Publishing in Cell Metabolism 4, 163–173, AUGUST 2006. DOI 10.1016/j.cmet.2006.07.002.
- “Sleep deprivation in teens linked to poor dietary choices.” Stony Brook Medicine.
- “Exercise key to good sleep.” National Sleep Foundation.
- David S. Black, Gillian A. O’Reilly, Richard Olmstead, Elizabeth C. Breen, Michael R. Irwin. Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081.
- Adam P. Spira. Being Mindful of Later-Life Sleep Quality and Its Potential Role in Prevention. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8093.