How sleep can balance your hormones.
Are you getting enough? Think you can “survive” on 5-6 hours? There is strong evidence to say that anything less than 7 hours will have a dramatic impact on your immune system and affect your amygdala (a section of the brain that is responsible for detecting fear and preparing for emergency events) which in turn will affect your cortisol levels, making you age more rapidly and making you gain weight and throw other hormones out of whack – and these are just some of the examples!
On a basic level we sleep in 90 minute cycles which run from REM (rapid eye movement) to light sleep to deep sleep, with deep sleep generally coming at the end of the cycle.
During our light sleep we fall into a slow mantra*, a rhymic flow of data processing and compartmentalizing. This stage is particularly important for those with high blood pressure.
The part of sleep that eluded me the most over the past year was deep sleep. I was falling well below the amount I needed to get and it was affecting my hormones to a massive degree.
Your amygdala senses threats (your fight or flight response) which, if triggered, then sends a signal to the hypothalamus which then releases Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) which then signals the pituitary to release Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) which then tells the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol – in a nut shell.
Simply put, by not sleeping well, or not enough, your brain is always on high alert and in a state of constant “stress”. This stress is a cascade of hormones which will eventually take over your sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testoterone).
So what can you do right now (or tonight) to start sleeping better? Well one of the most basic strategies you can adopt is to set an alarm – NOT for waking up – but for going to bed. I know it might sound counter intuitive but by setting an alarm an hour before bed, lets say 9pm, this will signal your brain to start winding down for the night.
Within that hour think about “getting ready” for bed. Take off your makeup, change into comfy loose clothing, turn off the TV or iPad and read a book, listen to your favourite relaxing music, read to your children or take a few moments to meditate.
All of these actions will signal your brain to get ready for bed, to look forward to getting into bed, snuggling down and enjoying the down time to come.
Oh! and one last thing, make your last thought an inspirational one that makes you smile, perhaps your looking forward to your morning walk, or seeing a friend the next day. The last thought you have can impact your first thoughts in the morning.
Do you know how long you sleep for? Write me a comment below and let me know.