Science News: Sleep Disturbances are Linked to Metabolic and Endocrine Dysfunction

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and wellbeing. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.

The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

An increasing number of epidemiological studies show an association between sleep disturbances, including sleep insufficiency, circadian dysfunction and sleep fragmentation, with metabolic and endocrine dysfunction, in particular abnormal glucose metabolism, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In a cross-sectional study, short sleep duration was related to insulin resistance in high school students. An overnight sleep study revealed that short duration of stage 3 and 4 NREM sleep was associated with insulin resistance in adolescents. In clinical studies, decreased glucose tolerance in healthy adults was observed during waking hours after several nights of sleep reduction ranging from 4 to 5 h/night. These findings and others indicate that sleep quality in terms of amount of time spent in slow-wave, deep sleep may be directly related to the circadian rhythm of glucose metabolism.

Well-controlled studies also link insufficient with changes in the activity of our neuroendocrine systems resulting in outcomes such as increased appetite, enhanced sensitivity to food stimuli, and, ultimately, a surplus in energy intake.

Improving sleep is becoming an appealing target for the prevention, and probably treatment, of metabolic disease.

Recent studies also link sleep disturbances during pregnancy to gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and maternal hyperglycemia. The incidence and prevalence of hyperglycemia are increasing worldwide, which is cause for concern because GDM and even mild hyperglycemia are associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. 

Practical Tips for Improving Your Sleep:

    1. Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. 
    2. Make sure you are sleeping for at least eight hours every night.  
    3. Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety. Examples: 10-20 minutes of guided visualization/meditation, gratitude journaling, affirmations.
    4. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. 
    5. Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool. Minimize/eliminate electromagnetic interference (such as cell phone, wifi, TV, etc.).Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner’s sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
    6. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. 

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Distress or Chronic Stress

Distress or chronic stress is uncontrollable, prolonged, or overwhelming stress. Once stress becomes distress, the body manages to survive though not always to thrive. For example, when faced with periods of chronic stress, the body’s immune system function is lowered, and the digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems no longer function the way they should. In a state of distress, the cells of the immune system (and other body systems) are unable to respond normally and produce levels of inflammation which increase the risk of further health issues.

Homeostasis

Homeostasis refers to your body’s ability to regulate itself and maintain a comparatively stable internal environment despite external and internal conditions and events.

Your body is designed to be in a state of homeostasis, where all the systems within are functioning optimally.

Stressor

Stressor is anything that is perceived by the body as challenging, threatening or demanding.

Health Story

In the context of My Wellbeing Compass, your “Health Story” represents the combination of your dis-eases, conditions, symptoms and the history that binds them together. It is multi-layered and multi-dimensional. Unearthing and resolving the root causes at the core of your Health Story is the only way to truly rewrite this Story.

Natural Self-repair Mechanisms

The body is made up of intelligent, living cells that are dynamically connected. They communicate and just know what to do and when to do it in any given situation. They grow, replicate, repair, and age. Every 90 days, the body has a new bloodstream; every year, it manufactures billions of new cells; colon cells refresh every 4 days; the skin is entirely regenerated every 2-3 weeks; white blood cells regenerate in about 1 year; the liver renews itself at least once every 2 years; and the skeleton replaces its cells entirely every 10 years.

You are an incredibly complex, interactive, and dynamic living organism that is well-equipped with self-repair mechanisms that can fight infections, eliminate toxins, fix damaged DNA, destroy cancer cells, and even slow down aging.

This natural self-healing ability (also referred to as cellular intelligence or body’s innate intelligence) explains spontaneous remissions from seemingly “incurable” diseases.

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