Afraid of sleep (and the Hormonal Helpers)

Updated: Feb 25

Sleep controls the tide on all the ships in their harbor, and the rest of a good night helps brings them all up. It strengthens our minds, strengthens our creativity, strengthens our willingness and regulates our appetites. It restores our hormones, provides a cleaning bath for our neurons, and ensures that "all systems are running" in all the regions. It's no wonder that we know intuitively how to "sleep on it" before making an important decision.

On the contrary, a sleepless brain is like marooning your boats at a low tide on the beach. New research suggests sleep loss can act as a toxin to your energizing mitochondria and places it in the same category as processed oils and sugar.

One night's sleep deprivation, in one study published in Sleep, has led to a 20% increase in two harmful neural markers in healthy people, suggesting that even ONE instance of sleep deprivation can harm valuable brain cells.

This is alarming news because half of the adults between the ages of 25 and 55 say they sleep less than seven hours per day each week. According to a recent article by the American Psychological Association, over 50 percent of millennials have been kept up by stress at least one night in the last month.

Quality sleep is a prerequisite for changing your other habits, leading to hormonal changes that greatly aid in these changes. Rest is a crucial element for the implementation of all additional changes.


  1. Stay cool in your room. The body likes to sleep under cooler conditions.

  2. Take a warm shower or a bath before bed. When you step out, the drop in body temperature should show your body that it's time to sleep.

  3. Use the bed only to sleep (and sex, duh). Just wake up, get out of bed, and don't go back to bed until you have to at night.

  4. Avoid alcohol. Although alcohol can help you sleep faster, it reduces the amount of time you spend in REM, the deepest sleep phase.

  5. Avoid exposure to the blue light at night. Try blue light glass blockers. Avoid exposure to the screen, and make sure the bulbs are at a warm temperature in your home.

  6. Stay away from your bed with your smartphone. But keep it within arm's reach everywhere else.

  7. Stay a little dark in your room. Sleep can be disturbed with even a bit of light. People sleeping only one night in room with light exposure (10 lux) reduced their working memory and brain function.

  8. Place the curfew on the caffeine. Restrict caffeine consumption to 4 p.m. at the latest—if you're a genetically slow metabolizer, then even earlier than that (for gene testing, visit our website).

  9. Eat more omega-3 fat and fewer carbohydrates. Inflammation affects sleep quality, and fibre-consuming by-products (similar to butyrate) may encourage deeper sleep.

  10. Stop eating at least an hour before bedtime. Nighttime snacking can sabotage your sleep.

  11. Get direct sunlight within 20 minutes of waking, especially during the day or if you're on a trip. Sunlight anchors your body's circadian rhythm, regulating the natural ebb and flow of your sleep-wake cycles.

Use the an app as an alarm clock. Sleep cycle applications will only awaken you when your sleep is in one of its lighter states, thereby preventing you from having this terrible feeling of being awakened in the middle of deep REM sleep.

Hormonal Helpers

Our brains often drive our behavior, but sometimes it comes from the body. In many ways, willpower is like a puppet on a string, called string hormones by chemical messengers. In contrast to the neurotransmitters that allow each neuron to communicate with its neighbors next door, the hormones are long-distance transmitters released in one area of the body and affecting another. For example, a leptin hormone can come from your fat cells and it will affect the brain region that controls energy consumption. Or cortisol, which is secreted from your adrenal glands just above your kidneys, can affect your memory.

When we understand the relationship between sleep decline and stress with these master hormone controls, we can reach the highest control over our willpower – that is, it will become second nature.

Insulin: Hormones of Storage

Sleep is also required for the regulation of our hormones, including insulin. Research shows that, even for a few nights of sleep impairment, insulin resistance in a healthy person may increase temporarily.

Short-term sleep impairment has been shown to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, but there is good news: a weekend of sleep catch-up (about 9.7 hours per night) seems to reverse some of the adverse effects of sleep-debt.

On the other hand, the catch-up method is not just a bad habit but also a low-quality long-term health strategy.

Ghrelin: Hunger Hormone

Ghrelin is another hormone that is affected by sleep. Ghrelin tells your brain when it's time to get hungry. Ghrelin levels increase before meals, or when your stomach has no food, and decrease when your stomach is extended. Your actions may also be affected by this hormone: the amount of food you eat has been shown to increase in mice and humans when they are injected with ghrelin.

Only one day of sleep debt can cause an increase in Ghrelin production. This can cause an increase in consumption of more than 400 to 500 calories, mainly carbohydrates, on average for one night's sleep deprivation. It also increases inflammation, blood pressure, and cognitive problems.

In addition to sleeping more, how can we get ghrelin to work for us? By eating fewer but larger meals will make your body less hormonal.

Leptin: The Satiety Hormone

Sleep can harm another hormone. Leptin is a hormone that contributes to inhibiting the energy balance of starvation and sleep deprivation. Leptin controls energy expenditure by acting on the Master Metabolic Regulator of the brain, the Hypothalamus. The more fat cells one has, the more leptin is produced and circulates throughout the body.

The brain takes higher levels of leptin as permission to open the throat a little bit more to increase the rate at which our bodies consume calories—after all, food seems to be abundant! Like insulin, leptin can develop resistance to the "satiety" signal, and the beneficial effect of leptin on metabolism is lost.

This is a sad paradox for people who want to lose weight and try to keep it away—they fight against lower leptin levels and leptin resistance. Low leptin increases famine as thyroid activity, sympathetic tone, and skeletal muscle energy consumption decreases, leading to significant metabolic slowdown.

Growth Hormones: Hormones to repair and maintain

Growth hormone, or GH in adults, is primarily known as a remedial hormone due to its role. The athlete is familiar with the use of GH to improve performance, namely its ability to speed up connective tissue repair. However, GH, a pituitary gland hormone secreted by the brain, is also a cognitive modulator that has been shown to improve many aspects of brain function, including speed and mood.

GH replacement therapy in older adult patients has been shown to improve cognitive function after just five months in patients with mild cognitive impairment (predementia, which often leads to Alzheimer's disease).

Growth hormone injections are both illegal and potentially dangerous. However, there are some natural ways to boost growth hormone. While growth hormone deficiency can severely affect a child's growth and stature, it has a very different role in adults: maintaining lean mass over periods of fasting. one of the best ways to increase growth hormones is through Intermittent fasting.

When one fast from 14 to 16 hours, in a female, and from 16 to 18 hours in male, the growth hormone levels rise. Growth hormone has been reported to increase up to 2 000 percent after twenty-four hours of fasting!

In addition to fasting, heating (use of sauna, for example) is a powerful way to boost the growth hormone. Two 22-minute saunas at 80°C (176°F) in a small study, separated by a 30-minute cool-off period, resulted in a doubling in growth hormone levels among young male participants. Another study conducted in young males found a noticeable 16-fold increase in the growth hormone after two 1-hour sessions daily at 82°C (180°F). However, after the third day of repeated exposure, it slowed down. It may be helpful to separate your sessions as your body begins to adapt to it.

Be careful, as it is even easier to deplete your GH than to boost it. Chronic stress is one of the most important modern growth hormone antagonists. Another is the consumption of carbohydrates will immediately deactivate the production GH. This explains why low-calorie diets without a reduction in carbohydrates consumption can result in muscle loss and fat loss.

Finally, sleeping less than 7 hours per day has proven to be detrimental to the production of growth hormones. Indeed, most of our body's growth hormone is produced while sleeping, so shooting for 8 hours a night is critical.

Cortisol: the Hormone of Carpe Diem

The master circadian regulator, Cortisol, is at its peak when you wake up and creates temporary catabolism in the body. Cortisol is often thought to be a stress hormone and a 'waking' hormone that releases energy in the morning as carbs, fats, and amino acids. If both insulin and cortisol are present (i.e. after a carbohydrate rich breakfast), the fat burning effect of cortisol is shut down, and only the catabolic effect on your muscles is exerted – clearly, not the desired scenario.

If skipping breakfast is not an option then aim for a breakfast with only fat and protein and fibrous vegetables—not carbohydrates. This goes against the popular dogma of starting a day with a bowl of oatmeal or cereal.

Cortisol and adrenaline, which are now passing through your body, have several physiological effects. First, the heart rate and blood pressure rise, salivary secretions stop, and digestion slow down. Blood leaves the digestive tract and returns to important locations, such as your muscles.

Chronically, your body's response to these hormones can create serious problems when you have prolonged, repeated exposure to these stress stimuli. Stress, therefore, is a vicious and indiscriminate murderer. While in small exposures it is life-saving, chronic activation promotes inflammation, increases blood sugar, causes insulin resistance, contributes to nutrient deficiencies, increases intestinal permeability, and more. In addition, if you add carbs to chronic stress, this is a recipe for disaster. It may not surprise you at this point to learn that our brain is shrinking as our waist grows.

Have you ever seen anyone with a bulging center but stunningly thin arm and legs? This is the picture of chronic stress. It's completely different from typical obesity, where all—legs, arms, ass—are larger but in similar proportions. It's all different from that. Because deep abdominal fats are not only expanding but are four times more cortisol responsive (the fats you can 'pinch' under your skin) than subcutaneous fats. This is because they wrap around your heart, your liver, and other major organs.

When cortisol is elevated, any carbohydrate intake promotes fat production, as deep abdominal fat is the most dangerous and inflammatory type of fat called visceral fat. This is unique in that the person under stress suffers from concentrated carbohydrate consumption. (This is another reason why eating carbs in the morning is a bad idea when cortisol is naturally at its peak.)

If you experience stress, you should react twice: first, address that stress and second, maintain low glucose and fructose concentration. Here are some other essential tips for stress-relief:

  1. Don't medicate, meditate. Meditation can be intimidating to beginners, but it's worth it. A small Thai study of stressed medical students found that cortisol decreased by 20% over four meditation days.

  2. Outdoor, spend a lot more time. We have lost contact with nature, but the mere fact that we see greenness reduces physiological stress and improves cognitive function.

  3. Exercise smart—alternate between aerobic "low and slow" (bike or nature walk) sessions and heavy bursts (anaerobic). Cortisol can be increased by regular medium-intensity cardio sessions (on a treadmill for 45 minutes, for example).

  4. Give yourself a massage (or pay for it—never a bad investment!). A 2010 study at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles showed that five weeks of Swedish massage significantly reduced serum cortisol compared to light-touch controls.

  5. Exercise deep breathing. Easy, yet effective. Exhalation activates the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for the "rest and digestion" process of the body.

For a specific time, chronic elevation of cortisol has been known to jeopardize the supply of BDNF to the brain and the atrophy of vulnerable structures such as the hippocampus that even cause dendrites (important for physical memory) to recede. Hippocampus typically blocks incorrect stress reactions to reinforce the negative aspects of stress. Repeated stress hurts your ability to manage stress, and research shows that.

More recent research has shown new mechanisms that can affect your brain's long-term health through chronic stress. Chronic stress has been shown to activate the brain's immune system, causing inflammation, similar to that of an infection. However, chronic exposure to stress hormones has recently been associated with a distinctive Alzheimer's disease plaque. Elevated cortisol duration has shown to decrease the concentration of insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE) in monkeys' brains. IDE is involved in the breakdown of insulin and amyloid-beta in the brain, both of which form plaques typical of Alzheimer's disease.

Chronic stress, as you can see, is a critical threat to our cognitive health. However, not all stress is the same thing!

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The entire contents of this website are based upon a registered holistic nutritionist and a registered pharmacist. Please note that HPN Inc. content is not advised by a dietitian, physician or other licensed healthcare professional. The information on this website is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace other qualified healthcare professional's care. This content is not intended to diagnose or treat any diseases. Always consult with your primary care physician or other licensed healthcare providers for all diagnosis and treatment of any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen. As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist & a Registered Pharmacist, it is out of HPN's scope of practice to diagnose or treat disease. Tests ordered by a qualified health care professional & medication prescribed by a physician may be used to confirm nutritional deficiencies & medication management contributing to various health conditions.
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© 2021 by Holistic Pharmacy & Nutrition Inc.   Toronto, Ontario

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