Sleep is one of the most important health parameters you should be ensuring you are getting enough of, including a high-quality diet and exercise. While missing one hour of sleep every once in a while is normal, missing an hour of sleep consistently can lead to serious health concerns. On average, adults need anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep per night, depending on the individual.
Insomnia is linked to many medical conditions due to the stress that missed sleep can place on the body. Diseases correlated with insomnia include cardiovascular disease, hypertension, chronic pain, breathing problems, type-2 diabetes, among others. Many of these health conditions are due to elevated cortisol levels and the interaction between other hormones. Cortisol is one of our stress hormones, which is elevated whenever we miss sleep.
Increased stress levels can have a damaging effect on our interpersonal relationships, as individuals experiencing insomnia report decreased enjoyment of relationships. This isn’t surprising when we consider that when we feel bad we often end up taking out suffering out on others.
Insomnia has more than medical consequences as one study showed those with chronic insomnia are twice as likely to miss work, have difficulty concentrating and performing their duties at work. Studies have shown that those that experience insomnia also report reduced quality of life in dimensions such as physical functioning, body pain, perceptions of general health, vitality, social functioning, mental health, and limitations in roles due to emotional and physical health problems.
A person’s mental health may be of particular vulnerability to missing sleep as studies have shown that insomnia is linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, dementia, alcohol and drug abuse, and other cognitive disorders.
Studies have shown that those who got under 7.7 hours of sleep per night were associated with an elevated body mass index (BMI). The study showed that below eight hours of sleep, the amount of missed sleep was proportional to the increase in BMI of the individuals studied with corresponding reduced leptin and increased ghrelin levels. Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones involved in the regulation of appetite.
Botanical medicine has been tackling sleep issues for years and there are some that have been shown to aid people in falling and staying asleep. Two important chemicals involved in sleep are melatonin, the hormone that is released when it gets dark outside, and serotonin, one of our primary sleep hormones. Because melatonin is one of the hormones that signal to our bodies that it’s time to sleep, you’ll find this hormone in many sleep supplements.
If you’ve ever had to take a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) then you’re aware of the sleep-inducing effects of these medications. This is because serotonin is vital in the sleep process. The precursor to serotonin in our biological pathways is 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). This precursor can help those suffering from sleep problems by providing the precursor materials necessary to produce serotonin.
These aren’t the only botanicals and nutrients that can be useful in getting a good night’s rest. Others that may be the missing key to the best sleep of your life include chamomile, lemon balm, Ashwagandha, passion flower, hops, and others!
Dr. Kasey Nichols,
Co-Chief Medical Officer of Naguna Labs