Sleep Part 3 - Needed to Keep You Healthy

Mar 18, 2020

By Barret Procyshyn, Family Pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

With COVID-19 or the coronavirus on everyone's minds and it hits closer to home, sleep is extremely important. You might be losing some sleep if you watch the news right before bed. Not only is the blue light emitted from your screen dangerous, reading about a virus spreading around the world is not relaxing. The truth is you need to try and sleep properly to stay healthy. Everything from your decision making to your immune function depends on getting good rest. If you end up with an illness quality sleep is some of the best medicine. Without good sleep, your body produces less cytokines, a type of protein which targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating your body's immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, need to sleep!

To fix your sleeping habits, you need to understand sleep. If you have missed the last two articles, you can review them at Next, it is important to know the impact what you are putting into your body and how you are treating your body impacts sleep. Last week I touched on melatonin and a lesser known hormone called adenosine. Adenosine is important to focus on because this is where caffeine comes in.

Its also the piece of getting proper sleep I personally struggle with most because I love caffeine. Caffeine enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine and can have a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after it is consumed. Caffeine binds to the adenosine receptor. While adenosine would normally cause drowsiness, caffeine doesn't slow down the cell's activity like adenosine would. Rather than slowing down because of the adenosine's effect, the nerve cells speed up.

Caffeine has a half life of five to eight hours in the body, meaning if you consume a cup of coffee with 200mg of caffeine, up to eight hours later there may be still 100mg of caffeine left in your system. This is enough to keep you up and even if you fall asleep it may be enough to decrease the quality of your sleep. Because the time it takes to clear caffeine, do not consume it within six hours of bedtime. There are numerous studies to support the idea that caffeine causes physical dependence. If you are dependent on caffeine and want to loosen its grip, do not quit it cold turkey. Withdrawal, including headache, fatigue and muscle pain will likely occur.

Try slowing reducing the amount you consume later in the day first, slowing titrating the amount you consume down. Further, you can start switching your coffee for teas containing caffeine. Then you can begin to substitute the tea with herbal teas that do not contain caffeine. By reducing your caffeine intake, you might find having a cup when you need a boost, really does work. Please also remember energy drinks can have extremely high amounts of caffeine and should be avoided if possible.

You need to eat healthy, by finding foods from good sources. Eating inflammatory foods and foods prepared in inflammatory oils will only make your sleep suffer. If the food you are eating contains ingredients you aren't familiar with, it is likely not a good food. Eating later in the day can interfere with digestion and when you lay flat for the night, heartburn or acid reflux can occur. Eating a smaller meal toward the end of the day will allow your body to digest more easily and then the brain can focus on sleeping when its time. If you are eating whole foods, the time you consume them likely doesn't matter.

Exercise also has an important on how sleep. It can not only increase the duration of our rest, but the quality of our sleep. Exercise early in the morning, wakes you up, it gets muscles moving, energy related hormones. Because of the extra energy expenditure that comes with exercise you will feel more tired and ready to rest at the end of the day. Exercise is also great at reducing anxiety and stress. Working out too late in the day can interfere with sleep. Aside from making you feel more awake, it can increase your body temperature, not allowing the body to properly rest in the night. With some research, it was interesting to note there is some evidence cardio exercise should be switched out for weight bearing exercise instead. Regardless do the exercises you enjoy doing, either earlier in the day or by mid afternoon and do not over train. Sleep is required to help the body heal after exercise so exercise and sleep go hand in hand.

Hopefully through this series on sleep, you have some tools to start working on your sleep health. Keep the routines, ditch the screens, exercise and eat healthy to make life better. A great night's sleep will go a long way in boosting your immune function and overall health.


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