by Dr. David Minkoff November 03, 2022 5 min read
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of our life.
When our sleep is below normal, when it’s broken up or thrown off, it affects us more both physically and mentally than we realize.
Sleep is when most fat burning and muscle building occurs, as well as when most cellular repair happens.
Our cortisol levels lower when we get good sleep and we become less stressed or anxious and more able to relax. This helps balance out hormones and neurotransmitters.
Additionally, our cravings for food – especially sugars – decrease.
But when we get poor or broken sleep, our cortisol levels rise, lowering testosterone, growth hormones, and progesterone — our fat burning, muscle building, bone-strengthening, calming hormones. It raises our appetite and increases our stress levels.
Cellular repair slows down, healing and recovery decelerates, and we have a better chance to become ill.
All this to say, it’s very important to get the best sleep we can. So here are a few tips to get better sleep.
Cortisol is a key hormone which raises our stress levels.
It’s released in the morning to help us wake up. If we’re tired, our body releases even more to help us through the day.
Cortisol, especially when high, breaks down the calming neurotransmitters GABA and Serotonin, making it harder to relax.
Ideally, cortisol is supposed to be lowest before bedtime. When it’s not, we can’t sleep. It’s this lack of sleep that leads to even more cortisol being released the next day.
So what raises cortisol the most?
A high sugar diet. Especially processed sugars.
These spike the hormone insulin, which builds fat, prevents the burning of fat, and raises cortisol along with it.
The high sugars also cause inflammation, which in turn raises cortisol to fight this.
While eating a lot of processed sugar before bed can knock us out, it’s doing so the wrong way. It’s not relaxing the body, but filling it with sugar overload. This is a sugar coma, not refreshing sleep – and you won’t wake up feeling energized from it.
These processed sugars raise cortisol, throwing off your other hormones and neurotransmitters. As cortisol levels rise, even if you fall asleep, you may wake up throughout the night.
So the very first thing, cut out the processed sugars. They don’t benefit your body in any way.
Instead, make sure you have a high protein, high fat meal at dinner. It stays in the digestive system much longer, releasing nutrition over many hours while you sleep, and provides the bacteria that produce calming neurotransmitters with the foods they need.
After a week off processed sugars and on a higher protein diet you will notice a difference.
When we exercise, and especially when we work our muscles, many things optimize in the body.
Cellular repair starts, excess energy is worked out, excess cortisol is worked out of the muscles, and growth hormone and testosterone levels rise, which also help sleep.
Neurotransmitters become balanced and our body is able to calm down.
It also shortens the time we take to fall asleep, so we’re not lying in bed thinking.
One key thing here though. While some people do just fine working out right before bed, most don’t.
I wouldn’t recommend working out later than 4-5 hours before you plan to fall asleep, and if it’s strenuous exercise, more like 6-7 hours before bed. Otherwise your system can still be energized, the opposite effect of what is wanted when trying to sleep.
The best times to workout then are generally in the morning or midday. Adding this in addition to a high protein diet can work wonders.
There are two main types of light that affect us in different ways. Yellow light calms us down, lowering cortisol levels, while blue light wakes us up, and raises cortisol levels.
If you sat around a campfire or fell asleep on a sunny day, you know how relaxing yellow light can be. It’s natural light from the sun, fires, and incandescent light bulbs (the kind we used to use).
Blue light comes from fluorescent lights & LED bulbs (much more common now). It also comes from computer and phone screens.
This type of light raises cortisol levels that wake us up instead of calming us down.
If we’re looking at our phones before bed this can stimulate us, making it harder to fall asleep.
Instead, stop looking at your phone at least an hour before bed. Get incandescent bulbs for your bedroom and read a book, for half an hour or an hour before bed.
Give your body time to wind down from the day.
And if you really have trouble falling asleep, read fairy tales. Yes. Really. The old kind your parents used to read to you when you were young.
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GABA and Glycine are the two most important inhibitory neurotransmitters. They are known to support a calm mind and support healthy responses to stress.
The amino acid Taurine stimulates both GABA and glycine pathways, so you can let go of that tension keeping you awake at night.
Glycine can improve sleep quality and even reduce the effects of sleep deprivation, while Glutamine activates relaxation response in the brain and stimulates GABA production.
Pyroxidal 5-phosphate (aka activated vitamin B6) also helps your brain make GABA as well as melatonin, the sleep hormone.
5-HTP, the precursor to serotonin, is involved with regulating your sleep cycle, mood, and sense of well-being.
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Using Optimum Sleep Assist before bed will promote hormonal shifts that may help: Recovery from training – Muscle growth – Decreased appetite – Weight Management – Faster injury repair – Deeper sleep – Improved brain function – Wake up alert and refreshed.
Try it out. I hope this helps.
by Dr. David Minkoff
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