For as long as I can remember, I have been a good sleeper. I would be that friend at sleepovers that would sleep so long that my friends would go to church and come back and I’d still be in bed! For a long time, my parents wouldn’t call me before noon because otherwise there was a wrath to follow. I’m happy to say that I still love sleep, but I am up before noon. ;) Last weekend, I sat in on a presentation by a former Navy Seal named Dr. Parsley and listened to all the things he was doing in his clinic to keep patients healthy, beautiful, and free from hormone imbalance. You want to know what his secret is? SLEEP!
We tend to see sleep as a luxury in the US because you can sleep when you’re dead, right? However, many cultures value sleep, build naps into their schedule of working, and see it for what it is: a requirement for normal hormone function. Losing hours of sleep mimics the aging process in so many ways. Not only does it make you look older, it makes you hang on to excess weight, become cranky, and slows down your nervous system’s ability to adapt. REM sleep specifically is when your brain converts short term memory into long term memory and without REM, you may feel as though you need to be told the same thing over and over again or read the same page in your book over and over again. This decrease in memory and cognitive function isn’t just for the elderly, its for anyone at any age that isn’t getting enough zzz’s.
Lack of sleep also decreases your thyroid function by about 30 %. When you have decreased thyroid function, you also have lowered cognitive capability and tend to lose your ability to react to stressful situations without being overly emotional. Can we say “middle age sob-fest?!” If I see anything in practice becoming a huge concern, it’s hypothyroidism. There are thyroid receptors on every single cell in your body. If you’re not making enough, you could experience things like anxiety, constipation, cold intolerance, skin issues, and a complete lack of energy. I won’t go off on a tangent, but the normal ranges for TSH these days are NOT normal. If this sounds like you, have someone take a closer look with you….please.
For all of you out there trying to fight the aging process, decreased sleep decreases your collagen, elastin, and keratin production in your skin which results in wrinkles, dull skin, and brittle hair. UGH. Who knew that you could bypass all those appointments with the dermatologist by just getting more sleep!? Have you ever wondered what actually makes people look their age? Think about it. How do you know someone is 20 vs 28? 20 vs 35? puppy vs dog? It’s hard to pinpoint how you KNOW someone is around a certain age when it’s not due to grey hair or wrinkles, but we usually know approximately what age someone is. It’s actually because of fat pad distribution. You have fat pads above and below your eyes which open them up and a fat pad behind the eye that pushes your eye forward. As that fat decreases, your eyes sink in ever so slightly and you continue to age. Many people get BOTOX to look younger, but according to Dr. Parsley, it makes your muscles atrophy and you ultimately end up looking older because as your fat pads redistribute and muscles harden, you get something he calls “skeleton face.”
As if beauty, cognitive function, and thyroid production wasn’t enough, lack of sleep also decreases your testosterone production and insulin sensitivity by about 30%! Tons of people are flocking to get testosterone replacement to stay youthful and lean; it is HUGE for what your body looks like. Lowered testosterone also contributes to sex drive in both men and women! Decreased sleep results in lack of sex drive, getting pudgy, and developing signs of diabetes! Man, if only we just valued sleep, we could avoid being dumb, fat, ugly, and slow, and possibly diabetic! Let me put sprinkles on the cake here and say that if you are an athlete, REM sleep is when your body rebuilds by producing anabolic hormones. So, yes, even the young, lean, athletes require sleep.
EVERYONE NEEDS SLEEP! Aim for 8 hours a night and anything less is building a sleep debt. If you have trouble sleeping regardless of all your attempts, you may have something bigger going on and should consider testing; your health relies on it. We can’t escape aging but we can age well, age gracefully, and be a badass at any age!