"Let's Sleep on It"

By Rob Dorgan and Steve Bolia

Man sleeping

“Early to Bed, Early to Rise, Makes a Man Healthy, Wealthy and Wise" - and it can be the best diet you’ve ever been on!

As mammals, our bodies are supposed to sleep and rest when it’s cold and dark and hunt and eat while it’s warm and light. This is how the evolution of our spices work As the sun rises, certain hormones in our body rise while others fall. Then, as the sun goes down, the reverse hormonal exchange happens, making us tired. This back-and-forth shift in these hormones is natural and keeps the whole body in rhythm. When you are sleeping, melatonin rises; this rise signals the production of leptin which suppresses hunger, so you can sleep! Way back when, we used the long days of summer and the plentifulness of food, to build a layer of fat which we could live off of during the short days of winter when food was scarce.

With the invention of electricity (less than a century and a half ago), we have created the long days of summer 365 days a year – the cold, short days never come and we eat and eat and get fatter and fatter.

Getting enough sleep every night could very well be the most important factor in overall wellness. You should know that there are things which go on in our guts with our hormones, which only happen while we are sleeping. This hormonal exchange at night, boosts our body’s immune system, gives us energy during the day and cuts our cravings for carbohydrates. You see, as you sleep, your insulin (a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar from carbohydrates in the foods you eat for energy or to store glucose for future use) and cortisol levels (a hormone made in the adrenal glands which is normally released in response to events and circumstances such as waking up in the morning, exercising, and acute stress) should drop so you can sleep without feeling hungry. Your body also begins to make melatonin as you fall asleep. Then as the sun rises and you awake, your cortisol levels begin to elevate, prompting hunger and melatonin is suppressed spontaneously with the coming daylight.

But what happens when you stay up too late is that your insulin levels stay high during the night and cortisol levels fall so late in the evening that they won’t come up to normal levels by morning. Low levels or cortisol in the morning make it easy to skip breakfast because you are just not hungry. And, breakfast is the most important meal of the day to keep you from binging later in the day, which just makes you fat. Low levels of cortisol in the morning also make you less able to deal with stress during the day. Then, when you do rise with an alarm, your melatonin levels are still high, giving you a melatonin hangover.

According to Lights Out, by T.S. Wiley, “The real problem is that without a rise in cortisol, you have no dopamine (a chemical in your brain that affects your emotions, movements and your sensations of pleasure and pain). Your cortisol is not high enough to deal the stress during the day and even whacks your time perception. Without cortisol to enhance dopamine, the day seems to go too fast.”

Without enough sleep at night, a non-productive chain reaction of events occurs inside our bodies. This then makes you more stressed and eat more during the day and night and these days, carbohydrates are what we tend to reach for. So sleep with the rhythms of the seasons and bring balance back to your body.

Rob Dorgan and Steve Bolia are both on the staff for Easton Mountain's first Wellness Camp, June 14-18, 2017.  At this Camp, they will cover the many facets of a lifestyle that will lead you to better health.