How Important Is Sleep?


How Important Is Sleep?

How important is a restful night of sleep? Is quality more important than quantity? Can getting less sleep lead to weight gain?

Sleep is a subject matter I have written a fair amount about in my blogs and discuss with every patient at my practice in Vancouver. As a Naturopathic Physician I continually work towards improving my own health as well as that of my patients and so I recognize the importance of an important night and morning routine for health optimization.

When we arise in the morning, we are quite literally in one of the most dehydrated states of the day. So the most important factors for me in the morning is to drink water and move my body. Most days a short meditation is also incorporated into my routine because it helps me center and set my intention for the day, it is also a wonderful way to improve my cortisol rhythm. To learn more about how to regulate cortisol rhythm refer to my blog posts on sleep and adrenal health.

If sleep wasn’t beneficial and required for human beings we would likely have evolved out of it years ago! Sleep deprivation has been clinically shown to increase body fat, increase blood pressure, disrupt blood sugar regulation, and disrupt mood hormones. The WHO has confirmed that shift work has major ramifications to longevity and immunity against disease.

Melatonin may be one of the most powerful anti-cancer hormones we produce. So when you disrupt your sleep at night, the release of this powerful hormone is quelled. Cortisol release at night disrupts the secretion of melatonin. Supplements and medications for sleep can be costly, but by adhering to simple lifestyle suggestions we can really make a difference to our sleep game. Yet most people go through life with almost a low grade fever and are so disconnected from their bodies that they can’t tell there is a problem. It’s not until they get their health together – change their diet, lifestyle – that they realize they weren’t in fact feeling well.

It’s normal to feel a bit groggy when you get up in some cases, generally due to waking up to an alarm versus waking up naturally without one. But if you feel like you need to take a nap later in the day due to sleepiness, that is a huge indication that you did not get enough sleep the night before. Other indicators your sleep may not be quite optimal are: headaches, lack of balance, cravings for carbohydrates.

UC Berkley did a study using whole brain scans to look at what happens after 24 hours of sleep deprivation and found a huge increase in energy activity in the amygdala (the survival portion of the brain) but a decrease in both energy activity and glucose uptake in the prefrontal cortex (the decision making part of your brain). Everything in our DNA drives us to get quick energy (think sugar and carbs) to support our brain, poor quality sleep or interrupted sleep can therefore easily drive up our brain’s glucose requirements and lead to sugar cravings during the day.

In one study, researchers looking at body mass index (BMI) found that for every minute later the participants went to sleep, their BMI scores went up by 0.035 over six years. This means that for every hour later someone went to bed, they gained 2.1 BMI points. In another study, adults who were late sleepers had an average BMI of 26 and adults who went to bed early only had an average BMI of 23.7.

Can you catch up on sleep? The answer is simply, no. If you’re not getting adequate sleep, you continue to carry the inventory of things that aren’t getting processed. If you don’t get at least seven hours of quality sleep daily and don’t go to bed at a reasonable time, consider shifting your bedtime to earlier in the evening. As little as a half hour could make a big difference.

So good sleep needs to be consistent and certain sleep habits and practices can stack things in your favor to help you get high quality sleep.

Here are some sleep tips:

  1. Meditation in the morning can improve deep sleep.
  2. Exercise in the morning.
  3. Adequate amounts of sunlight during the day will help keep a healthy balance between daytime cortisol and nighttime melatonin.
  4. Avoid bright light exposure in the evening. 2 hours of iPad use at night dramatically decreases melatonin secretion. Blue light spectrum is particularly harmful as it is similar to what comes from the sun. Use that time off line to read or talk to your family/friends.
  5. Creating conditions in your bedroom can also improve your sleep quality dramatically: use a cervical pillow that fits your neck position, good mattress resiliency, white-out curtains, cool room temperature, sleep in the position that feels best for you. If you snore when on your back, I recommend sleeping on your side. If your snoring is due to sleep apnea, speak to your Naturopath about attaining a healthy weight which can help with that.

In your experience, does sleeping help you lose weight? Do you have any useful tips for getting to bed earlier? How do you prioritize your time in the evening to make sure you don’t go to bed too late?

Getting better sleep will help your health in numerous ways, and it just might help you lose a few extra pounds. Give it a try for a few weeks and see if it helps.

Connect with Me!

If you or someone you know suffers with sleep issues, feel free to drop me a line on the contact us page on this siteI treat patients locally at my Naturopathic practice in Vancouver, B.C.  and worldwide via phone or Skype.

To your best health,

Dr Tasnim Adatya

Naturopathic Physician, Menopause Clinician, Acupuncturist, and Health Educator


[1] Sleep. 2015 Oct 1;38(10):1523-7.

[2] Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Jul;19(7):1374-81.

[3] Pediatr Obes. 2015 Apr;10(2):141-8.

[4] J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2015 Apr;36(3):158-65.

[5] Sleep. 2011 Oct 1;34(10):1299-307.




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