Little Bites of Nutrition - #9

Sleep

Once again, I am not going to talk about food directly. There are aspects of our lives that affect the way we consume and process the food we eat though. One of these is sleep.

There is just so much benefit when we make a good night’s sleep a priority. We make better food choices, have fewer cravings, our immune system works better, we reduce inflammation, our stress responses are more proportional to the stressors in our lives, our memory and cognition are better, our decision-making skills are improved, our muscle recovery is faster and we perform better at the gym. We cannot ignore our bodies need for renewal. If we do, our best efforts in nutrition and exercising more may not work.  According to the Centers of Disease Control, insufficient sleep is associated with a number of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression.

Our ancestors used to be governed by the rising and setting of the sun. This has now been manipulated artificially and fairly disregarded in the past century. Add to this all our digital stimulation though our computers and phones. Excessive artificial light and digital stimulation after dark are the primary culprits in disturbing the flow of melatonin and other hormones that bring optimal sleep and restoration. If you have ever gone camping, you may have experienced the natural drowsiness that comes from sitting around the campfire. Soon after it gets dark, our body starts to produce melatonin. It causes you to feel drowsy by slowing down your brain and metabolism. The blue light that our digital devices emit are quite powerful and register with our bodies the same as the noon day sun. Have you ever experienced that “second wind” after staying up late watching TV or on your phone? Here’s an interesting comparison: a candle emits 1800 Kelvin (measurement of electromagnetic spectrum), incandescent indoor light burns at 3000K, the sun at mid-day is 5500K and most computer screens are 6500K! No wonder we get that second wind!

So what can we do? The first step is to be aware and to see what changes you can make. I know it’s hard and this is where I personally struggle the most. Once the kids are in bed, I feel like it’s “MY” time. I don’t want to go to bed! But I can testify to the increased cravings in the late hours of the night and the next day. I can also testify to the natural drowsiness when I make the effort to turn off the devices and dim the lights. Here are some practical ideas to help get your body back to the natural circadian rhythm:

1) Dim the lights after dark. There are even nifty yellow glasses that you can put on if you want to get geeky.

2) Screen time curfew – turn the digital devices off 1-2 hours before bedtime. Replace the routine of using digital devices with going for an evening stroll, quiet reading, taking a bath, conversation, or board games.

3) Install a free application for your devices called F.lux. It changes your screen hue temperature to go along with the sun. It’s available at www.justgetflux.com

So maybe this week, make a commitment to getting to bed early and see how your life, your body and your appetite is affected.