Up until my second year of chiropractic school, I had never thought much about sleep. I remember having a few tough nights of sleep in undergrad while living in a dorm room--being awakened by people talking in the hall or coming in after a late night. After graduating from Cornell College, I worked as a waitress for a summer and then started chiropractic school. I was sure it couldn't be that much harder than undergrad. I had been a Biology and Anthropology major and was used to demanding professors and lots of tests. But chiropractic school was something I didn't expect.
Class started typically at 7 am with labs and lasted until 5 pm or 6 pm. Because of the large number of credits we were expected to take each trimester, long days became long nights of studying, preparing often for 3 or 4 tests the following day. By the second year, my adrenal glands were fried (these small organs control your ability to sleep, wake up, provide back-up hormonal supply, as well as help regulate blood sugar)! I would often wake up at 2 am or 3 am and start worrying about what I hadn't accomplished or something that I felt I still needed a lot of practice in before a test. Often, I wouldn't fall into a deep or restorative sleep. This left me feeling like a zombie. I felt depressed. It was hard to make good decisions. I would often eat heavy-carbohydrate-laden food for comfort and quick bursts of energy. I drank more coffee than I ever should have, giving me short-term concentration but making my sleeping issues worse. I would wake up in the morning feeling jittery and stressed.
The good news is that I did recover from sleep issues and as a result, I can relate with my patient's sleep problems. I am passionate about people rediscovering the joy in a good night's sleep! I was not alone, and if you deal with sleep issues, neither are you. Millions of Americans deal with sleep problems; in fact the CDC has stated that insufficient sleep is a public health crisis. What I find so fascinating is that surveys have shown that many Americans choose to do other activities over sleep even though they feel they would benefit from more sleep.
My goal in writing this is to help our patients and community understand sleep at a deeper level as well as find solutions for achieving a better night's sleep. Most people need 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night; sick or stressed people need more. Lack of sleep leads to depression, poor decision making, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, relationship issues, weight gain, but even bigger health crisis issues such as heart disease, increased risk of stroke and diabetes. Why? During sleep, your brain recharges, your cells repair themselves, and your body releases hormones that are essential for your body's healing as well as vital communication processes in the body. These functions are so vital that lack of sleep will kill you before lack of food - 10 days without sleep can cause death, while 14 days without food has the same consequence. Chronic lack of sleep increases cortisol levels, a hormone that maintains a stress response by increasing blood sugar, inflammation, and weight gain around your middle.
So what do most Americans do to deal with insufficient sleep? I think most of you will have this answer - drink more caffeine, eat sugary foods or foods that quickly convert to sugar as quick fuel, or use energy drinks. Is this a good long-term solution? NO! It isn't! These short-term solutions increase blood sugar, interrupt sleep patterns, and cause adrenal fatigue (causing hormonal cascades that keep the body in either a state of exhaustion or a "tired and wired" state). This is where I was in chiropractic school: I gained weight--especially around my belly, was tired all the time, but when it came to bed time, I found myself in one of two situations: wired awake and unable to fall into a deep sleep, or I would fall asleep and wake up at 2 am or 3 am unable to fall back asleep. These typical coping mechanisms caused the pattern to repeat itself causing me to get into a deeper and deeper hole regarding energy and quality of life.
Watch for Tips 1-5 of my Top 10 Tips for Improving Your Quality of Sleep in next week's blog article!
Join us for our next Dinner with the Doc on Monday, March 20th at Applebee's for more great information about Sleep Deprivation. The CDC has declared that America is having a public health crisis over lack of sleep. This leads to everything from diabetes, depression, skin aging, heart disease, relationship issues, weight gain, and poor decision making! Lack of sleep is like working or driving with a blood alcohol level of .05 percent (the legal limit in the US is .08 percent). Come and learn how to improve your quality of sleep and change your life! RSVP by stopping by the Front Desk or calling 303-215-0390 today!