Two Elite Athletes Make Waves

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July 2, 2021 • 49:46 min

About this Episode

In this episode, naturopath and medical herbalist Amanda Williams joins our host Sara Le Brun-Blashka, MS, to talk about “the new health hero” – sleep. Adults who sleep less than the seven to eight hours that are recommended for optimal health may be more at risk for common chronic health conditions.1

Sleep and Immune Health

The link between sleep and health partially stems from the fact that immunity and sleep are bidirectionally linked. Immune function is reduced by insufficient sleep levels – innate and adaptive immune responses are affected (3:12).3,4 Ever notice you tend to sleep more when you don’t feel well? Particularly important is slow-wave, very deep sleep.

Sleep and Weight Management

Sleep is also a key factor in weight management and overall metabolic health. Studies of sleep disruption and restriction show that hunger hormones (e.g. ghrelin) increase when we don’t get enough sleep, and post-prandial insulin secretions drop by over one-third (4:56).5 This may lead to higher blood glucose and/or general disruption of glucose regulation, which may increase the risk of metabolic conditions like type 2 diabetes.6 Additionally, obstructive sleep apnea that often accompanies being overweight or obese can also create a vicious cycle of sleep disruption and weight gain.

Sleep and Digestive Health

Digestive health is also connected to sleep habits. Inflammatory gut conditions such as IBS, IBD, Crohn’s, and GERD may worsen with poor sleep (7:28).8 The gut microbiome is particularly connected to sleep, such that microbial diversity in the gut may increase with healthy sleep habits (8:32).9 The gut is intricately connected with both the brain and the immune system, making supporting sleep even more important. In general, inflammation may increase with insufficient sleep levels (9:20).

>> Audio bookmark: “Sleep is the Swiss army knife of help. It’s the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body each day. It’s Mother Nature’s best effort at contra-death.” – Dr. Matthew Walker, author of “Why We Sleep” (10:46)

Recommended Hours of Sleep

How much sleep is enough? Recommended sleep time changes with age, from 12 to 14 hours recommended for infants to seven or eight hours for adults (12:12).12,13 In addition to time spent sleeping, quality of sleep is key. How do you define good, quality sleep? Amanda discusses five key factors:14

  1. Duration: total amount of sleep obtained in 24-hour period
  2. Continuity/efficiency: the ease of falling asleep at bedtime
  3. Timing: the placement of sleep within a 24-hour period
  4. Alertness/sleepiness: the ability to maintain attentive wakefulness
  5. Satisfaction/sleep quality: a subjective assessment of sleep (17:53)

How to Sleep Better

Some of Amanda’s recommended strategies for achieving better sleep:

  • Keep a sleep diary (7-14 days)
  • Keep a routine; practice discipline
  • Support hormone balance (melatonin acts as a signal to start winding down to prepare for sleeping, and adenosine supports sleep maintenance)
  • Limit blue light/bright light in the hours before bedtime
  • Reduce alcohol intake, especially at night (23:32)

Medicinal Herbs for Better Sleep

Amanda’s favorite botanicals that support healthy sleep:

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