Our culture typically places little emphasis on the importance of sleep. We can always be doing something better, right? We have miles to run, the corporate world to conquer, and kids to tend to. Even if we slept a modest eight hours we tend to feel guilty, thinking that we are not doing enough. Not surprisingly, when our bodies are not getting adequate sleep we feel depressed, stressed, and short-tempered, and inevitably this puts strain on the body long-term. Sleep deprivation is strongly correlated with disease and mood disorders, such as major depressive disorder. Functional health looks at the whole picture of health. Nutrition, exercise and meditation are components to healthy living and are conductors to consistent, quality sleep.
The sleep-gut connection
The body depends on a balanced gastrointestinal microbiome for overall wellness. The composition of the gut’s microbiota is negatively affected by processed foods, over-consumption of alcohol, antibiotics, and other genetic factors. When the intestines are out of homeostasis, inflammation, a weakened immune system, poor sleep and mood disorders may occur. Have you ever felt nauseated during certain situations? This is a common example of how the brain and gut are connected-- your gut sends signals to your brain and your brain sends signals to your gut. If you are struggling with sleep and anxiety you may consider evaluating your diet.
Here are a few gut friendly considerations:
Drink a daily glass of kombucha or probiotic water
Have probiotic yogurts with added chia seeds, walnuts, granola and fruit (bananas, raspberries or blueberries)
Incorporate more fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickles into your diet
Probiotic rich foods, like fermented foods, are important additions to the diet as they increase microbiome diversity, decrease inflammatory proteins, and therefore improve your immune response. Furthermore, improving your gut health is essential for quality sleep.
Exercise as a sleep prescription
Exercise is associated with better sleep, and evidence is growing on the efficacy of exercise as a nonpharmacologic treatment option for poor sleep. Exercising 150-250 minutes a week (2.5-4 hours) is an ideal target for adolescents and adults if they want to reduce chances of disease, sickness; and of course, if they want to improve their sleep. The Journal of Physiology studied over 300 individuals and found that exercise training improves sleep quality through increasing energy consumption, endorphin secretion, or body temperature in a manner that facilitates sleep for recuperation of the body.
It is clear that exercise improves sleep and reduces opportunity for disease and sickness. Need ideas for making exercise a regular part of life? Try making exercise a part of family time. Go for bike rides, hikes, or turn on a workout video in the living room. Getting into the routine of exercise may be daunting at first, but remember the each journey starts with a small step. Your goal is to get moving at least 30mins a day, not to run a marathon by the end of the month. Consider getting a pass to the gym (Aspen Rec Center) or grab a friend and go rock climbing (Monkey House). Is a season pass out of your budget? You may also consider alternatives to downhill skiing like alpine touring (uphilling), cross-country skiing or snowshoeing (groomed trails are available for free). For the 2021-22 ski season the policies to uphilling access have changed, so read up on the new requirements here.
Meditation to process thought
Sleep can be greatly affected by ruminating about the day and worrying about things to come. Finding moments of stillness before trying to sleep may prove beneficial. Meditation trains the body to calm itself and return to a more centered state. For example, when you get home from work, instead of rushing off to the next thing, what if you took 5 minutes to sit in stillness and reflect? With consistent and intentional practice, your mind will find stillness far easier to achieve come time for sleep. Meditation is known to improve heart rate, blood pressure, cardiorespiratory function, reduce stress, and increase resiliency– all of which help to improve sleep quality.
Here at Aspen Ketamine Center, we advocate that it is okay to get enough sleep and not to feel guilty about it. We also encourage a functional approach to wellness, with your needs leading the way. Nutrition, exercise and meditation are all important considerations to improve the quality of sleep.
What barriers are you facing that may be preventing lifestyle change? If you need support, please explore our team of professionals today. We have staff available for nutrition counseling, IV nutrition therapy, meditation coaching, and ketamine infusions.