For several years, rest was not one of my priorities. Beginning perimenopause, when my children were still young, I studied at night. I was pursuing a career that would allow me to work from home. I was sleeping less than 6 hours a day and eventually this had consequences on my health.
Sleep is “the most neglected pillar of health.” As Dr. Rangan Chatterjee explains in his book The 4 Pillars of Health: “Better sleep translates to better immunity, more energy, better mood, greater focus and reduced risk of getting sick.”
In my article on Brain Health, I referred to the biological rhythm and how it synchronizes us with exogenous factors such as light and temperature. It also governs various behaviors and activities. The most obvious, of great importance for women in transition or menopause, have to do with:
- sleep-wake cycles: light and dark
- hormonal cycles: attention, energy and libido
- behavioral cycles: thermoregulation and feeding
The structures of our nervous system are interrelated and perfect. Through sensations or physical manifestations, they emit a signal. A subtle example of this is when we have turned off screens and the darkness of the night is recorded through the retinohypothalamic afferent pathway. In turn, it sends a message to the pineal gland that secretes melatonin, inducing sleep.
In an ideal environment of temperature and levels of evening cortisol, what happens if we ignore these signals? To continue with the screens and computers, neglecting the signals of our own biological clock, we would be ignoring the numbness phase. Dismissing the possibility of synchronization would affect various physiological processes including appetite and sleep.
From the Latin Privare
Sleep deprivation is vast and essential to night staff, maternity, or jet lag. Some of my academic clients and CEOs have experienced irritability, difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, or an inability to concentrate, all linked to lack of sleep. The trend to consume sweet foods or alcohol in excess at night can also account for a lack of sleep.
An immediate effect of sleep deprivation is an increase in ghrelin concentration and a reduction in leptin levels. Reason enough to reflect before succumbing to sweet or unhealthy cravings when we decide to work, study, or socialize at night.
There are neurotransmitters and neuropeptides that act as chemical mediators while we sleep. That is, they are transmitters of signals between neurons.
Ghrelin is a neuropeptide that acts in the central nervous system (CNS) modulating the energy homeostasis of the body. Its main function is to:
- act on the secretion of the growth hormone (GH)
- stimulate appetite and food intake.
Leptin, on the other hand, is the ghrelin antagonistic neuropeptide responsible for:
- notifying our brain that we are satisfied.
- promoting a feeling of satiety.
If sleep is a choice and we choose to sleep little, we are neglecting self-care. When we eat food after the last pm meal and the first am meal, we break the fast that allows the body to rest and repair itself. We also help accelerate the oxidative process of aging.
Make it come true
Habits and Sleep Ritual will help to establish a schedule to get at least 7 hours of sleep. In this way we will avoid metabolic alterations and interferences in the endocrine system, preventing the risk of obesity, diabetes and cognitive deterioration.
Although informed about the adverse effects of sleep deprivation, I was still unable to make the necessary changes in my routines. However, once I organized my time in the morning more efficiently, it was no longer necessary to work at night, thus the “nighttime healthy snack marathon” came to an end.
I extend the invitation that from now on, you embrace sleep as something very important in your life.
- Pineal gland: also called epiphysis, produces melatonin
- Cortisol: it is a steroid hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. It is activated by a threat, a product of stress that generates a danger alert. Cortisol, a product of stress, suppresses sleep. It inhibits the action of prolactin and serotonin, closely related to the regulation of sleep cycles.
- Stress: when it becomes intense, frequent or chronic, the normal cycle of cortisol is disturbed. Elevated cortisol levels in the evening/night are a direct consequence of sleep deprivation.
- Neuropeptides: they are short proteins that act by activating receptors. Some of them are: prolactin, oxytocin, ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). They work as neurotransmitters among themselves: serotonin and adenosine. They act as chemical mediators while we sleep and their direct relationship with melatonin and sleep cycles.
Body Health. Lifestyle. Menopause. Mental Wellbeing.
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