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Sleeping Beauty - 4 Tips To Improve Your Sleep

Updated: Feb 26

by Grace Van Berkum, R.H.N. page 29

Grace Van Berkum-Sweat Equity Magazine-sleep

Last week I was privileged to meet an international sleep expert and leader in integrative medicine approaches to sleep and dreams. We got into a discussion about sleep and how it affects people’s metabolism and overall health.  There’s no doubt about it, lack of sleep can have negative effects on your health and appearance.  According to research, sleeping less than six hours may increase insulin resistance and diabetes. It may also double risk of angina, coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke. It is obvious (but often neglected)  that sleep is just as paramount as balanced eating and exercise for optimal functioning.

Leptin and Ghrelin

Sleep directly affects hormonal health and metabolism. Two hormones that play an important role in stimulating and suppressing your appetite are leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is produced by your body’s fat cells and is responsible for decreasing hunger. Ghrelin is released by your stomach, and increases appetite. Lack of sleep lowers the levels of leptin in your blood which means you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat, and heightens the levels of ghrelin, which results in an increase of appetite.

Growth Hormone and Melatonin

While you sleep, the body releases hormones. Growth hormone and melatonin are hormones that regulate your biological clock, benefit your body tissues, and work as antioxidants to help you fight off illness. During sleep, your pituitary gland secretes more growth hormones than during your waking hours. Growth hormones stimulate cell regeneration, reproduction and growth. These hormones are also known to aid you in building muscles. This is why higher levels of growth hormones means a heightened metabolism. With a higher metabolism, you burn energy much faster which leads to easier weight loss.  Deep sleep also allows the body’s cells to increase and reduce the breakdown of proteins needed for the body to function properly. When there is a lack of sleep, there is not enough growth hormone and melatonin released to rejuvenate the body and maintain normal functioning.  Your body also has less ability to perform basic metabolic functions such as processing and regulating carbohydrates.


When your body does not receive enough sleep, hormones are increased, such as the stress hormone called cortisol which accelerates aging in the body. Getting sufficient sleep at night helps lower the cortisol levels in your blood. Higher levels of cortisol lower metabolism as the body has a difficult time metabolizing carbohydrates. Breaking protein down into glucose is stimulated by cortisol. If you have too much glucose in your body, it will negatively disrupt blood sugar levels and increases insulin.  Increased insulin is a signal to the body to store unused energy as fat. On top of this, cortisol interferes with your body’s ability to build muscle mass. If you are trying to lose weight, you want to make sure that you have low cortisol levels in your blood by getting enough sleep.  People who continue to have sleep deprivation have increased chances of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and memory loss. Take your sleep seriously if you want to be at your best. Proper sleep affects not only appetite, but also moods, emotions, focus, and overall health.

4 tips to improve the quantity and quality of your sleep:

  1. Stop eating 3 hours before bedtime.  Your body needs time to recover, detoxify, and repair.  If you are one of those people who eats before bed, your body spends its energy digesting food instead of regeneration which takes a toll on the body.  When you stop eating 3 hours before bed, your metabolism will rev up and you will have much more energy throughout the day.

  2. Set an alarm clock to go to bed! Getting into a routine of going to bed the same time every night will do wonders for your health, and will help get your body into a rhythm of getting sleepy at a consistent time in the evenings. Make sure to go to bed earlier and notice how this affects your energy levels and performance for the better.

  3. Start winding down at least 45 minutes before you turn out the light. Your body and nervous system needs to calm down so that you can drift into sleep. Drink some hot tea, do some relaxation exercises, read an inspiring book, or do some journaling.

  4. Make sure to sleep in total darkness or wear en eye patch since light will affect your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin which affects the quality of your sleep.

You are what you eat. You are what you think.


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