The Link Between Sleep Cravings Diabetes and Cancer

Today science has discovered that sleep may be even more important than healthy eating and exercise. Our sleep patterns have a deep effect on food cravings, weight balance, mental balance and organ function. After much investigation, author, botanist and indigenous living expert Arthur Haynes reveals that age-old sleep solutions out trump new-fangled gadgets for effective rest and regeneration.

Considering we spend almost a third of our lives sleeping, it’s amazing how little we give it attention. It’s no longer considered macho to survive on minimal sleep, quite the contrary. “There is a host of studies that suggest sleep effects your immune system, blood pressure, wound healing rate, stress levels, cardiac health, renal health, gastrointestinal function and most importantly your epigenetic expression (switching genes on or off). To avoid this part of your life is setting yourself up for problems like cancer, metabolic dysfunction and a whole host of other things. Health is not just about what we eat and drink and the movement we get during the day, it’s about establishing really good sleep patterns.”

Food Cravings

woman eating a large piece of cake

“When we go to sleep, our core temperature drops, our metabolism slows down, our melatonin (sleep hormone) increases and we trigger the production of another hormone called leptin.” This hormone is responsible for satiating our hunger. “It’s really important that we are not feeling hungry in the middle of the night because eating at night throws off all circadian clocks.”

Our main circadian clock is run by our hypothalamus, which receives signals from the sun and the night sky as to whether it’s night or day. But our organs have their own circadian clocks governed by our hormonal status. For instance the pancreas understands what time of day it is according the insulin produced from eating. If we eat late at night the pancreas thinks it’s daytime and leptin production is suppressed. This confusion can to lead to midnight snacks and elevated hunger during the day.

If the hypothalamus is telling your brain that it’s night-time and your organs think it’s daytime, the metabolic balance is thrown out creating a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. To establish vitality we need our circadian rhythms in synch.

Vitamin Sunlight

Holiday

Light is literally a nutrient for us.” Bright daylight anchors our circadian rhythm. The typical artificial indoor light is between 100 and 2000 lux units, as apposed to daylight which is 100,000 lux or greater. “People are often not getting bright sunlight to tell their body ‘this is day’. And we are certainly not getting it early in the morning when we need it.” Most of us rush from our house to our car and into the office without absorbing daylight through our eyes. “This lack of light really affects the quality of our sleep. We are malnourished of daylight”

Night Light

sleep

Melatonin should run for around 11 hours without interruption.” Many of the gadgets that have been developed to enhance our lives could actually be culprits in compromising our well being; one of these is electric lighting. Moonlight, candlelight and firelight don’t have any negative impact on our melatonin production, but electric lighting does. “What we know is that it takes a certain intensity of light to prompt alertness to take us away from sleep and that is 50 lux. Bright moonlight is only 1 lux.” Lamps start from 100 lux.

Candlelight and firelight are strong in the orange spectrum, where daylight contains shorter wavelengths such as blue light. “As it turns out research shows that it’s blue light that really stimulates alertness. So if we watch television just before we go to bed it actually stimulates alertness in the way that flame does not.” Even though a smartphone isn’t really bright holding it close to our eyes at night fills our retina blue light. “So it isn’t just the light intensity, but it’s also the wavelength of light that are really critical for helping us get sleep.”

Instead of the essential bright day and dark night, we have melded them into a dim day and bright night, both of which interfere with melatonin production. After the evening meal we don’t need anything more than candle light or firelight to unwind from the day.

Cancer Protection

avocados fight cancer

Melatonin armours us against cancer. “Melotonin is an antioxidant that prevents the charged cells that can create cancer. It also triggers apoptosis (programmed cell death).” Melatonin encourages cells with damaged DNA to commit suicide, preventing the formation of cancer. “It posses anti-angiogenisis action; meaning it prevents the formation of blood vessels to tumours, which they need to fuel their growth. Melatonin also has the ability to slow cell division in our body and in the growth of cancer cells. Studies from 2001 showed night shift nurses have a 36% to 40% increased risk of cancer compared to day nurses.”

Sleep Routine is Key

Moving sleep times really disrupts our melatonin production. “Hunter-gatherers went to bed a few hours after sunset and woke at the same time every day no matter what time of the year. This is an important point because waking at the same time helps to create an anchor for the circadian rhythm. No matter how poor your sleep was last night, get up at the same time everyday to create a good sleep cycle.”

Cool Fresh Night Air

At night the air naturally cools and so does our body temperature. Research found that sleeping with a good supply of fresh air and allowing our body temperature to cool actually encourages deeper quality sleep than keeping the room a moderate temperature all night. This also helps one to get out of bed feeling refreshed and alert, ready to start the day. Going outside and getting your morning light then activates your productive energy for the day.

Grounding

couple running on the beach

Another factor that clearly impacts our melatonin production is being earthed. Much like the plugs in your socket, your body also needs to ‘plug in’ to the earth. Research suggests that when we stand on the grass, soil, bricks or concrete with bare feet, our build up of daily electromagnetic fog diffuses into the ground, and we absorb free electron molecules from the ground that help to create healthy hormone production. During trials subjects that slept on earthed beds reported clear improvement in sleep quality.

It appears that the natural elements are essential for not only getting a good nights sleep but also for preventing binge eating, diabetes and cancer.