At Dr. Autoimmune, the tenets of functional medicine inform every consultation about sleep optimization. We work with patients to uncover what might be behind sleep issues and setting goals to achieve an amazing night’s sleep!
Do you personally struggle with sleep? Falling asleep, waking up throughout the night, struggling with chronic exhaustion, or just achieving a consistent schedule of rest – these are all common nighttime struggles. No matter the reason, a great amount of Americans find adequate sleep to be elusive.
Why does this matter? Well, with 1 in 3 adults not getting enough sleep, the CDC states that insufficient sleep is actually considered a public health problem!1 According to the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, people with sleep deficiency are at greater risk of health complications, including heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and obesity. And from a functional medicine perspective, research indicates that if a person is not getting adequate sleep, all other health practices, such as diet and exercise, potentially become irrelevant. Sleep optimization just may take the gold medal when talking about maximizing health.2
While sleep is certainly essential to many known physiological functions, such as hormone regulation and metabolism, an increasing body of research suggests that another one of those essential functions may also include the theory of the glymphatic system (or paravascular clearance pathways), highlighting the critical role of sleep in the clearance of many brain toxins.3
The glymphatic system is a newly discovered waste clearance system in the brain. The word “glymphatic” is a combination of the words “glial” and “lymphatic,” as the glymphatic system is theorized to work through the utilization of glial cells to help clear the brain of waste in a way similar to the lymphatic system. Glial cells surround neurons and hold them in place, supply nutrients and oxygen to neurons, insulate one neuron from another, and destroy pathogens and remove dead neurons. The lymphatic system is part of the vascular system and an important part of the immune system, composed of a large network of lymphatic vessels that carry a clear fluid called lymph. Put these two systems together, and there is the glymphatic system theory.
Essentially, the glymphatic system is suggested to actively transport cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through brain spaces, pushing CSF into glia cells that line the par avascular space. At night, this space expands, and harmful proteins and waste products are transported out of the brain. In plain language, research says sleep is critical for our bodies to rid themselves of brain toxins.4 When the glymphatic system is not activated due to lack of sleep, the consequences show up as brain fog, fatigue and depression, just to name a few! Even more concerning diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart and liver disease and more become possible when long-term sleep deprivation is an issue.5
For many, understanding sleep’s vital role in human health seems to be the easy part, but actually practicing better sleep hygiene can be very difficult. So, what can you do to optimize your sleep? Start by implementing these simple sleep hygiene hacks:
And what happens when even these things are not helping you get a healthy amount of quality sleep? We still have options. It may be time to look at your sleep brain wave, or “Delta” level, using mapping. Brain mapping is a non-invasive way to dive further into the root causes of insomnia, and neurofeedback can actually train these pathways back into a healthier place. Further functional medicine testing of your circadian rhythm can also clue us into whether stress is driving problematic sleep.
For all these reasons and more, we strongly encourage optimizing sleep, both in quantity of hours and quality of rest. If shut eye continues to elude you and our sleep hacks don’t work, simple practices like breathing, meditation, neurofeedback, supplements and more may help.
And if all this fails? We remain optimistic! At Dr. Autoimmune, we work with each patient individually to uncover what might be behind sleep issues, and we co-author plans of action to work towards an amazing night’s rest:
Ian really knows A LOT about thyroid problems! His knowledge and confidence convinced me to make the lifestyle changes -including no gluten, no sugar, and more exercise-that are essential to healing hormonal imbalances and to staying well. Several months later, I feel stronger, more energetic, and am happier than I have felt in a long time. Many thanks for all your help!
We’ve set up a comprehensive new patient special that includes everything necessary to determine the root cause of your condition and start you on the journey to getting your life back.
✓ 1-Hour Comprehensive Physical and Neurologic Exam
✓ Advanced Brain Mapping
✓ Complete Blood Panel – Examining Over 80 Unique Markers (Includes lab fees)
✓ Follow Up Session to Review Findings and Develop Customized Care Plan
Optimal wellness is just a click away.