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Sleep: An Essential Ingredient for the Paleo Lifestyle

When you begin living Paleo, you will sleep better. Cave men had good sleeping habits, and when you begin to maintain good sleeping habits, you'll discover good sleep has a domino effect in your life. You'll move better, think better, and be more motivated to eat better. Sleep is your foundational piece to everything and developing living Paleo sleeping habits are key.

Look to your ancestors' lifestyle when it comes to sleep habits. They didn't fall prey to the diseases modern man has, and sleep may have been a very big part of the puzzle. When darkness fell and their nightly fire went out, so did they. They didn't have the opportunity to stay up and push to do more, and their health was better for it.

What happens when you're short on sleep

Getting enough sleep was easy for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, but that's not the case for most modern people. Electricity and the widespread use of the good ol' light bulb have given us freedom. They've also given us sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation isn't a joke. When you lack sleep, here are some potential outcomes that may startle you:

  • Illness

  • Weight gain

  • Hormonal shifts: When you don't get enough sleep, hormones shift, causing your appetite to change. The sugars you crave shoot your insulin up, creating blood sugar problems. These hormonal shifts cause weight gain and health issues. Here are few other common hormones that can affect your weight:

  • Heart disease

  • Pre-hibernation messaging

  • Lowered immune system

  • Altered brain power

  • Premature aging

  • Sugar handling problems

  • Decreased regenerative powers

  • Prolonged high cortisol levels

  • Cumulative effect: Sleep deprivation is cumulative. You don't adapt to sleep deprivation; you only get more tired and, eventually, unhealthy and overweight.

Get enough sleep and create a natural rhythm while living Paleo

Sleep is closely weaved into your natural circadian rhythms inscribed in your genes by the footprint of your ancestors. This inscription allows you to live comfortably in your environment of dark and light. Because your genes are set to this dark and light pattern, sleep needs to have a required rhythm to be healthy. Just as your heart, body temperature, and metabolic process have rhythms, so does your sleep needs.

People are often over stimulated and ignore their bodies' signaling for sleep. When your signaling and sleep matches your outside world, your rhythms are in order. When they're not, you become out of sorts and your health is at risk. This health risk is significant enough to put your state of mind — and life — in danger.

When you constantly trick your circadian signaling by staying up too long in artificial light, your body thinks it's a long summer day. What your body naturally expects to follow is the cold, short days of winter. The concern, however, is that the expected dormant hibernation period after the long summer never comes, which makes your mind start to literally go crazy.

Nature thinks you're up too long, that you've eaten more than your share of nature's goodness, and that you're likely infertile from being bathed in insulin. Your body creates a bipolar state of mind and you become depressive and manic.

Also, when the light never dims, your cortisol never drops. Chronic high cortisol and chronic high insulin put your mind in a chronic state of panic. When insulin and cortisol are constantly off, more than just moodiness occurs; you experience true manic depression and mental illness.

The National Institute of Mental Health agrees that one of the primary causes of depression and mental illness is simply being out of sync with the dark-light rhythm that your body expects. Most of the drugs for depression are aimed at putting your sleep cycles back in place.

Sleep works together with all other areas in your life to provide you the best health; here are a few tips for getting the right amount and quality of sleep you need:

  • Go to bed at the same time every night.

  • Go to bed by no later than 10 p.m. and wake up by no later than 7 a.m.

  • Rise with the sun.

  • Unplug.

  • Black out your bedroom room completely.

  • Keep you're room cool and well ventilated.

  • Limit caffeine.

  • Limit alcohol

Make sleep as essential as eating, exercising, or anything else you do that you consider important to your health (and waistline). These living Paleo sleep tips will go a long way in making you stronger, leaner, and healthier.

Sleep-inducing foods include turkey and almonds as well as seasonings like nutmeg, turmeric, and garlic. (Try herbal tea with nutmeg or turkey broth with garlic as a before-bed snack to prep for a restful night.) Calcium and magnesium are also helpful sleep aids.

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