MCKOOL: The truth about rest

Dec. 29, 2013 @ 08:59 AM

I encounter people on a daily basis who tell me they do not have energy and want to know what they “can take.” First, if you are one of these people, and your objective is to restore your body back to good health, using natural approaches, this is the wrong question to ask. 

You should be asking yourself, “what is the root cause” not “what can I take.” The first question I ask is “are you getting enough sleep?!” Of course you don’t have energy if you are not sleeping enough and/or well! Last week we talked about the 5 pieces of the physical health pie being foundational to our health. 

The first piece is “Rest.” I want to talk more about that today.

The only time the body is able to heal and repair itself, build new cells etc. is when you are sleeping. 

The body does it’s best healing and repairing between 10 p.m. and midnight. If you are not asleep between these hours, you have just lost the most vital time for your body to heal and repair. 

We truly should be in sync with the cycles of the sun and the moon – rising and setting. In winter time, when the days are shorter, we could really be asleep even earlier. 

Lack of sleep has a direct, negative impact on the majority of chronic, degenerative diseases. If you are not getting your proper sleep, it stresses the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are 2 triangle shaped glands that sit on top of each kidney. They perform a whole lot of vital functions. 

One of the main things the adrenals do is release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is the body’s natural anti-inflammatory. It responds to all stresses to the body – mental/emotional stress, chemical stress (like cigarettes, sodas, the wrong foods we eat) and physical stress. Lack of sleep is a physical stress to the body. Another thing the adrenals do is tell the liver to release the glucose. 

Glucose is our body’s natural energy source. It’s also your brain fuel. So if you find yourself with “brain fog” or not being able to think well or remember things, your brain might not be getting enough glucose. And of course glucose works in conjunction with the insulin to keep your blood sugar levels in balance. 

The adrenals also tell the kidneys to regulate your fluid levels, including your blood pressure levels. And then the adrenals also release brain chemicals that work with other brain chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and melatonin. These are chemicals that when out of balance can cause anxiety, depression and yes, sleep disruptions!! The adrenals work very closely with the thyroid gland as well. 

Another important point to make is the cortisol is “upstream” in the chemical pathways in your body from the reproductive hormones. So if your hormone levels are out of balance, you want to look to the root cause, which very well could be the adrenal glands are out of balance. 

It’s a catch 22 – if we don’t give our bodies enough rest our adrenal glands can’t perform properly and if our adrenal glands aren’t performing properly we might not be sleeping well! We also might have blood sugar issues, blood pressure issues, reproductive hormone issues, thyroid issues and emotional issues – just to name a few!

So, what do you do? Remove the TV and computer from the bedroom. Do not watch TV or use the computer ½ hour before you want to be asleep. Plan to be asleep no later than 10 p.m. Get a minimum of seven hours of sleep. Remove the offenders that stress the adrenal glands: Cigarettes are the No. 1 most toxic thing you could be doing to your body. The second thing is diet sodas, and a close third is regular sodas. We will talk more about our food choices that also stress the adrenals in the coming weeks. I like to suggest to patients and customers to supplement with a quality melatonin (not something you would get at WalMart, the drug store or the dollar store!) along with a calming herb like ashwaganda, lemon balm, valerian or theanine. 

After a month or two remove the melatonin – this is not meant to be taken on going. If you are on sleep meds, taking anti-depressants or any other meds check with your pharmacist first to see if there could possibly be any drug interactions. I like the pharmacist at Medical Arts Pharmacy, she is very objective to using natural approaches and will give you a good, unbiased answer.

Next week we will talk about the vital importance of water. Now, go get some sleep!


Dr. Jackie McKool is one of less than 500 board certified chiropractic internists with a focus on internal disorders. She is a physician who had a practice in Charleston, S.C. for 10 years before moving to Rutherford County.