Sleep and the Autoimmune Protocol

Sleep and the Autoimmune Protocol
Are you getting the QUALITY and QUANTITY you need?
Sleep and the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)
You can be eating the best diet in the world and if you aren’t getting enough quality and quantity sleep it could be for naught!

Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. (Thomas Dekker)

So, by now you know about the elimination-style diet that is the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) that David and I are currently undergoing here. And, the diet is fairly restrictive, at least to someone who is not used to the idea of removing so many tasty, more-ish, addictive, convenient foods from their day-to-day lives!

But, the protocol is about more than just the eating bit. There are a number of other factors that need to be addressed while you are living an AIP way of life. And if you fail to address these, you’re kind of missing the point of the whole thing – which is to heal the gut, regulate hormones, and hopefully put autoimmune issues into remission by identifying any food triggers.

And, one of these extra factors is sleep

We all know that sleep is important for our health.

Studies that evaluate the physiological changes caused by not sleeping or even not getting enough sleep have shown just how critically important sleep is.  And for those of us with autoimmune issues, it is especially critical. Sleep plays a critical role in managing inflammation, stimulating the immune system, and regulating hormones – all of which are problems when the immune system is compromised.

And, even if you don’t have any autoimmune issues, while it may seem like losing sleep isn’t such a big deal, sleep deprivation has a huge range of negative effects that go way beyond feeling a little tired. Lack of sleep affects your judgement, coordination, and reaction times. It can also affect your waistline.  There are two hormones in your body that regulate normal feelings of hunger and fullness (ghrelin and leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, ghrelin levels go up – which stimulates your appetite, and your leptin levels go down – so you don’t feel satisfied and want to keep eating. So, the more sleep you lose, the more food your body will crave. 

“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.” – W. C. Fields

I used to sleep like the dead.

Not any more. About ten years ago, I had a home invasion which involved waking up to find three men in balaclavas in my living room. Fortunately, they were more interested in my wallet and laptop than in me, but it affected my ability to sleep. In a massive way.

I no longer sleep like the dead. In fact, I wake at the first unusual sound. And, that’s not good.

At this point in time, I’m finding achieving quality sleep one of the more difficult aspects of the AIP

One of the issues has been the heat wave that Sydney has been experiencing recently. It’s hard to sleep when it’s too hot. And then, I get to sleep but I have trouble staying asleep.  I wake up for whatever reason and have difficulty dropping off again. My brain likes talking to me. About all sorts of things. Most of them can wait until daylight, but my brain doesn’t seem to get that bit.

So, I have made a few changes in the ‘sleep preparation department’ in an attempt to increase the quantity of time I am sleep also to improve the quality of my sleep. Here’s what’s happening:

  • Keeping a regular sleep schedule – According to the experts, getting your body’s natural sleep/awake cycle in sync is one of the most important strategies for getting consistently good sleep. That means going to bed and waking up around the same time every day. For me, that means doing my best to be in bed by 9.30pm each night with lights out by 10pm.SUCH a party animal, me!
  • Trying (hard!) to regulate my sleep-wake cycle – Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. In theory, your brain should secrete more in the evening, when it’s dark, to make you sleepy, and less during the day when it’s light. However, so many aspects of our modern life can disrupt the body’s natural production of melatonin. In particular, bright lights at night — in front of the TV or computer screen — can suppress your body’s production of melatonin and make it harder to sleep.
    • I’m spending more time outside during daylight. Bella is loving it! We go for a walk first thing as part of my morning ritual to jump-start my ‘awake’ cycle.
    • At night, I’m trying to steer clear of my computer.
  • Creating a bedtime routine – A peaceful bedtime routine sends a powerful message to your brain that it’s time to slow down and let go of the day’s ‘stuff’. So, we’ve implemented ‘operation sleepy time’ here at Casa JFC. David makes me a mug of herbal tea in the evening. As silly as it sounds, I now look forward to it.
  • Eating right and getting regular exercise – What you eat and how you exercise both play a role in how well you sleep. I know this is true – I’ve had three weeks with no caffeine or alcohol! We try to eat early here at Casa JFC (at least two hours before bedtime). And, while it’s definitely not my natural inclination, I’m doing some form of exercise every day.
  • Getting anxiety and stress in check – Residual stress and worry can affect your ability to sleep well. This certainly applies to me. I’m a bit of a stress-head – my brain is a chatterbox! I’ve really struggled to find a relaxation method that works for me in an effort to manage this. I seem to be one of those terribly ‘un-cool’ people for whom yoga is not the nirvana state it is for others. So, four weeks ago I started Tai Chi. I found a great (and wonderfully quirky) teacher. And, even better, my sister comes with me to class.
    • I’m already practising some of the techniques I’ve learnt to help me relax back into sleep when I wake during the night.
So, it’s a bit of a work in progress, this sleep project. But, I have to tell you I’m pretty committed to improving my quality of sleep. When you start reading about all the health issues that are exacerbated by lack of sleep, it’s pretty scary. Enough to keep you awake at night, even…


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Comments (14)

Hi, I know you said Yoga is not your thing…. I thought, however, even if you chose only a couple of postures, it may help you sleep. Link, Sweet dreams, Kx

K – you are so sweet for providing me with that link. Thank you. Checking it out now.

Yikes! Sorry to hear about your terrifying home invasion.10 years ago I also had major night trauma—waking in the middle of the night to find my apartment was on fire and I was trapped in the bedroom. I managed to feel my way to the window and jump out (fortunately I only live on the 2nd floor), but couldn’t fall asleep for any length afterwards for years. To this day I still note the locations of doors and windows before I fall asleep. Fortunately these days the biggest barrier is simply turning off my chatterbox brain.
I love your tips, especially steering clear of the computer at night. I’m also a big fan of herbal tea and keeping a book of short stories on my bedside table to dip in and out of—definitely no cliff hangers!
Great post.

Oh wow – that much have been terrifying, DW! How traumatic for you, and how lucky that you woke up in time to get out.

I’ve been doing A LOT of reading on the management of stress and reducing cortisol levels (mine are too high) – mainly because of my chatterbox brain! I think it might be starting to kick in, but won’t know until I get re-tested.

I take it your book of short stories is not Roald Dahl’s Collected Short Stories… each with a rather sinister hook? 😀

Absolutely- I indulge in the two extremes- the highbrow and the junk food of reading- one too hard to concentrate on, one that lulls me in to a stupor. Very interested in cortisol too. Hope you get your levels down, it’ll be interesting to see the results!

Goodness! I can only imagine how terrifying a home invasion like that must have been. No wonder you’ve had trouble sleeping. But it looks like you’re taking the right sort of steps to get it back on track – or as on track as it ever can be.
You’ve probably heard of it, but if you haven’t, you should totally check out f.lux. It’s a simple program that works on your various electronic devices to not only dim them at sunset, but also change the light from blue to orange. It’s always better to avoid electronics completely, but in case you can’t, it’s a helpful program to have. I’ve had it for several months and noticed it helps calm me down a lot in the evening.

SoA – can’t believe I haven’t responded to your message… Apologies, Possum.

I read about flux (I think on Mark’s Daily Apple?) and then promptly forgot about it. Now that you have recommend, I will definitely check it out. Cheers!

I am very sorry for your traumatic experience, although it seemed comically tragic when I first read that sentence because I thought the men were dressed in baclava costumes. Fortunately I re-read it. But now I can’t get that image out of my head. So I am now laughing, which is a horrible reaction to what you went through. But that is my defense mechanism. I have been attacked twice – once in my classroom by a man with a knife – so I definitely empathize. But I’m going to stick with the picture of men wearing a Greek dessert – while Wonderbutt leaps at them so he can have a bite – to minimize my own PTSD symptoms, if that’s okay. As for the sleeping issue, I completely agree that it impacts every other part of your life, so I hope you can get it figured out.

I WISH they had come bearing baclava… that would have been FAR better, not to mention yummier!

A man with a knife in the classroom sounds worse (at least I was half asleep at the time!). Were the kidliwinks present?

Hi there! I have a quick question for you and was wondering if you could email me when you have a free moment ? I greatly appreciate it! I can’t wait to hear from you!! 🙂

I’ve read a few of your posts about AIP and related health topics and I’ve really enjoyed them. I also have an autoimmune issue which is under control now, but appears to have affected my gut. So I have eliminated wheat and corn from my diet and that has helped immensely. I um and ah about starting a more restrictive diet, but the prep (planning, cooking and shopping) is off-putting. I’m so impressed you manage to do this while working and caring for kids! I’m looking forward to your future posts about AIP.

Hi Mumsumsum! Thanks for taking the time to say hello. 🙂

I found eliminating wheat (and cross reactors), processed food (including transfats and refined sugar) and ensuring my meat was happy (hormone free, pasture raised) was the first step for me. It cleared up about 95% of my problems. The AIP is definitely helping with the last little bit, though.

Totally agree that it takes work and, I’m lucky because LM is hugely supportive. I have to say that it really is only an issue when we want to go out, though. The food is tasty and satisfying (just restrictive!). My sister is also doing AIP while working very long hours. She does all her cooking on a Sunday. And, you do feel fantastic while eating like this.

Let me know if you decide to give it a go – there are resources I can point you to!

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