Chronic Stress -> Poor Sleep -> Leaky Blood-Brain Barrier?
When stress levels run high, sleep is one of the first things we hear patients cite as problematic. There are no supplements, drugs, food or exercise that will replace a good night’s sleep. While the totality of the metabolic functions and happenings that occur during sleep are still being discovered, there is an abundance of information on the effects of sleep deprivation. Chronic sleep loss is associated with digestive disorders, depression, decreased immune function, diabetes, inflammation, autoimmune disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity and the list goes on and on. Animal studies show that sleep loss leads to hyperpermeability of the blood-brain barrier secondary to the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, some of which remain elevated even after sleep recovery.
Ok, so what do we have in our tool bag to help patients who can’t sleep when their stress levels are elevated? While we help them work on developing more effective stress management strategies (including a balanced whole-food diet & exercise), we need to help them get some sleep. Good sleep hygiene helps your body gradually slow down. Turn off the electronics, avoid late-night eating & stimulants, keep your bedroom completely dark and try to head to bed at the same time every night. Also be sure to keep the chemicals and toxins (memory foam, perfumes, air fresheners, etc.) out of the boudoir. Your bedroom should be a haven of sorts where you can rest and rejuvenate.
Here are some additional interventions to consider:
|Breathing Exercises||5 minutes every day to develop the skill and then as needed in bed to help shift the body into parasympathetic dominance. Slow belly-expanding inhale through the nose, slower exhale through the mouth.|
|Herbal Teas||Chamomile, hops, passionflower, lemon balm|
|Herbal Caps and/or Tinctures||Valerian, passionflower, hops, chamomile, catnip, magnolia bark, scullcap|
|Amino Acids||Theanine (100-500mg), Taurine (500mg-1g), 5HTP (50-400mg)|
|Melatonin||.5-3 mg before bed (note there is also sustained release for those who might have trouble staying asleep)|
by Tina Beaudoin, ND
 Hurtado-Alvarado, G. et al. Blood-Brain Barrier Disruption Induced by Chronic Sleep Loss: Low-Grade Inflammation May Be the Link. J Immunol Res. 2016; 2016: 4576012.