Live Younger

April 25, 2022



To us, rest merely means having some leisure time in which we unwind ourselves from the worries of life and spend it doing some comforting activity. To the body, our relaxing state is a working state because it has to function at its full capacity to perform that activity. From maintaining the number of heartbeats and breaths per minute to producing energy to carry out even the minimal tasks, the body is in a constant state of work. There is only one way out for the body to get some respite and that is through sleep. During sleep, the metabolic functions of the body are maintained at a basal level and cells get time to regain their strength.

The chemicals produced during the metabolism are detoxified during sleep. Antioxidant mechanisms are activated to neutralize the damaging free radicals. Worn-out cells and cellular organelles are replaced by healthier ones. Various hormones are produced that promote growth and improve immune function strengthening the ability of the body to combat diseases. The chemical imbalances in the brain are restored. Memory consolidation occurs during sleep and the brain function is improved.

Sleeplessness or insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or maintain sleep resulting in a negative impact on life and work. The person wakes up tired and fatigued.

It results from various causes such as

Ø An altered lifestyle includes the consumption of stimulant drugs i.e. alcohol, caffeine. Changes in the work schedule disturb the sleep-wake cycle. Poor sleep habits such as using a phone or watching television or eating before sleep, and sleeping in a noisy environment can lead to insomnia.

Ø Mental disorders such as stress, depression, and anxiety stimulate the brain. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease disrupt the normal brain function resulting in a lack of sleep.

Ø Medical conditions such as heart diseases, diabetes, and thyroid disorders produce insomnia. GERD and chronic pain diseases create an unpleasant state in which the person is unable to sleep.

Ø Sleep disorders including Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome create interrupted sleep.

Surprisingly, the diet has a role in determining sleep duration and quality. Certain nutrients are considered sedative nutrients due to their sleep-producing effects.

Some of them are ingredients of chemicals that carry messages in the brain i.e. neurotransmitters. For example, iron and copper are required for producing monoamine neurotransmitters that play a role in sleep regulation.¹

Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6 are required for the synthesis of Melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. ²

Vitamin D regulates sleep duration and quality. The deficiency of vitamin D affects sleep, and circadian rhythm, and increases the severity of sleep apnea syndrome.

Vitamin C on the other hand reduces cortisol levels and has relaxing effects on the brain that promotes effective sleep. It also reduces the number of apnea episodes

Magnesium is responsible for energy production in the form of ATP, which is a regulator of sleep. It stimulates inhibitory GABA receptors and inhibits excitatory NMDA receptors in the brain. A magnesium deficiency would not only deplete the body’s ATP stores but also produce excitatory effects on the brain reducing somnolence. Therefore, magnesium deficiency is considered a trigger of insomnia.³

Iron regulates REM sleep and it plays a role in the process of insulating nerve fibers i.e. myelination, which ensures effective impulse transmission and sleep regulation. Iron deficiency impacts REM sleep and blood flow to the brain. Additionally, iron deficiency is associated with fatigue and restless leg syndrome which cause insomnia.⁴

Copper regulates sleep duration.⁵ A study on zebrafish showed that organisms with mutant copper ion transporter gene had low levels of copper in the brain and were sluggish compared to the normal. Poor sleep quality and disturbed circadian rhythm were also observed. This shows that copper plays a role in sleep.⁶

Sodium is the major ion responsible for nerve impulse transmission, it produces nerve stimulations and subsequent functions. In the body, excessive sodium attracts water with it in the blood, leading to a volume overload state, or hypertension. In such a state, the body is unable to sleep well.⁷

Iodine is involved in the production of thyroid hormone that pretty much controls functions of all organ systems. Iodine can cause excessive production of thyroid hormone which over activates the brain producing symptoms of insomnia and hyperactivity.

Zinc plays a role in sleep regulation through modulating receptor activity, neurotransmitter production, and nerve impulse regulation. Studies have shown that zinc supplementation enhances sleep quality. ⁸


How to overcome these nutritional deficiencies and improve the quality of your sleep? My upcoming article will give you all the answers you need. 😊

The insomniac body is deprived of all the benefits of sleep and it faces a myriad of ailments ranging from minor disturbances such as headaches to major diseases such as stroke.

  • Brain function:
    The person is irritable and aggressive. The high order functions of the brain such as learning, memory, motor skills, etc. are affected. During sleep, the glymphatic system removes toxins from the brain, and the number of connections between neurons i.e. synapses increases; increasing the effectiveness of brain function.

    The lack of sleep impairs these activities resulting in poor mental faculties and decreased cognition, memory and decision-making ability, etc.

  • Psychological effects:
    There is a two-way relationship between psychological disorders and sleep. Anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder are characterized by lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation can also lead to these disorders.
    For example, there is excessive REM sleep in depression due to which the brain is unable to get adequate rest, deteriorating brain function and leading to depression which further affects sleep, and the person enters this vicious cycle.

  • Hormonal Imbalance:
    Sleep disturbances disturb the circadian rhythm which results in hormonal imbalances. Alterations in cortisol levels lead to decreased immunity.
    Moreover, Leptin, a hormone responsible for satiety, is decreased and Ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite is increased. This results in excessive food intake, leading to obesity. Obesity in itself is a risk factor for diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, etc.⁹

  • Proinflammatory Cytokines:
    Sleep deprivation induces chemicals in the body that produce inflammation. These chemicals i.e. cytokines accumulate in body tissues and disrupt their function, for example, they lead to neuronal loss in the brain, and in adipose tissue, they accumulate to cause obesity and diabetes.¹⁰
    Interestingly, these cytokines seem to activate the disease process in genetically predisposed individuals, for example, studies have shown that the age of onset of Alzheimer’s disease decreases to 55 years from the usual 70 years due to sleep deprivation.

  • Lifestyle changes:
    The sleepless, exhausted individual is less likely to adopt a healthy lifestyle which further predisposes to diseases. Such as lack of exercise is a risk factor for heart diseases, hypertension, etc.
    Additionally, the mental faculties are distorted that that person may resort to drug abuse to escape the realities of life, which would commit him to rack and ruin.

  • Aging:
    Good quality sleep for a sufficient duration produces an anti-aging protein that reduces oxidative stress and inflammatory damage to cells. Insomnia deprives the body of this effect, leading to aging.

The detrimental effects of insomnia on the mind and body are evident from the discussion above. It would be logical to assume that adequate sleep, on the contrary, would heal much of what the body faces due to lack of it. And that, dear reader, is merely the tip of the iceberg.

How to improve your sleep and how to use it to experience its full healing potential? That’s what we will talk about next. So stay tuned…

Learn more about sleep and breathing exercises that help you sleep better in my book Lead A Horse To Water. ¹¹
Also see my article SLEEP MIRACLE. ¹²


  1. Murat, S., Ali, U., Serdal, K., Süleyman, D., İlknur, P., Mehmet, S., Bahattin, A., & Tunahan, U. (2015). Assessment of subjective sleep quality in iron deficiency anaemia. African Health Sciences, 15(2), 621.
  2. Ferracioli-Oda, E., Qawasmi, A., & Bloch, M. H. (2013). Meta-analysis: melatonin for the treatment of primary sleep disorders. PloS One, 8(5).
  3. Abbasi, B., Kimiagar, M., Sadeghniiat, K., Shirazi, M. M., Hedayati, M., & Rashidkhani, B. (2012). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences : The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 17(12), 1161. /pmc/articles/PMC3703169/
  4. Neumann, S. N., Li, J. J., Yuan, X. D., Chen, S. H., Ma, C. R., Murray-Kolb, L. E., Shen, Y., Wu, S. L., & Gao, X. (2020). Anemia and insomnia: a cross-sectional study and meta-analysis. Chinese Medical Journal, 134(6), 675–681.
  5. Luojus, M. K., Lehto, S. M., Tolmunen, T., Elomaa, A. P., & Kauhanen, J. (2015). Serum copper, zinc and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in short and long sleep duration in ageing men. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, 32, 177–182.
  6. Copper in the brain: Mining a mineral that regulates sleep and wakefulness – Berkeley Neuroscience. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2022, from
  7. Cheng, F. W., Li, Y., Winkelman, J. W., Hu, F. B., Rimm, E. B., & Gao, X. (2016). Probable insomnia is associated with future total energy intake and diet quality in men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 104(2), 462–469.
  8. Gholipour Baradari, A., Alipour, A., Mahdavi, A., Sharifi, H., Nouraei, S. M., & Emami Zeydi, A. (2018). The Effect of Zinc Supplementation on Sleep Quality of ICU Nurses: A Double Blinded Randomized Controlled Trial. Workplace Health & Safety, 66(4), 191–200.
  9. Pan, W., & Kastin, A. J. (2014). Leptin: A biomarker for sleep disorders? Sleep Medicine Reviews, 18(3), 283.
  10. Dolsen, M. R., Soehner, A. M., & Harvey, A. G. (2018). Proinflammatory Cytokines, Mood, and Sleep in Interepisode Bipolar Disorder and Insomnia: A Pilot Study With Implications for Psychosocial Interventions. Psychosomatic Medicine, 80(1), 87–94.
  11. N.Sakr, “Lead A Horse To Water”, pp.29-30, 2021
  12. N. Sakr, “Sleep Miracle”, Ask Nidal January 29, 2022, from

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