Ways In Which Salt May be Keeping You Awake
Sleep o’clock! Are you sleepy yet or are the cars speeding away keeping you company?
Just like you, most of us struggle with insomnia and only end up fighting the resultant exhaustion from sleep deprivation with big gulps of coffee. But, does coffee help? Yes and No. While coffee keeps you active, it also affects other metabolic processes worsening your sleep-wake pattern. Unfortunately, coffee isn’t the worst of your problems, table salt (sodium) is.
Most of us fail to notice that taking more than the daily dietary recommended sodium levels of at least 1500 milligrams of sodium every day (adults) and about 1000 milligrams for children hurts our sleep. It gets worse when we exceed the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of 2300 milligrams of sodium every day.
But what and where is the correlation?
- High cortisol levels
Cortisol, the stress hormone is a glucocorticoid hormone made by the adrenal cortex in the kidneys and so is the sodium regulator, Aldosterone. Cortisol is a metabolic hormone, and you have the highest levels of the hormone in the morning hence its association with wakefulness. In normal levels, it keeps everything running well, and that is why you get the feeling of a good start on the good days.
However, at excessively high levels, thanks to high sodium intake, or when there is a dysfunction in the HPA-axis (Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis), normal metabolism changes and your body is always in a state of fight or flight. (Cortisol increases epinephrine and norepinephrine levels). The result of this is insomnia – cortisol inhibits production of melatonin, the hormone necessary for sleep.
Besides insomnia arising out of high cortisol levels, high salt levels lower the quality of sleep because you have to wake up and drink water because of thirst and the frequent bathroom breaks.
The other explanation for sleeplessness and sodium intake is hypertension. How? Intake of high sodium, say 3500 milligrams a day means that your body takes in more water. Consequently, the volume of blood increases and your body (the heart) reacts by increasing the pressure it needs to propel fluids around the body. This pressure on your circulation leads to what we call ‘high blood pressure’ and well, you cannot sleep well when your heartbeat is over the roof, can you?
- Fluid retention
The other angle to look at how salt intake affects our ability to sleep is from looking at water retention. Since your body takes in more water to balance out the high amount of salt consumed, your body becomes a water field. The excess fluid settles in your upper body obstructing the pharynx and causes sleep apnea. Sleep apnea comes with sleep disturbances where you have to pause and wake up in the middle of the night. At the end of the night, you won’t have enough rest, and you’ll probably wake up tired and irritable.
That said, do you see how you could be sabotaging your sleep with excess salt in processed foods? If you want to get a restful night, reduce your salt intake. That reduction promises good rest and better mornings!
Fortunately, sodium is beneficial in other ways such as:
- Less than 2300 mgs of sodium will work wonderfully in fighting aging.
- It prevents muscle cramps
- It eliminates excess carbon dioxide from the body
- Enhances smooth functioning of the brain
- It prevents sunstroke
- Maintains a healthy heart
- Enhances and supports glucose absorption
- Regulates body fluids
With all these functions in order, you’ll sleep better.