Since March is National Sleep Month, I thought we might look at an often-overlooked victim of poor sleeping habits — one’s metabolism.

Your metabolism influences how you feel, your libido, fertility, cold tolerance, energy, how you recover from injury and stress, your physical exercise performance and, of course, how efficiently you burn calories and how well you sleep.

The reality is alarming, as we are a sleep-deprived society. It is estimated that only 35% of adults in the United States receive seven hours of sleep each night, while 40% of Americans receive less than six hours.

Not receiving an adequate amount of sleep can lead to insulin resistance, a condition known as pre-diabetes. This can impair one’s metabolism and lead to weight gain. In fact, research has shown that impaired long-term sleep resulting in six hours or less per night can increase one’s risk to type II diabetes by 50%.

Lack of sleep can lead directly to weight gain, or secondarily from elevated cortisol levels, which can lead to retaining weight, especially around the midsection.

Lack of sleep also leads to systemic inflammation, opening the door to heart disease, insulin resistance, and challenges to one’s immunity.

The reasons why people are often not sleeping is over-stimulation without proper “downtime,” resulting in poor stress management as well as bucking the natural process of our genes.

When the sun goes down, our bodies are cued to produce melatonin, which helps us sleep at night. As the sun comes up, melatonin production ceases and cortisol and serotonin rise, preparing us for a wakeful day ahead.

When we are immersed in artificial lights through the night, our melatonin production is suppressed, and cortisol levels stay unnaturally elevated through the night.

Chronically elevated cortisol levels, can bind to appetite receptors in the brain and trigger the consumption of “comfort foods,” binge eating, and a pattern of nighttime eating.

When looking to improve sleep, relaxation-based rituals might just be what the doctor ordered. Tune out digital stimulation a few hours before bed. Pick up a book, consider candles around the house or even switch out some of your white light bulbs for orange bulbs (often called insect bulbs, available at home supply stores).

As far as nutrition, I would consider a quality B Complex. B vitamins support the synthesis of serotonin for a positive mood, which along with cortisol helps us wake up in the morning. In the evening, our bodies look to our serotonin pools, and convert the serotonin to melatonin to help induce a restful night-time sleep.

Both Pure’s B Complex Plus can be found at any Martin’s Pharmacy, and are 15% off with your Martin’s Advantage Card.