The Importance of Adequate Sleep
While everyone is busy getting ready for the holidays and year end it’s no surprise that rest is getting pushed to the wayside. With how society has evolved through the years it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important. The lightbulb, as magnificent an invention as it is, has us working longer hours and sleeping less than our ancestors. Our descendants actually ran their lives and schedules around the sun, keeping them more in-tune with nature. If they did need light to stay up later than usual, they would use a soft, dim lighting called candlelight. Bright lights, fluorescent bulbs, blue lighting and LED’s all stimulate the optic nerve. This stimulation inhibits melatonin production in the body, confusing our internal clock so it still thinks it’s daytime. Dim yellow lighting does not produce the same nerve stimulation.
Whether it’s visible to the naked eye or not, our health is greatly dictated by how much rest we allow ourselves to have. Millions of Americans seem to think that sleeping less hours actually allows them to get more done, while it is actually the contrary. People who sleep less are actually less creative and productive than those with adequate amounts of sleep. They are also doing themselves harm. There has been longterm research conducted that establishes people who get adequate (7-8 hours of sleep) per night live longer, happier, healthier lives. Furthermore, there have been studies deducing that less than optimal amounts of sleep per night have been shown to decrease life span. Lack of sleep can even encourage detrimental health conditions and promote premature aging.
There are no exact rules about how much sleep is enough, every living individual has unique requirements. Though in most cases, adults need approximately 8 hours of sleep while some may need 9 or even more per night in order to feel fully refreshed and function optimally the following day. Children and adolescents generally require more rest than adults to be able to perform at their best throughout the day.
Have you ever heard the saying “sleep on it”? Sleep actually does help you process everything that happened the day before. If you’re having trouble knowing what the right decision to make in a certain situation is “sleeping on it” can help you to wake up feeling as though you’ve come to the right conclusion. This is due to REM sleep, which helps to process the information from the day before and provide solutions.
Sleep also allows the body time to regenerate and rejuvenate. What a wonderful thing to have built inside of us; our own internal healing mechanisms. We just need to love ourselves enough to give our bodies what they require to achieve their greatest potential. Here are some simple tips to help you on your journey to becoming a well rested, happier, healthier you.
Tips to improve sleep hygiene
Create a set of bedtime habits and follow them consistently to establish a healthy sleep cycle
- keep a regular sleep/wake cycle
- go to bed before midnight
- turn all of the lighting down 1-2 hours prior to bedtime, I actually have all of my electronic devices set to night shift from 8pm-8am
- use low watt, dim lighting in the evening
- set an alarm and rise from bed at the same time every morning, regardless of how much you slept the night before
Incorporate relaxing activities before bed
- practice deep breathing
- take a hot bath with lavender or chamomile essential oils 2 hours before bedtime
- do some yoga
- read a book in dim lighting
- listen to calming music
- drink some chamomile tea
- make a diffuser with lavender or chamomile essential oils
Learn to put the days worries aside
- stop using your devices 1-2 hours prior to bedtime
Keep the bedroom cozy, comfortable, dark and quiet
- make sure you have a comfortable mattress and pillows
Consistent exercise in the late afternoon or early evening, even if its something as simple as a 30 minute walk
If you can’t fall asleep within the first 15-20 minutes get out of bed and do something relaxing
- read a book, meditate or do some mindful colouring in dim lighting for about 20 minutes then try to go to bed again
Improve diet, get adequate water intake
If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night try having a small snack before bed
- a banana with a little bit of almond butter, a small handful of nuts and seeds or a few whole grain crackers with cheese
Things to Avoid
Avoid caffeine after mid-day and nicotine 4-6 hours prior to bed
- these are both stimulants and can disrupt our internal clock
Avoid alcohol before bed
- it may make you feel drowsy, but it is actually hindering a restful sleep throughout the night
Do not eat large meals within 2 hours of bedtime
Do not eat heavy meals within 3-4 hours of bedtime
No bright, blue, fluorescent or LED lighting 2-3 hours prior to bedtime
Some people shouldn’t nap during the day, especially if it’s not something you usually do
- if you do choose to nap, make sure not to nap past 3:00pm
Some people really do need to use their bed for only sleep and sex
- other activities such as paperwork, studying and television can still be stimulating and subconsciously associated with your place of rest
- television especially right before bed can be very stimulating and may disrupt sleep
* There are many different reasons as to why some people may have difficulty getting appropriate rest. The above suggestions are just some basic tools to help assist in the process. If none of the recommendations above help, then further assistance may be required to find the underlying cause of imbalance. Book a consultation with me or go see another natural health care practitioner to help guide you on your journey. The key is to not get frustrated with yourself. Getting the correct amount of rest, just like any other health changes made, is a process and will take time to be achieved.
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