Why is Sleep Important?
Sleep is when the brain and body has the chance to process the day’s activities and regenerate and repair itself. Growth hormone is released which stimulates tissue regeneration, liver cleansing, muscle building, and breakdown of fat stores and normalization of blood sugar.
High quality sleep is also directly correlated with memory and cognition. The better the sleep, the better the memory and cognition.
Poor sleep depresses the immune system, slows down tissue repair and regeneration, increase free radicals, inhibits memory, decreases performance, negatively effects mood and behavior and increases the perceptibility to pain. Poor sleep has also been linked to hypertension, metabolic syndrome and a host of other issues and diseases.
Tips for Healthier Sleep:
- Avoid caffeine and if you do consume caffeine, avoid it after 12 p.m. Caffeine stays in the body for 8-18 hours.
- Avoid simple carbohydrates and sugars at all times, but especially 2 hours before bed. These can be stimulating.
- Avoid alcohol. At first it seems to help induce sleep, but actually turns on the reticular activating system (RAS) portion of the brain, which inhibits deep sleep (the most restorative portion of sleep).
- Finish eating dinner 3 hours before bed.
- Use the bedroom for sleeping only, not sex, reading, watching TV, or playing.
- Get regular exercise daily; at least 30 minutes and to the point where you have to huff and puff a bit for air and heart beats a little faster.
- Avoid stimulating activities at least 1 hour before bed. These include exercising, stimulating TV, books and conversations.
- Essentially, 1 hour before bed should be a time to begin to wind down from the day’s activities.
- Keep no cell phones, PDAs, etc. near you when you sleep. Studies have shown that the radiation (although very, very small) emitted from these devices can disrupt sleep, especially deep sleep.
- Get into a routine by getting to bed approximately the same time every night and waking up the same time every morning; even on the weekends.
- Get to bed before 10:30 p.m. Studies have shown that after this time, the primitive portions of our brain alerts us to release stimulating hormones such as cortisol, norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline), making us feel more awake and thus having a more difficult time getting to and staying asleep. A hormone called ghrelin is released from the stomach as well, stimulating appetite, causing us to eat and thus gain weight.
- Make sure the room is completely dark. This includes no digital clocks, television or lights of any kind.
- The room should also be a cool temperature, not too warm or hot, and not too cold.
Tips for trouble sleeping:
- Follow the steps above.
- Soak in a warm bath for 20 minutes with 3 cups of Epsom Salts 30 minutes before bed. Not a hot bath because this is actually stimulating to the central nervous system.
- Lightly warm one cup of cow’s milk (other types of milk will work too), grate ½ teaspoon of nutmeg and a pinch of saffron and add this to the warm milk. Drink before bed.
- Try drinking a cup of a relaxing tea.
- Go to bed when you are sleepy.
- If after 20 minutes you aren’t asleep, get out of bed and doing something that is boring and try again in 30 minutes to get back to sleep.
- If racing thoughts are a problem, try breathing/relaxation exercises like alternate nostril breathing.
- If you wake up in the middle of the night or very early morning, try a light protein and complex carbohydrate snack. Great ideas are hummus or almond butter and veggies, or almond butter on wholewheat toast. Try a banana, white turkey breast meat and/or white cheese, all of which contain the amino acid tryptophan which induces drowsiness. This will keep your blood sugar from fluctuating too much throughout the night.
- Some people benefit greatly from “white noise.” Try placing a HEPA air filter in the room and use at a low speed, or a humidifier in dry climates. They work great to purify the air, too!