Dreaming of sleep?
(Originally published January 14, 2016)
How is your relationship with sleep? Do you get enough of it? Do you want more of it?
Sleep is so important! This is the body's time to rest and regenerate after the day. Your digestive system cleanses itself, your mind repairs itself, and your systems are reset. Without proper sleep, we are more stressed, less clear headed, and even tend to retain more weight. Getting adequate rest allows the body to stay healthy, fight infections, and reduces the risk of chronic disease such as diabetes, hypertension, and mood disorders.
Sometimes there are things that just can't be quickly fixed, like a new baby in the house, but for the rest of us, here are some tips on sleep hygiene that can help.
- Keep the technology out of the bedroom.
Watching TV late at night is not always relaxing; murder scenes, car chases, and tense action scenes tend to fill the screen. Not only does the content hype you up, but the blue light emitted from screens of all kinds stimulates your brain to be awake. If you have trouble sleeping, turn off the screens: phones, computers, tv's, kindles.... a few hours before bed. Take a warm bath, read a book, or write in your journal. Let your body unwind.
-Keep the bedroom dark.
Ever notice how many lights are on things these days? Power cords, alarm clocks, computers, printers, etc. Even my coffee pot has so many lights on it, I can walk though the kitchen without having to turn anything else on! Just as I mentioned above, these lights stimulate the brain. Unplug or remove as much as you can from the bedroom so that the darkness can remind your body it's time to sleep.
-Lay off the alcohol.
We all know the idea of having a nightcap before bed, but in reality, alcohol isn't so good for sleep. It can keep you up because it is partly a stimulant. Yes, it can also make you pass out, but this isn't the right kind of restorative sleep your body needs at night, this is the switch off and detoxify this overload of alcohol sleep. When you are drinking lots of alcohol, your body has a harder time achieving REM states, which is an important restorative part of your sleep cycle. Studies have shown that deprivation of REM sleep leads to a reduction in learning and memory. Have that last drink a few hours before you plan on going to bed so your body has time to process it.
-Stick to a schedule.
You can't just bank hours on the weekend and make up for a week of sleep deprivation. The body works on cycles, and needs adequate rest each day. If you have trouble sleeping, create a schedule. Get up at the same time every day. Even if you couldn't fall asleep until late the night before. Sleeping in to make up for it will just create a situation where you aren't ready to fall asleep at the normal time the next evening. Yes, you will be tired that day, but it will help break the cycle.
-No big meals before bed.
The body has things to do while you are sleeping so it can stay healthy and renew itself for the next day. This can't happen if you go to bed with a full stomach of food that it needs to digest. Chinese texts often recommend not eating after 8pm. If you are extremely peckish in the evening, keep it light and simple (and make sure it is free of caffeine, so that means no chocolate!)
-Have a doctor review your prescriptions.
Are you on medications for your thyroid, for example? Certain medications can affect your sleep. If you have recently begun or changed a medication, you may want to be sure that this isn't what is keeping you up at night.
-Beat the stress.
This is a big one. Many people can't turn off the "record player" at night, as their brain replays events of the day or worries about that big presentation in the morning. Stressful things may be a part of your life, but finding a way to de-stress during the day is vital to your health. One of the most important things you can do is to EXERCISE. Getting your heart rate up even 20 minutes a day will help. Go for a hike, ride a bike, lift some weights. The more you include exercise into your day, the better you will sleep. What do we do with rambunctious kids or puppies? Take them to the park and wear them out! Exercise will move all that stagnation that accumulates in your body from the stress of the day, it gets your blood and lymph flowing which brings fresh nutrients to your tissues and removes the wastes. It is essential to health. I know it can be overwhelming if you haven't been in the habit, so start small and work your way into it. You won't regret it.
-Visit Infuse Health Clinic!
Yup, I had to add a plug in here. If you are still having trouble sleeping, or if you want some support doing all the previously mentioned tips, come see me. Acupuncture works wonders on insomnia. It can treat the underlying deficiencies and stagnations that may be preventing your body from relaxing at night. You may have other issues going on such as hypoglycemia, menopause, restless legs, or frequent urination that are adding to your inability to sleep. Acupuncture can help you get back on track. You can also explore the possibility of supplements or herbal preparations to guide the body in this process.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "Four Days Of REM Sleep Deprivation Affects Forebrain, Long-term Memory In Rats." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080201085713.htm>.
"Sleep, Learning and Memory." Healthy Sleep. Harvard Medical School, n.d. Web. <http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory>.
"Sleep and Disease Risk." Healthy Sleep. Harvard Medical School, n.d. Web.
Pizzorno, Joseph E., and Michael T. Murray, eds. Textbook of Natural Medicine. 3rd ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2006.