Getting your zzzz’s
Sleep Awareness Week kicked off earlier this week. This initiative is designed to “raise awareness of the direct link between quality sleep and a healthy lifestyle.” And I could not agree more! I believe that sleep is the cornerstone to optimal health and vitality.
In every consultation with my clients I ask about their sleep as it is a foundation of good health, regardless of what else we are working on. I don’t believe the body and mind can restore health in a sleep deficient state. I also believe that people are at their best to make positive changes when they are refreshed and energetic.
Therefore, the most important question, at least regarding sleep, I ask is do you wake feeling refreshed? And most people say no. So often so that I am genuinely surprised when someone actually says “yes!”
We all have those mornings that we are slow to get moving, both physically and mentally. We can bounce back from these occasional events, keeping in mind just one poor night’s sleep affects our concentration, energy and mood.
It is the feeling of waking up tired, some say more so than when they went to bed, day after day that becomes a problem. And it is a serious problem:
- There is strong link between obesity and poor sleep. Studies have shown that those who regularly get less than 6 hours of sleep each night have a higher Body mass Index or BMI. Whilst sleeping, the body regulates production of key hormones that regulate both sleep/wake cycles as well as hunger, satiety and fat storage. Poor sleep disrupts this regulations leading towards weight gain.
- There is a strong correlation between poor and type II diabetes.
- Too little, and interestingly too much sleep, has been linked to increase cardiovascular and stroke risk.
- Chronic sleep issues are strongly correlated with mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Your body needs to sleep. It is thought (can you believe that we still don’t know why we need to sleep?!?) that during sleep the body restores and repairs, build muscle, and makes key hormones. I am sure most of us have experienced getting sick after a period of poor sleep so good sleep also keeps us healthy. Studies are now showing that sleep is linked to brain plasticity and therefore our ability to learn, retain information and perform tasks.
Hopefully I have now motivated you to take your sleep seriously. If your sleep could improve, here are few tips to get you back on track:
- Avoid alcohol (despite being a sedative, it is terrible for sleep), caffeine, and other stimulants at least 2-3 hours before bed. Stop eating at least 2-3 hours before you sleep is also a good idea. Hard to sleep with a full belly…or bladder for that matter.
- NO phones, tablets or readers before bed, at least one hour. These devices stimulate your brain and prevent you from sleeping. And you certainly should not be using these devices in bed!
- Your bedroom should be dark and cool and your bed and pillows comfortable.
- Use your bed for sleeping (and sex) but nothing else. Don’t watch tv or work in bed. Your body and mind need to correlate your bed with sleep and nothing else.
- Turn your clock around. If you wake frequently at night, then staring at the clock will only cause you to be anxious and lose more sleep. Turn the clock around so you can’t see it and relax.
- If you are waking at night because of worrying thoughts, try to writing these down and telling yourself “I can’t do anything about that right now. I have written it down and I will tackle it in the morning. Now is the time to rest” This simple form of permission works wonder for the busy mind.
- If you can’t sleep, don’t lie in bed trying to force yourself to sleep. Best to go to another room (if you don’t want to wake the person you share a bed/room with) and read, color, or whatever it takes to get you to relax. But please don’t check facebook! And then try again.
- Exercise often if not daily. Meditation too! Both improve our ability to fall and stay asleep.
These tips provide a good basis for quality sleep. Sometimes though you need a bit of extra help to get back into sleeping well and regaining the energy and mental clarity to get you through the day. If you need help getting your sleep back on track, contact me. I have some amazing herbs and teas and some other hints to help you sleep better and improve energy levels.
Poor sleep is not normal and there is lot you can do to improve your sleep and therefore your overall health.