Sleeping For Your Health
We live in a society where the one who does the most during the day wins and sleeping a full night is seen as a luxury. However, our health is paying the price for this!
Why is this so important? When we are sleeping, our brains release growth hormone to regenerate our bodies. Sleeping eight hours a night will keep us healthy, reduce disease, fight off colds and inflammation, and slow the aging process. Getting enough sleep balances the hormones that keep us from feeling overly hungry (helping maintain a healthy weight). This also has an effect on diabetes, because less sleep correlates with reduced insulin sensitivity. We know how cranky a person can feel from lack of sleep and mood is much improved with adequate rest. In addition, there are plenty of studies to show that brain function and athletic performance are enhanced with regular and adequate sleep.
Ok, so now we know why we should sleep. What do we do if we are having trouble sleeping? Here are some tricks to help you get some zzzzz’s:
• Create a Routine: Your body loves routine. Going to bed and waking at the same times each day will make it happy. When you change those times up during the weekend, it is like giving yourself jet lag. Unfortunately, sleep is not like money and you cannot just bank hours on the weekend.
• Limit Food & Alcohol: While you are sleeping, your body is busy doing all this healing and regenerating. Going to bed with a full stomach only gives it more work to do. Try to have your eating done three hours before bedtime. Alcohol can also affect your sleep for the same reasons. Detoxifying alcohol takes energy away from the normal processes of sleep. Limiting drinking to the earlier parts of the evening will improve the quality of your sleep.
• Turn Off Electronics: 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 and Kindles a few hours before bed. Instead opt for taking a warm bath, reading a book, or writing in a journal. Let your body unwind.
• Darken Your Bedroom: 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 through 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.
• Check Your Medications: Certain medications can affect your sleep, so having a doctor review your prescriptions may be helpful. Are you on medications for your thyroid, for example? 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.
• Consider Alternative Treatments: Trouble winding down? Herbal remedies can help. Chamomile, lemon balm and passion flower can be found in common tea blends and relax the nervous system. Chatting with your Naturopathic doctor will provide insight into more ways to reduce evening cortisol so your body can relax. Acupuncture is also a very effective and proven tool to help insomnia, especially from stress or hormonal changes such as menopause.
• De-Stress & Exercise: 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, or 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. 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.
So, this doctor is recommending a full night of sleep, every night. It is one of the best things you can do to prevent chronic disease and feel your best during the day. Sleep like your health depends on it; because it does.
Dr. Kimberly Zurich is a Naturopathic doctor and board-certified acupuncturist. She owns Infuse Health Clinic where she provides personalized healthcare using acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrition. She helps people with emotional and physical pain feel at home in their body again. She also specializes in women’s health, helping women navigate menopause comfortably. Want to know more? Contact Dr. Zurich: firstname.lastname@example.org.