This week our Optimal Wellness focus is sleep. "Besides eating whole foods and moving your body, getting enough sleep is the most important thing you can do for your health." says Dr. Mark Hyman, renowned integrative medicine expert and author of Ultrametabolism.
Your biological rhythms keep you healthy and produce healing and repair hormones. When those rhythms are disturbed by inadequate sleep, disease can take hold. Paleolithically we rose with the sun and slept when it set. As we have evolved our lifestyle has changed dramatically, throwing off these healing rhythms.
Dr. Hyman explains “When you are sleep deprived, your cortisol rises -- and so can all its harmful effects, including brain damage and dementia, weight gain, diabetes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, depression, osteoporosis, depressed immunity, and more.”
Quality sleep is imperative to our overall health. A commitment to improved sleep hygiene can help our bodies repair and rebuild. The following are some ideas for improving sleep quality:
Our lives bombard us with stimuli throughout the day and night. We eat late, answer emails, surf the Internet, get caught up on work, and stimulate our minds with television right up until the time we go to sleep -- or at least try to sleep. It is no wonder we can not drift off to sleep with all that are minds are still trying to process. Try giving yourself a stimulation hiatus for an hour, or even two hours before bedtime. Listen to music, read something relaxing, listen to a guided imagery CD to relax the mind and body.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends and holidays. 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night is ideal. In creating this natural rhythm you may even find that you no longer need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning.
Ban reading, television, and stressful conversation from your bedroom. Make your bedroom your sanctuary, your healing environment. Restful colors and uncluttered space can be very beneficial.
To the extent that you are able, try to sleep in total darkness and quiet.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol-- they can cause disruptions to your sleep which results in poor sleep quality.
Heavy meals before bedtime can also cause disruption. If you need a small snack in the evening be sure to choose something with protein and/or fiber. This can help sustain you through the night without causing disturbance.
Vigorous exercise after dinner can make it more difficult to get to sleep. A nice walk after dinner can aid digestion and help to calm you as you begin your sleep preparation routine.
If you find your mind racing when you are trying to fall asleep, try journaling. Writing down whatever is bouncing around in your head can allow you to keep these thoughts in a safe place for consideration later.
Relieving yourself of these thoughts to paper can allow you to let them go and can make it easier to drift off to sleep. This is not a formal journal. Just grab a notebook and write whatever comes, no one will be reading it, it is just for your own purpose.
Take a warn bath and/or do some gentle stretching. This is a great way to relieve tension and prepare the body for relaxation.
We also have many nutritional products that aid with sleep. Depending on your particular issue, your practitioner at The Center for Optimal Health can help you decide on a regimen that is just right for you.
If you are still having trouble sleeping, you should be evaluated by your practitioner for other problems that can interfere with sleep, including dietary sensitivities, hormonal changes, chronic fatigue, heavy metal toxicity, or stress and depression. Sleep testing can also help to provide answers.