There are certain functions your body carries out while you sleep. The liver cleanses. The digestive tract moves the food on through and works on self-repair. Memories are reviewed and cataloged. Emotions and other chemical releases of the day are ceased. Hormones relating to digestion, hunger, and satiation are balanced. Muscle tissue repairs. These are just to name a few. Sleeping a full cycle every night is very good for your health.
Sleep deprivation leads to a host of issues, including:
-lack of motivation
-inability to cope with stress
-concentration and memory problems
-reduced creativity and problem-solving skills
-impaired motor skills.
What are the sleep requirements for people? For years we've heard that children and older adults need about 10 hours, and teens and adults need seven to nine. Actual testing has shown there to be different distinctions than this. And, of course, there are variables which change one's common sleep needs: season, illnesses, and mental or emotional fatigue.
This chart shows current established guidelines for sleep needs by age:
Newborn to 3 months 12 - 18 hours
3 months to 1 year 14 - 15 hours
1 to 3 years old 12 - 14 hours
3 to 5 years old 11 to 13 hours
5 to 12 years old 10 to 11 hours
12 to 18 years old 8.5 to 10 hours
Adults (18+) 7.5 to 9 hours
You can't make up lost sleep, no matter how hard you may try. So it's important to get the best possible sleep during it's time.
Your body can't adjust quickly to different sleeping hours. This is especially sad news for those working graveyard shifts, that want to live a normal life on days off. But the best way to achieve enough sleep on this type of schedule, is to stay with it even on days off. Some principles of good sleep, that will be listed below, will need to be artificially duplicated to evoke the hormones and actions that induce sleep.
There are two types of sleep:
Non-REM (NREM) sleep consists of three stages - each with deeper sleep than the last. These stages last a total of about 70 to 90 minutes, before your body switches into the next type.
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is when you do most active dreaming. It's called REM because your eyes actually move back and forth during this stage. Your dreams occur here, while your eyes move more rapidly, and your breathing is very shallow. Heart rate and blood pressure actually increase during this part, although your arm and leg muscles are paralyzed. Your body can carry out many healing processes during this time.
What can you do to improve sleep, so you get a good night's healthy rest?
-Avoid caffeine from early afternoon through the night.
-Go to bed and get up at the same times every day.
-Make it to bed by 10 pm, if possible, as your body produces melatonin during dark hours, which peaks about midnight, then slowly declines up until it's time for you to wake.
-Keep your room temperature a little cooler than you the rest of your house. A good sleeping temperature for most people is between 62 to 65*F. Wear covers, but keep the air cooler.
-Don't eat anything past 7 pm. If your digestive processes are in high gear, it's difficult to relax into sleeping mode.
-Don't eat sugary foods, foods that break down to sugars quickly, or high calorie foods at your last meal. These lead to high energy for a moment, then fatigue, and fat storage, but actually don't help with sleep. They keep one hungry and on edge.
-Have a glass of chamomile tea before bed, sweetened with a few drops of stevia, or non-sweetened.
-Rub two drops of lavender essential oil on palms, then onto your temples. This essential oil brings on relaxation and sooths the emotions. It also relieves headaches.
-If leg cramps bother you during the night, take calcium/magnesium/vitamin D pills before bed.
-If you're plagued by someone that snores, wear ear plugs, even if that someone is you.
-Don't take naps during the day, other than 15 minute power naps when needed.
-Keep your room dark, and avoid blue light - which hits sensors in the brain which cause alertness. That means no tv watching from bed, as well.
-Keep your sleeping room dark. While dark, your body will produce the hormone melatonin, which works on making your body asleep. To wake up, light up with bright lights.
-If thoughts run through your head, plaguing the peace you need to slumber, either clear them out with focused meditation, or write them down on paper to clear them out, then get back to your process of going to sleep. One may be stressed by certain problems and find it productive to come up with solutions to those problems, to relieve the lack of sleep they are causing. If this is the case, set up a time to do this before your planned bedtime, so you can have it over with before sleep time. It has been actually been found to be helpful to do this, as your subconscious mind when asleep, and the Universe, will work to make the solutions a reality. Make it all work for you, while you sleep, rather than against you, while you should be sleeping and are unable to.
-Avoid smoking, and any other forms of nicotine and tar, as these inhibit the brain from producing melatonin.
-Read a relaxing book that takes your focus in a gentle manner. No scary mysteries or intense scientific books that get the brain highly activated. Enjoy something soothing, even poetry, to move your brain waves into a focused, non-agitated mode.
-Align your body and head in the best position for sleep. This means a straight spine, comfortable shoulders, and when on your back have your head on a small or wedged pillow that allows your head to lay back, opening up your breathing tube. Many times people need to use a small pillow at their waists or under the small of their backs and between their knees. Find your best configuration and use it.
-Listen to quiet, calming music. Search for peaceful, restful music that moves your brain into delta waves. Many eight hour tracks can be found on the internet, such as: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4D8ezH0iXh8, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kEMlcAbWwo.
Some of these have commercials every hour or so, be selective in your process. Find peaceful music that puts you into sleep mode.
Enjoying a full, peaceful night's sleep is important for your health and alertness, and it just feels good. Start sleeping better tonight!
Dr. Raylene Jorgenson attended the University of Natural Health, and has worked with man clients in improving their health and quality of life naturally.