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Sleep Matters

sleep-lackHaving a good night's sleep is important to our quality of life in many ways:

  • Lack of sleep affects our mood.
  • Lack of sleep affects our health.
  • Lack of sleep affects our productivity.

I can only speak for myself. When I don't get enough sleep and I don't feel adequately rested, my mood can swing from pensive to giggly. It definitely alters my productivity. I see a marked difference in my concentration if I have had a good night's sleep.

For me, the most important item on the list above is how lack of sleep affects our health. According to Dr. Erica Mallery-Blythe, “sleep loss impairs immune function & immune challenge alters sleep”, so it's a vicious cycle. According to Dr. Mallery-Blythe, sleep deprivation delays wound & burn healing, decreases white blood cell count, and impairs working memory – which, in turn, impairs decision making, reasoning, episodic memory, and lowers seizure thresholds.

There are many symptoms associated with sleep deprivation, such as: aching muscles, confusion, memory lapses (or loss), depression, hallucinations, hand tremors, headaches, malaise, sensitivity to cold, bloodshot eyes, puffiness around the eyes, increased blood pressure, increased stress hormones, increased risk of diabetes, increased fibromyalgia, irritability, obesity, child temper tantrums, yawning, and some symptoms that are similar to ADHD & Psychosis. And, By the way, complete sleep deprivation leads to death, she says.

Recent research at UCLA indicates that there may be a connection between improved lifestyle habits, including improved sleep hygiene, and improved outcomes for Alzheimer's patients.

The amount of sleep that each person requires varies. There are folks that swear that they don't need more than 5 hours of sleep per night. Others, like me, need a minimum of 8 hours of good quality sleep in order to feel healthy.

Here are some tips that will hopefully help you determine what areas you can improve so that you can consistently obtain good quality rest:

  • Consistently maintain regular bedtime and wake-up hours (even on weekends and holidays).
  • Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy.
  • Keep your bedroom dark. Even the slightest glow from an alarm clock can disrupt your ability to sleep.
  • If you don't go to sleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed. Return to bed only if you're sleepy.
  • Avoid caffeine consumption (tea, cola, coffee, chocolate) within 4 hours to 8 hours of bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly, but avoid intense physical activity 3 hours before bedtime.
  • Keep a regular schedule – regular times for meals, etc…
  • Avoid daytime naps. If you must take a nap, do so before 3 pm.
  • Avoid eating a meal 2 hours before bedtime (a light snack can help avoid hunger pangs and aid sleep).
  • Avoid stressful or noisy distractions while trying to sleep (noisy clocks, bright lights, uncomfortable clothes or bedding).
  • Avoid alcohol consumption & nicotine 2 hours before bedtime, which can disturb sleep quality.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine (book, music, bath, relaxation technique).
  • If you have difficulty relaxing at bedtime, essential oils, like lavender or chamomile in a diffuser (or in a bath) might help to soothe you enough to relax. You might also want to utilize some herbal relaxation aids such as valerian, passionflower, hops, or lemon balm may be helpful.
  • Get enough sleep so that you feel well-rested nearly every day.
  • Use the bed for sex and sleep only (no TV, laptop computer, reading, etc.)

The bedroom should be calming, quiet, dark, and a little bit cool and make sure your bed is warm & comfortable. I urge you to consider avoidance of any electronics in the bedroom – including TVs and cell phones.

There are many possible reasons for our lack of sleep. if we habitually have a problem getting enough rest, it is imperative that we analyze what is causing us to lose sleep at night. It might take a bit of detective work on our part. For example, I have been doing a lot of research on EMF's, since I have noticed a dramatic change in my sleep quantity & quality since a new smart meter was installed at our home. Coincidentally, the meter is on the brick wall that lies along the headboard of our bed. (I'll be writing a separate blog post on my research & findings. I've also been doing some research on Inclined Bed Therapy. I am fascinated by this topic & plan to write an article about this as well.)

Last, but not least, my colleague, Rosangel Perez, and I recorded a blog talk radio show called Tips For Better Sleep, which inspired this blog post. You can listen to our recorded show here.

References:

Huffington Post Article: 37 Science Backed Tips For Better Sleep Tonight
Sleep Hygiene Tips, University of Maryland, 2005

Huffington Post Article: 9 Surprising Reasons You Can't Fall Asleep

Dr. Erica Mallery-Blythe: British Society of Ecological Medicine (BSEM-March 2014)

Cafecito Break – The Voice of The Awakening Woman,November 17, 2014

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is provided for informational or educational purposes only and is not intended to be, or serve as a substitute for the advice of your physician. Always seek your doctor's advice.