Wow! Half the year is almost over! You should really be making progress now with the 12 Months to a Healthier You Series! I’m enjoying your emails, pictures, testimonies, etc. of how much you are being helped by the Series. Please keep them coming! They are great motivators for me as well. I too need motivation and inspiration just like anyone else! If you’ve missed January, February, March, April, or May, be sure to catch up.
June’s series is all about sleep. Did you know that Americans take a million and a half pounds of tranquilizers annually in order to sleep? Ideally, a person should be sleeping about 7-9 hours every night. Sleep can affect your health in ways you may not be aware of. For example, if you’re diabetic, a blood sugar drop will awake you. Your body can get use to interrupted sleep patterns making it hard to form healthy sleep habits. So called sleeping pills and other medicine that supposedly help with sleep can become addictive. Many people try to “catch up” on their sleep on the weekends, or other times when they can get sleep in. However, unfortunately, there really is no way to “catch up” on sleep. Sleep can’t be stored and recovered later. Once you’ve lost valuable sleep time it’s gone never to be recuperated.
Insomnia can leave you at an increased risk for strokes, seizures, asthma attacks, inflammation, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, weight gain, and a weakened immune system. You may find yourself with an increased risk for accidents because of poor memory or judgment. In fact, insomnia can cause depression and has been proven to be linked to stress, tension and anxiety. Who wouldn’t have health issues from lack of sleep with all that going on!
As an essential part of a person’s health and well-being, it’s extremely important to do your best to get in enough sleep each night. Of course each individual’s sleep needs vary, but in general, 7-9 hours is a good amount of time to reach for. Of course there are exceptions to every rule. Some individuals are able to function without sleepiness or drowsiness after as little as six hours of sleep. Others can’t perform at their peak unless they’ve slept ten hours. Our bodies are made up of intricate systems that help us function each day. When sleep deprivation reaches its’ peak, physiological systems become strained. Directly or indirectly, lack of sleep can be tied to abnormalities in the brain and nervous system, cardiovascular system, immune system, and metabolic functions.
Signs of not enough sleep
Sleep and emotional health are deeply interconnected. Sleep loss can negatively affect mood, outlook, and the quality of our relationships. Being irritable, lacking focus, and challenges coping with stress are all affected by loss of sleep. The pressures of everyday life can become harder to deal with. The occasional lack of sleep is perfectly understandable and ok. But constant moodiness, taking your mood out on your loved ones, etc. will only create more problems. Winding down earlier, practicing yoga or meditation, taking a relaxing bath, and carving out even just 15 minutes of “me” time are great ways to combat moodiness.
Low productivity and performance are slipping
Workplace productivity can become particularly difficult when insomnia hits you day in and day out. Eventually, something will have to give, and unfortunately, on the top of the list will be workplace duties and communication. Reasoning, focusing, and even finding the right words to describe simple can all suffer at the loss of sleep. Lost productivity can create a hostile workplace. Next time try going to bed and getting a good night’s sleep instead of staying up late to work on a work project. Leave work on time instead of trying to be superman or superwoman. Pace yourself and find ways to work smarter not harder. Brainstorm ways to increase efficiency without adding more stress if you can. Becoming a slave to caffeine and coffee every morning is not the way to fight tiredness and will just escalate the problem.
People who sleep fewer than six hours at night are more likely to be overweight—and show reduced levels of leptin-an appetite-suppressing hormone. More recently, researchers have identified a strong connection between lack of sleep and increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. You may have to exercise more just to keep your body in check. Isn’t it easier just to go to bed earlier? Heck yeah!
You’ve Got That Look
You know that look. The one where people ask “are you feeling well, are you o.k.” Red, puffy eyes, dark under-eye circles, slumped over, no energy, glazed over eyeballs. Lack of sleep is written all over your face and body. People can usually tell if you’re tired. Even small amounts of sleep deprivation affect your appearance. Bless all the hearts of mothers with young children! Make-up can only cover so much. At a very minimum try to stay hydrated. That will help out with some of your energy level and the “you look sick” look.
Bad Thinking and Judgment
Accurately reading social situations and making good decisions both heavily depend on the brain’s capacity to process emotions. But when people are sleep deprived, that region of the brain doesn’t fully function. You may also find yourself putting out poor work or skipping out on tasks that need to be done. Who wants to be called into the boss’s office for a talk about their productivity or tardiness because of lack of sleep? If you find yourself running on fumes from lack of sleep, try and really think before you respond to others. Proofread all your work and if time allows, sneak away for a 15 min. power nap if possible.
Sleepiness Sets in Midday
Daytime drowsiness is a huge sign that you aren’t getting enough shuteye. Yawning, nodding off, and sitting in a daze when you really need to be alert is bad. You don’t want to find yourself falling asleep at the wheel. Try to eat a healthy snack for energy when you feel that day time exhaustion coming on. Play some music, or listen to your favorite radio show while working if you are trying to stay awake while at the job. You may need to take a brisk walk around the building to refresh yourself.
If it’s not clear by now, there isn’t one aspect of your mental, emotional, or physical health that is not affected by the quality of your sleep.
Too Much Liquids
You might be drinking too much in the evenings. Cut back on how much you drink before bedtime, and have a cut-off time where you don’t drink anymore. 7:00 pm or at least 3 hours before bedtime should help decrease bathroom trips in the middle of the night.
Also having a glass of wine or a cocktail before bed can be a hindrance on your sleep. Alcohol may make you drowsy at first, but after a few hours its stimulating effect will kick in and the drowsiness will wear off.
That afternoon cup of coffee or tea can lead to a restless night. Cut out caffeine altogether, or at least limit your intake to very early in the day avoiding it altogether in the evenings.
Sleep apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome are two common disorders that can be extremely disruptive to quality sleep.
If you snore loudly, have pauses in your snoring, wake up gasping for air, or feeling tired even when you go to bed early, you may have sleep apnea. Restless leg syndrome involves an intense urge to move your legs. The movement can cause you to wake up or keep you from falling asleep.
Incorporating some type of light exercise, yoga, or meditation program can help reduce stress. Preparing and packing lunch in the evenings, making a To Do list for the next day at nite, and picking out what outfit to wear the night before, can all help to reduce stress. Just going to bed knowing there’s not a list of things to do when you wake up can be very comforting. Try some relaxing music as well.
More Techniques to Get More Sleep
Sleep does not always come naturally and easily. In today’s society there are a ton of distractions that contribute to the inability to get a good night’s sleep. Between our diets, technology, and varying noise levels, many experience sleep problems.
Our bodies produce melatonin naturally, based on certain indicators that let the body know it’s time for bed. One of those indicators is light. Artificial blue light emitting from your electronic screen triggers your body to produce more daytime hormones (like cortisol) and disorients your body’s natural preparation for sleep. Remove any potential nighttime distractions, such as light or noise. You may need to put up blackout curtains or banish your night-owl cat or dog from bed.
To prepare your body for sleep, shut down all electronics at least 60 minutes before bed, and for goodness sake, please turn off your cell phone. Or at the very place it across the room away from the bed.
Establish a Sleep Schedule
You can train your body to automatically get in sleep mode at a certain time each night. If you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, your body will establish a routine. Practice this routine even on holidays and weekends. Altering your sleep routine can confuse your body and break up the natural rhythm. Our bodies repair and restore themselves when we sleep, so getting as much sleep as possible to stay health and/or heal is key. Don’t try to force yourself to stay awake when you’re tired.
Create a Sleep Sanctuary
Make your bedroom the sanctuary that it is. Make it one of your favorite rooms in the house and you’ll soon create a wonderful place to rest. Again, remove all electronics from the bedroom if possible. If you need an alarm, use a battery operated one. Keep the room as dark as possible with black out curtains or an eye mask. Sleep in a cool environment, between 60-68 degrees, to help regulate the body’s temperature. Use an air purifier to limit allergens, pollutants, and dust to make your bedroom a natural, healthy, place to fall asleep. If you wake up in the middle of the night, resist the temptation to check your phone or clock. Some people need some type of white noise to sleep. The air purifier or one of those nature sound devices are also good ways to block out other unwanted noises.
Relax With a Bedtime Ritual
Slow down with a bedtime routine that promotes relaxation. Take a hot bath with lavender essential oil or Epsom salt. Have a cup of warm tea. Some teas that promote relaxation are chamomile and linden tea. Chamomile tea is most commonly known for its ability to promote a restful night’s sleep which is especially beneficial for those who suffer with insomnia, sleep disturbances, racing mind, or high anxiety and stress. Linden flower tea is great for helping to reduce anxiety, soothe the nerves, and alleviate stress related ailments such as irregular heartbeats, indigestion, hypertension, and headaches. Linden flowers also has calming and sedative properties that can help prevent insomnia and produce a restful night’s sleep. Yoga and light stretching are very beneficial in relaxing muscles. Each small effort you make to create a bedtime ritual will increase your chances for quality sleep. Listen to soothing music or read a book, preferably in dim lights. Watching tv can be too stimulating for quieting the mind and may even promote weird dreams. Relaxing activities can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness.
Quiet Your Mind
Journal your thoughts or write down notes, to-do lists, worries, etc. to get them all out. Hopefully once you transfer these thoughts from your head to paper they will stay there. If you must, give yourself 10 mins. to mull over any concerns you may have. Then let it go for the night and start fresh in the morning. This will help to clear your mind and make room for more pleasant and sleepy time relaxation.
Eating and Drinking
Eat and drink well before bedtime. But don’t go to bed hungry either. However, going to bed stuffed will leave you feeling uncomfortable and will keep you up. Instead of having a cigarette, or drinking coffee or alcohol, have that cup of warm tea.
Your mattress and pillow can contribute to better sleep, too. Since the features of good bedding are subjective, choose what feels most comfortable to you. If you share your bed, make sure there’s enough room for two. If you have children or pets, try to set limits on how often they sleep with you — or insist on separate sleeping quarters.
Cut or Limit Naps
Taking naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. If you choose to nap during the day, make it a power nap. No long drawn out naps. Naps that last for several hours aren’t really naps. That’s what you call sleeping. If you work nights, you’ll need to make an exception to the rules about daytime sleeping. In this case, keep your window coverings closed so that sunlight — which adjusts your internal clock — doesn’t interrupt your daytime sleep.
Try Physical Activity
Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper sleep. Timing is important, though. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you might be too energized to fall asleep. If this seems to be an issue for you, exercise earlier in the day.
Use Essential Oils
Try aromatherapy oils like lavender and cedarwood. Both have sedative effects when inhaled. Put a diffuser right next to your bed that allows you to diffuse essential oils while I sleep. If you don’t have a diffuser, rub a little on the insides of your wrists, on your temples, or on the bottoms of your feet. This will have the same effect and allow you to drift off into a soundless sleep. Always practice caution when using essential oils (insert my essential oil article here).
A deficiency in magnesium can cause sleep disturbances. Using some magnesium oil spray on your body before bed will have a calming effect and ensure that you are not deficient in this important mineral. Or if sprays aren’t your thing, this liquid magnesium has literally changed my life. No joke! I had no ideal being deficient in magnesium could cause all sorts of problems such as high blood pressure, aches and pains, heart problems, etc. If you’d rather try and get your magnesium through food alone (which is quite hard especially with today’s soil depletion), consider adding some magnesium-rich foods into your diet. Dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, and Brazil nuts are some good foods to eat for magnesium.
Unfortunately, there may be a number of reasons why you can’t get a good nights’ sleep. Hormonal imbalances and anxiety contribute majorly to sleep issues. If all else fails, see your doctor! An occasional sleepless night happens to the best of us, but when it starts happening all the time, there’s usually some underlying issue that needs to be addressed. A sleep study can reveal problems as well. From there, the cause can be identified and treated to help you get a good night’s sleep.
All health issues need to be treated holistically, sleep issues are no different. Having a qualified practitioner identify why sleep quality is being compromised is imperative.
Proper, good quality sleep is imperative to a healthy body and sound mind!
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Eat well. Be well. Repeat