How to stay healthy: sleep
Why do we let ourselves get so tired?
It is getting colder out and winter has finally arrived. More people are getting sick around us and the big question is, what can you do to stay healthy?
The simple but challenging answer is get more sleep. It would seem sleeping more would be easier at this time of year when it gets dark so early and the nights get longer. Alas, I notice that for a lot of my patients, trying to get more sleep is a real chronic problem.
There are just so many things to get done from putting the kids to bed, getting ready for the next day, completing that last
project for school or work, or even cleaning up the house. Sometimes it’s about staying up late so you have a few minutes to relax.
There have been numerous news reports that mention how sleep deprived we are as a culture. The other day I happened to be on Ted Talk and found this great, humorous, and short talk about how important sleep is. Please watch it below.
The bottom line: how sleep will help you succeed, is a great reminder to all of us to choose to go to bed.
Why sleep is important: ways to get more
Now, just in case you need more reasons of why sleep is important and what it can do for you. It allows your body and mind to heal and repair. When you are asleep your cells are able to detoxify. Your mind processes the thoughts of the day and it helps your brain to have normal activity.
It is important for the hormonal and immune systems. When your body sleeps it releases many important hormones that control wakefulness, growth, reproduction, weight loss, appetite, craving carbohydrates and sugar metabolism.
One can see how important sleep is when you think about getting sick and feel more tired. Your immune system releases chemicals that help you sleep more during an illness so your body can slow down and take the time to fight off infection. Even when you are not sick more sleep really helps your immune system to be stronger.
Decreased sleep can lead to more illness, slower cognitive function, poorer judgement, inability to focus, mood changes, more car accidents, and difficulty losing weight just to mention a few things.
To help with sleep I would recommend a sleep routine, something you do every night. Just like when you had kids or were a child yourself, you would have certain things you
would do before bed like having a bath, reading, relaxing. Whatever works for you. Having a regular routine every night helps you get ready for sleep.
A couple of other things that can help would be no caffeine after 3pm and limit exposure to electronics an hour before bed since they can stimulate your nervous system. Try to put away your tablets and cell phones and rather than watching tv try something else you enjoy that does not involve electronics.
For some people it’s not the choice of going to bed that is the problem but the fact that they can’t fall asleep. This is when I usually recommend other home care techniques or supplements depending on the situation.
It is about trying to figure out why you are not sleeping. Do you need to have mind calming herbs or vitamins? Are you having problems with hormones and need help with hot flashes? Do you have restless legs and can’t sleep? Are you jetlagged? There isn’t always a single solution since there are so many reasons why people can’t sleep.
The first step for most people is trying to stop that “one more thing” treadmill we so often find ourselves on. Try slowing down. Go to bed, give your body time to relax, and see if you can finally drift off to sleep.