It was once said that a good laugh and a good nights sleep could be the cure for most anything. I couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to the importance of sleep. Sleep is one of the building blocks to good health. For many of us, especially young parents, getting a good night’s sleep feels like a long lost dream. I remember being a young mom years ago and cherishing my alone tine, which as a mom, seemed to only come once the kids were tucked into bed. I would stay up until 2am only to regret that decision a few short hours later when I would be awoken by my children around 5:30am. Knowing what I know now, I would go back and tell my younger self to go to bed!
Why is sleep so important?
Well, sleep is what heals and prepares our bodies for the next day. There are four stages of sleep and each one plays a vital part in our sleep health.
Stage 1 is the stage that if you wake from you will wonder if you have been sleeping at all. This stage is the peaceful stage that helps clear and calm your mind.
Stage 2 is the moderately deep sleep stage. This stage is the one that you stay in most of your sleep time. This stage is where you heart and vascular system slow down and begin to get a well-deserved rest.
Stage 3 is our deepest stage of sleep. This is where our breathing slows down our blood pressure drops and our muscles and tissues are repaired. Primarily the human growth hormone is produced at this stage. The growth hormone is your friend. Children need it to grow, adults need it to stay healthy and repair and restore their bodies.
Stage 4 is the REM sleep. During this stage our bodies and especially our brains are being recharged with much-needed energy.
You see, our bodies recalibrate as we sleep. Our brains, nervous and respiratory systems, and organs are all being restored during this time. Sleep also regulates hormones, such as those that regulate appetite, thus reasoning that getting a good nights sleep could help you lose weight. By getting the right amount of sleep, you are setting yourself up for success for the next day.
So the next question is, how much sleep should you be getting? The best time to sleep is from 10pm-6am and the ideal amount of sleep for an adult is 7.5 to 8 hours (school aged children need about 10 to 11 hours since they are constantly growing and developing). If you can throw in a short power nap during your day, that is even better for you! Wouldn’t it be nice if our work places allowed power naps? I think we would be much more productive if we could take a 10-20 minute nap every day.
With that said, don’t think like I once did that your body is doing just fine with only 4 hours of sleep a night, because eventually your body will start rebelling. I understand that there are things that can get in the way such as babies, and small children but you need to get the sleep when you can to support your health. There’s nothing wrong, moms, with taking a nap when your babies are napping because you need to sleep!
I know that many people may struggle with actually falling asleep once they are in bed, so lets talk about what interferes with a good nights sleep. Stress and anxiety, painful physical conditions, caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol (both these are stimulants, many people like to enjoy a glass of wine at night and then wonder why they wake up wide awake at 3 am), medications, certain foods (eating to much sugary food or carbohydrates, pop corn, these stimulate excessive insulin release to the pancreas and cal also cause hot flashes during the night for women), exercising 3 hours before bedtime (this will raise your stress hormone levels), a bed mattress or pillow, a snoring spouse, and hot flashes and menstrual cramps.
Some of you may have just read that and may feel overwhelmed, but let’s talk about solutions! One of the best ways to help yourself sleep is to begin preparing yourself in the morning. Yep, the morning! If possible, go outside in the morning and sit in the sun for 10-20 minutes. Don’t be afraid to get your face directly in the sun without sunscreen. The early morning sun is going to increase the hormone melatonin, which is essential for good sleep. You can also take a melatonin supplement, but know that if you take it all the time your body will become dependent on it. The best way is to get outside and get melatonin naturally. Another solution is magnesium. Many of us are depleted in magnesium due to insufficient dietary intake. Magnesium helps calms the nerves and relaxes the muscles. Increasing your magnesium intake right before bed will help you sleep. I use a product called Calm and it works beautifully. I also use pure 100% essential oils. Apply Cedarwood and lavender oil to your feet right before bed. You can use lavender on your kids as well. Both these oils have a calming effect. Also be sure to begin dimming the lights 2 hours before bed, listen to calming music, read a good book and don’t eat a heavy meal right before bed. These are just a few things that will help aid in a good nights sleep. Remember, sleep is an important part of your over all health. Don’t neglect a good thing.
To your health,