One of the most important things you can do for your health is implement some practices to ensure that you get the best sleep possible. Even though this is an obvious statement for most, many don’t realize the role that sleep has on your energy, body’s ability to heal itself, the development of serious health problems, maintaining a healthy weight, and your overall experience of life. For those more spiritually inclined, it also is an important time of creation and higher conscious “thinking” in the subconscious mind, which we do through dreams. We spend about 1/3 of our life in this time of rest and there are some great tips you can follow to ensure that those hours you’re laying in bed are providing you with what you need to feel 100% during your waking hours and keep your body healthy and strong.
So how much sleep do we really need? The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours per night for adults. For me, the quality of the sleep is more important then the number of hours, which will vary from person to person in terms of needs. The REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep is the most important as it’s the deepest part of sleep where dreams occur and deep rest is achieved. Once we come out of the REM period, we are in a lighter sleep mode and more or less rested. This is the time frame when we naturally awake if we aren’t managing our sleep with an alarm clock.
Unfortunately, very few of us get 7 or more hours of sleep on a regular basis and there are strong health implications for those who don’t. Not only will a lack of sleep impact your energy and fulfillment in life, but it can also be a predecessor to more serious conditions.
In line with my recent posts related to Alzheimer’s disease, studies have shown that there is a relationship between disrupted sleep and the development of amyloid plaques, a marker for the onset of dementia, which inhibits our ability to form new memories. Although good sleep patterns cannot remove existing plaques, it appears that quality sleep can affect your memory and the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
There also appears to be a connection between sleep and mental health. Good sleep contributes to healthy mental and emotional behavior, including a more positive outlook on life. Studies have shown that insomnia can lead to depression, as well as potentially contribute to bipolar disease, anxiety disorders and ADHD. Of these mental disorders, the association between sleep and depression seems to be the strongest with one study indicating that insomnia precedes depression 69% of the time, as reported by Harvard Medical School.
Other studies have indicated that inadequate sleep can contribute to heart trouble, elevated blood pressure, colon cancer, diabetes, and more. Even obesity can be linked to lack of sleep, with one study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reporting that sleep deprivation affects metabolism, blood sugar and appetite-regulating hormones, both of which contribute to weight gain and increased hunger during waking hours.
So with so much of our vital life energy and wellbeing tied up in our sleep patterns, what can we do to improve the quality of our sleep? Here are 5 tips to help ensure a good night’s rest.
1. Don’t eat a heavy meal close to bedtime
If your body is working on digestion and your metabolism is in full gear, it’s not in rest mode. Not only will this make for an uncomfortable night of sleep, but it can also cause acid reflux. It's best to enjoy your last meal 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
2. Limit your intake of water, caffeine and alcohol several hours before sleep
Not only will liquids keep you up at night making bathroom trips, but stimulants and/or alcohol will make it near impossible to sleep well. Many believe that alcohol helps them sleep, but it only temporarily depresses the nervous system, which assists with the initial phase of “falling asleep”, but nothing more. If you have consumed a lot, you will surely awake a few hours later and not feel rested upon rising.
3. Make sure that the room where you sleep is as dark as possible
A dark room stimulates melatonin production, the hormone that regulates sleep. Lighting is an extremely important aspect of the natural cycles our bodies are meant to experience. There is a rhythm to our days, seasons and moon changes that trigger our natural sleep response. Avoid overhead lights and blue lights (which coincide with daylight) and instead opt for table lights and yellow bulbs in the evening hours. Make sure that windows are well covered and the room is dark prior to sleep in order to give the body its best chance for deep uninterrupted rest.
4. Eliminate the use of electronics before and during sleep
Cell phones, television and computer usage prior to bed disrupts melatonin production, making it difficult to sleep soundly. Having these electronics in the room where you sleep is also detrimental due to the electromagnetic fields these items produce, which directly affect your nervous system.
5. Focus on positive thoughts and creation prior to sleep
The last thing you want to do is lay in bed worrying about everything that could or already did go wrong throughout the day. Not only will this contribute to stress keeping you awake at night, it will also make it difficult to manifest your true desires in the subconscious mind. Our last thoughts before sleep directly impact what we attract into our life during our waking hours. A great book that explains this in detail is called Wishes Fulfilled by Wayne Dyer. If you find yourself in a cycle of negative thoughts, pull yourself out of bed and do some reading, yoga or meditation until you feel good enough to go to sleep in a loving and peaceful state of mind. It will not only do wonders for your rest, but also your life!
 aan.com (2012, February 14). Trouble sleeping? It may affect your mood later on. Retrieved from http://www.aan.com/press/index.cfm?fuseaction=release.view&release=1025
 Health.harvard.edu (2009, July). Sleep and mental health. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2009/July/Sleep-and-mental-health
 Eurekalert.org (2012, March 25). Sleeping too much or too little can be bad for your heart. Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-03/acoc-stm032512.php
 Pubmed.gov. “Sleep quality and elevated blood pressure in adolescents,” S. Javaheri, et al. Circulation, September 2, 2008: 118(10):1034-40. Epub 2008 Aug 18.
 Pubmed.gov. “Short duration of sleep increases risk of colorectal adenoma,” CL. Thompson, et al. Cancer, February 15, 2011: 117(4):841-7. doi: 10.1002/cncr.25507. Epub 2010 Oct 8.
 Care.diabetesjournals.org. “Sleep duration as a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes,” H. Klar Yaggi, et al. Diabetes Care, March 2006: vol. 29 no. 3 657-661
 Dailymail.com.uk (2011, May 17). Just one poor night’s sleep will slow down your metabolism and lead to putting on weight. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1387649/Just-poor-nights-sleep-slows-metabolism.html#ixzz20Jr5StOJ
Published On: July 25, 2012