There is absolutely nothing in the world that can take the place of sleep. There is simply no substitute, no matter how much money we could afford to pay, we cannot purchase it and it is extremely critical to our well-being, however it is often overlooked when seeking solutions to improve our health.
We have become a sleep deprived nation to the detriment of our well-being. The term “24/7” is often referred to in relation to the never ending movements of the technological world we live in, because of it’s ceaseless activity. When I was a child in the fifties, we lived on a farm in Australia and we had a home generator for our electricity. Lights out, literally meant lights out, because when the generator was switched off that was the end of our electricity. Everything switched off and shut down. Today, we are able to use computers and artificial lighting anytime of the day or night, which creates an environment which interferes with our bodies’ normal circadian cycles. Melatonin, the hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, affects both our desire to sleep and the quality of it. It lowers our body temperature and prepares us for sleep but it’s release is aided by darkness, and if you spend a lot of time in a brightly lit room or staring at a computer screen, the release of melatonin becomes suppressed, leading to longer waking times which confuses your body. We were designed to be in tune with the rhythms of the universe – to wake when it was light, go to bed when it was dark, sow in the spring, reap in the summer etc.
Our Ridiculously Simple Step to Transform Your Health (and Life) this week involves taking stock to see if you are in fact getting enough sleep for the sake of your physical health, mind, emotions and immune system. Winter is the perfect time to create new rhythms and routines since the days are shorter. We can take lessons from the animals around us who hibernate during winter, but while we may not be able to hibernate (although some of us would love to) during winter, we can decide to make our days shorter and our nights longer.
It has been stated that sleep before midnight is more refreshing and relaxing than sleep afterwards, although there appears to be no scientific study done to prove this. Science or not, I personally believe this to be true from my own personal experience.
Some say that one hour of sleep before midnight is in fact equal to two afterwards – fact or not, this for you to decide. One interesting thing I noticed during the teenage years of our five children was that the quality of their skin (absence of zits) was dependent on how much sleep was obtained before midnight. Of course they never believed me, but I did my own (un)scientific study on this and decided it was certainly true.
Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. Individual requirements differ, however, people have become accustomed to having less sleep than necessary, thus cheating their bodies of the very energy it needs to repair efficiently. Did you know before Edison invented the light bulb, people slept, on average about 10 hours per night. That number is now down to 6 hours per night! Sleep is our personal physician. I am always amazed when going to bed absolutely exhausted and waking the next morning totally refreshed and being able to tackle what seemed like an insurmountable problem the evening before.
Many people complain that they cannot sleep. Even children are often unable to do so, most often as a result of too much mental stimulation and lack of exercise during the day. When our children were growing up they were always amused when I told them the story of being a teenager (fifteen years old) and having a bedtime of 8pm!! At that time it was expected that I would take my turn to rise early (usually 5.30am) to prepare the breakfast, light the fires etc for the rest of the family. I don’t ever recall being sick! Years ago it used to be common for children to go to bed early. Children often need up to ten hours sleep per night. Today, children often watch television and play computer games late into the night. By resisting sleep, they disorganize natural sleep patterns. Children who are robbed of their necessary sleep over any length of time may become nervous and irritable and will gradually lose the benefits of invigorating sleep. Children require more sleep than adults because of the greater cell activity. This disadvantage cannot be corrected easily in later life. Good sleep habits when we are young, prepares us for good sleep patterns in adulthood.
The brain requires the body to sleep. Even the process of dreaming is necessary for the brain to function at a normal level. Sleep gives our bodies the opportunity to repair and heal. Lack of sleep disrupts every function in our body. Sleep allows for the heart to reduce output for a significant period of time. Without sleep, the heart does not get the rest it needs. Some resort to taking sleeping tablets to beat the lack of sleep but the body does not actually trigger into healing mode when sleep has been induced artificially, so while you may actually go to sleep, your body is not repairing as it should. Sleep is not only important for healing, it is also the elixir of youth and vitality. People are constantly searching for an anti-ageing cure but it always has been and always will be right within their reach.
It is well known that a good night’s rest and a short nap during the day can increase your performance and productivity. Up to twenty minutes siesta after lunch will revitalise you, more than that will leave you feeling groggy, due to the different stages of sleep that we experience. We know that sleep gives us the rest we need to restore ourselves physically, emotionally and cognitively. But did you know that depriving yourself from sleep can contribute to many health problems?
If getting to sleep and staying asleep is your challenge, we recommend taking some of the Ridiculously Simple Steps to Transform Your Health (and Life) mentioned below:
- Make sure you have done some exercise during the day – brisk walking is good.
- Set a bedtime and stick to it. The body responds to habits.
- Disconnect from the day and spend the first 15 minutes of lying down to practice deep abdominal breathing.
- Listen to gentle music for babies!
- Avoid action movies and sensational news before bedtime (actually avoid at all times!)
- Create a bedtime routine – this is crucial as it triggers the mind and the body into thinking about sleep – in other words do the same things before bed each evening – cleaning teeth, laying out clothes for the next day, setting alarm etc all in a routine.
- Water is relaxing – take a shower or bath before bed.
- Use therapeutic essential oils for relaxation. Make sure they are pure. Lavender and marjoram act as relaxants.
- Eat only light meals in the evening and if you have unstable blood sugars, it would be advisable to take a light protein snack just before bedtime. Perhaps Grandma knew a thing or two when as a child she gave you that glass of milk to go to sleep on. Not that I recommend milk, but in Grandmas day it would have been raw milk (not pasturised and homogenised) as it is today. A great alternative would be a few almonds, or you could try a small apple cut into slices spread with some nut butter. This will help to keep your blood sugar stable during the night, consequently, you’ll sleep more soundly and you’ll also wake up refreshed instead of being tired from having low blood sugar.
Now, after taking some Ridiculously Simple Steps to Transform Your Health (and Life) you are ready to sleep like a baby.
Your comments and suggestions are invited.