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  Home » Newsletter » The Healing Effects of Sleep, August 2012
 

The Healing Effects of Sleep

Many people believe the myth that as we age, we need less sleep. They think that getting by on three to four hours of sleep per night is enough to function properly. If they wake up groggy or feel sluggish throughout the day, they blame it on their busy lifestyle. They rely on caffeine to keep them awake and promise to “catch up” on sleep on the weekend. The truth is everyone — infants, teens and adults need more than just a few hours of sleep a night. People experiencing a lack of sleep are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity. Sleep is also increasingly recognized as important to public health, with sleep insufficiency linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors.

The Importance of Sleep

Just as nutrition and exercise are essential for optimal health and happiness, so is sleep. While you rest, your brain stays busy, overseeing a wide variety of biological maintenance tasks that keep your mind and body running in top condition and prepare you for the day ahead. Your body needs considerable time to properly repair, recharge and detoxify. Giving your body only a couple of hours of sleep is not enough time to get your body ready to function at its best. The following are some of the risks involved with not getting enough sleep:

Short-Term Memory Loss
Sleep deprivation can impact your memory for a short period of time and negatively impact your thought process. You may forget a task or pause halfway through, forgetting what the original task was.

Depression
When you lack energy, you can lack motivation to complete simple responsibilities. The lack of energy and loss of focus can cause you to have a negative image of yourself.

Weak Immune System
Sleep is when the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. Lack of sleep can increase your chances of becoming ill.

Metabolism and Weight
Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.

Mood
Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.

Cardiovascular Health
Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, according to the National Sleep Foundation, most healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and teens need even more sleep and the Foundation suggests that school-age children (5-10 years) need 10-11 hours of sleep daily and teens (10-17 years) need 8.5-9.5 hours.

According to data from the National Health Interview Survey, nearly 30% of adults reported an average of 6 hours or less of sleep per day. Only 31% of high school students reported getting at least 8 hours of sleep on an average school night.

One of the biggest myths people believe is that they can “catch up" on lost sleep by sleeping in on the weekend. As it turns out, bouncing back from chronic lack of sleep is not that easy. Getting two solid nights of sleep is not enough to pay off a long-term debt. While extra sleep can give you a temporary boost, your performance and energy will drop back down as the day wears on.

How To Get Enough Sleep

Sleep Hygiene Tips The promotion of good sleep habits and regular sleep is known as “sleep hygiene." With a little effort and practice, the following sleep hygiene tips can be used to help you get a restful night of sleep:

  • Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Consistency is important. If you keep a regular sleep schedule, you will feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times.
  • Moderate physical activity may help promote sleep, but avoid vigorous exercise a few hours before going to bed.
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
  • Avoid nicotine
  • Do not watch television, eat, work, or use computers in your bedroom. Remove all TVs, computers, and other “gadgets” from the bedroom.
  • Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, one that is not too hot or too cold.
  • If you are extremely tired during the day and cannot function, taking a short nap can help to refresh and recharge. Limit your nap to no more than thirty minutes as sleeping longer can interfere with your night sleep.

In addition to practicing good sleep habits, consider incorporating mind-body therapies and techniques such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, reiki, reflexology and massage into your lifestyle routine. Studies have shown that practicing these therapies calms the mind and prepares the body for a more restful, restorative sleep.

Relax through meditation and guided imagery

One of the things that keep people awake at night is their mind racing with worry. The use of imagery for relaxation and meditation causes the brain to release natural tranquilizing chemicals, which make guided imagery meditation a natural method for reducing stress related conditions such as headaches, high blood pressure and pre-menstrual stress, as well as a wide range of stress related psychological conditions as well.

Yoga
Research suggests this ancient form of exercise can help combat insomnia, relieve stress, and ward off aches and pains that can keep you tossing and turning all night.

Reiki/Healing Touch Therapy
Reiki, or healing touch therapy, is based on Eastern beliefs that energy supports the body’s own natural healing abilities. Reiki is a healing practice in which practitioners place their hands lightly on or just above the person, with the goal of facilitating the person’s own healing response. Reiki sessions can help you to relax and de-stress paving the way for better sleep.

Acupuncture
Acupuncture has a calming effect on the nervous system. It results in better sleep patterns by clearing obstructions in the muscle and nerve channels, facilitating the flow of oxygen-enriched energy and relaxes the system.

Reflexology
Reflexology works by dissolving tension and releasing blocked energy in the body. At the center of the top pad in each large toe is the reflex point that corresponds to the pineal gland. The pineal gland is a small cone-shaped structure that produces the hormone melatonin. Because melatonin affects a person’s sleep patterns, maintaining a balanced level is important for healthy sleep.

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