Sleep is highly under rated. Or, maybe more so, just not thought about often. And I cannot emphasis enough how important it is to your health.
Humans run on a 24 hour hormone cycle that regulates our hunger, satiety, energy, tissue repair, immune systems, stress response and body temperature, among other emotions and functions. Hormones are chemical messengers that trigger specific reactions to occur in the body. Without adequate sleep, we throw off this cycle of messengers, leading to disarray of feelings and actions. This can mean different things for different people, but generally speaking, the outcomes are:
- metabolism disruption
- appetite change
- weight gain
- low energy
- mood changes
- poor cognition
- increase risk of chronic disease such as cardiovascular, hypertension, diabetes
Plus, a continuing cycle of mixed signals from our confused hormones as they struggle to keep up with our poor choices to try and “fix” the ill we feel due to lack of good sleep. Much like cleansing the body of toxins, we must give the body adequate time to process and redistribute signaling chemicals for a clean mind and pure energy. This is why we must sleep, and sleep well.
To put this in more perspective, there are over 60 hormones in the body, each with a unique job but all interconnected. There are also 70 different sleep disorders with negative health consequences.
Generally speaking, adults need roughly 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Teenagers need 8.5 to 9.5 and school age children need 10-11 hours of sleep a night. Newborns, infants and toddlers need over 12 hours.
To help you achieve this, and to have the deep and undisturbed sleep, try the following tips:
- Set a bedtime and stick to it, try to go to bed at that same time every night
- If you nap, limit the length to under 30 minutes
- Herbal tea, particularly with chamomile and kava, in evening or before bed
- No stimulants, such as caffeine or nicotine, after 10-11am
- Do not use or engage in electronics within an hour before bed and never use them while in bed
- Keep your bedroom dark (eye covers or dark blinds), maintained at a consistant, cool temperature
- Keep earplugs handy if you are affected by noise
- No electronics or even clock lights too close to your head
- Avoid eating large meals or having alcohol within an hour before bed
- Keep a journal next to your bed to record thoughts right before bed or that may wake you up in the night
- Practice relaxation techniques regularly and particularly before bed, such as deep breathing, muscle release, meditation, yoga
Only with deep, solid sleep will the body be able to adequately produce and regulate hormones for proper health.
National Institute of Health, Information on Sleep: https://science.education.nih.gov/supplements/nih3/sleep/guide/info-sleep.htm
National Sleep Foundation: http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-health
Rachel Leproult and Eve Van Cauter, Role of Sleep and Sleep Loss in Hormonal Release and Metabolism: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3065172/