Did you know that sleep is as important for our overall health as nutrition and exercise? 1 in 3 Americans report not getting the needed seven hours of sleep per night. There is a high correlation with poor sleep and poor health.
What is the impact of poor sleep? Potential drowsiness, irritability, impaired concentration, and the inability to perform complex tasks are common outcomes of sleep deprivation. Poor sleep or insufficient sleep hinders memory and decreases physical performance and reaction time. The most common problem is not being able to fall asleep and then stay asleep, though some people may have one without the other. Chronic medical conditions or medications seem to play a part.
This would lead one to think if we work on being healthy and staying healthy we reduce the risk of sleep disturbances as we age. A healthy diet and exercise 3-4 times a week for 30-60 minutes results in a deeper sleep cycle. Insomnia should be taken seriously because it can lead to harmful effects on overall health and longevity.
Ok so why not just take a pill? Did you know that sleeping pills are not meant for use beyond 4-8 weeks? They have side effects such as mental impairment, dizziness, and lightheadedness. They can lead to a worsening of breathing issues related to sleep apnea. So now you might be saying to yourself, what are my options? What is the alternative?
How About These:
Watch Caffeine: Why? Caffeine basically impersonates the actions of adenosine -a natural chemical that builds up in our system during the day to promote sleepiness at night. According to Braun the author of Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine: “Caffeine is a crude way of preventing your brain from bringing things to a halt” “You can get wired only to the extent that your natural excitatory neurotransmitters support it” So for some people drinking caffeine may bring about the dreaded tossing and turning or endless staring at the ceiling! This is however not the case for everyone that drinks caffeine. My suggestion is that if you are wrestling with with a good nights sleep -limit caffeine to that morning cup of ideally, organic coffee.
Limit Alcohol : Really? I realize in our culture of social drinking and just unwinding in the evening with a great glass of red wine after dinner this may come with controversy. You may also have heard that heavy alcohol consumption before bed may help a person fall asleep more quickly. Research suggests even limited use of alcohol can cause fragmented sleep. It is definitely worth removing to see if sleep comes easier and lasts longer. I will save my concerns with alcohol consumption for a further post, however keep in mind alcohol directly interferes with blood glucose levels in the body.
Be Careful Eating Late: Late night indulging in those favorite foods may lead to digestive discomfort. Consider a lighter meal, maybe a salad or a piece of fruit. An apple may be satisfying, possibly with a spoonful of almond butter. Apples have pectin which may cause a feeling of being full.
Get Plenty of Sunlight or Bright Artificial Light: Our circadian rhythm is greatly effected by the amount of light we are exposed to throughout the day. If we are working or spending most of our time in a continually dim setting this may disrupt or inhibit a healthy sleep cycle.
Create a Sleep Welcoming Routine: Create bedtime rituals.
- Go to bed the same time even on days off, weekends, vacations, etc. This sends a message to your body that it is time to go to sleep.
- Consider a warm bath. You could add a drop or two of lavender or serenity essential oil to promote a relaxed state removing worry and the cares of this world. Essential oils like Lavender and Bergamot are rich in linalool and linalyl acetate, compounds that have well-known relaxing properties. These oils can be diffused aromatically in the bedroom to create a calming and peaceful environment, perfect for getting a good night’s sleep. They can also be used topically and taken internally to calm the nervous system, promote relaxation, and lead to a restful sleep. Try placing two to four drops of Lavender or Bergamot essential oil in a warm, herbal tea (Chamomile, Lemongrass, etc.), or another favorite decaffeinated beverage about 30 minutes before going to bed, or add two to four drops of Lavender into an empty capsule and swallow about 30 minutes before bed. We will discuss the use of essential oils internally in a future blog. For now if you are hesitant, no worries. Just use topically or diffuse for great rewards!
- Read a good book.
- Listen to your favorite soothing music.
- Journal your worries or cares, writing them down allows us to detach from them and set them aside for a restful sleep.
- Avoid technology; this includes TV, internet, social media, etc. These can lead to stress and interfere with sleep.
- Pray. Remember God cares more than you know!
Now after you have done any or all of these steps, attempt to relax and allow yourself to fall asleep.
After 15-20 minutes and sleep does not come, I highly recommend leaving your bedroom and trying any of the seven above suggestions listed again.
We want to avoid connecting your bed with any difficulty sleeping!
If you struggle with a good night sleep and none of the above steps have helped-please do not hesitate to call or email for more in depth help with sleep.
Austin, D. (2010). Denise’s Daily Dozen The Easy Every Day Program to Lose Up to 12 Pounds in 2 weeks. New York , NY: Center Street.
Essential Oils for Sleep and Relaxation: Lavender • Vetiver • Serenity™ Calming Blend • Bergamot • Roman Chamomile – See more at: https://doterra.com/US/en/blog/healthy-living-sleep-what-many-of-us-are-missing#sthash.ElQK0Ut4.dpuf
Special Report Supplement to Mayo Clinic Health Letter. (2015). Good Night, sleep tight Get better sleep without taking a pill.