The Importance of Sleep

Going to bed and going to sleep every night seems like a very indulgent thing to do, in my mind at least. We change our clothes (or take them off), perhaps shower or bathe, lay down in bed, close our eyes, and check out of life. Every night, for like 7-8 hours for most people. And we get away with it. No one thinks we are lazy, unless we over do it.

Sometimes when I go to bed I feel like an iPhone or iPad that needs recharging, thinking like “here I am in my dock station”.

Not me, but someone else recharging:

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Sleep is very important.

Why:
Scientists are not sure exactly why we need sleep, but it has been well proven that we do. There are at least 4 different theories about why.

However, we do know that major restorative functions take place while we sleep such as tissue repair, the cementing of new memories, the removal of toxic wastes in the brain, the processing and filtering of information, the giving your organs and muscles a break, the releasing and regulation of important hormones such as human growth hormone; insulin; hunger regulating hormones, ghrelin and leptin; and testosterone; as well as much, much more.

Health guru Mark Sisson in his book (which I highly recommend), Primal Blueprintsays, “Chronic sleep deficit may lead to weight gain…negatively affect your mood, concentration, and memory retention” as well as make you “less productive and more irritable, impatient, and moody”. It can “also lead to hypertension, elevated stress hormone levels, irregular heartbeat, compromised immune function, and drastically increased risk for obesity and heart disease”. Umm, who wants any of that?

Causes of Sleep disruption (just to name a few):
Caffeine of course.
Exercising too close to bedtime.
Environment is too hot or too cold.
Stress.
Exposure to too much light after dark and the use of screens, you know, iPhones, iPads, TV’s.
Too much alcohol, or alcohol consumption too close to bedtime.
Also, melatonin production, the sleep hormone, stops if light hits the back of the inside of your eye. When I found this out I started walking to the bathroom with my eyes closed in the middle of the night. It helps me fall back asleep more quickly.

Sleep Tricks:
Experts say the most restorative sleep occurs between the hours of 10pm and midnight, so try to get to bed early.
Deep breathing slowly, like breathing in to the count of 4, then out to the count of 4, helps shift you into the parasympathetic nervous system state, the rest and digest state.  Doing this and counting breaths will help you fall asleep. I have found this very effective. One reason why I think this works is because you can’t think of anything else really as you are counting.
Thinking of 5 things you are grateful for as you are falling asleep. Very cathartic.
Reading fiction.
A comfortable environment: good bed; cool temperature; tidy, uncluttered room; dark.
Consistent early bedtimes.
Shoot for about 8 hours. Some people need a little more or less to feel optimal.
Avoid eating a few hours before bedtime.
Chamomile, Tension Tamer, or Bedtime teas are helpful.

Bottom line:
Get adequate amounts of sleep.  This is a key tenet of healthy living.

In closing:
I like this quote by John Steinbeck that I found in a Prevention magazine article by Sarah Klein, “it is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” How true!

Sleep is such a gift for what Steinbeck said, and many other reasons. I for one am very thankful for sleep. You will find me in my dock station tonight between 10 and 10:30pm.

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