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Sleeping well is an integral part of our health. Sleeping well is also something a lot of people struggle with. If sleep is not your issue, hooray! Get off the computer and go outside.
While there are many possible physical causes of sleep disturbances, it is important to look at the whole picture. Many factors go into sleep quality; stress levels, eating habits, pre-bed activities and hormones, just to mention a few.
It is also important to look at your relationship to sleep. Many people do not allow themselves enough time for sleep and are in a constant state of sleep deprivation often supplemented with a stimulant of choice; coffee and nicotine being common ones.
What does this say about how you are taking care of yourself if you won’t even allow time to rest? I understand many people have busy lives, sometimes fueled by economic necessity and/or child rearing, but there is a point where something has to give and sleep gets its time.
For some people sleep is the only time they ever slow down and relax. So slowing down, in and of itself, is unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable. It is a lot to expect of yourself to go from 110% all day and then abruptly stop and sleep.
In some ways, a lack of sleep can be more taxing on the mind and spirit than the body. What kind of message are you sending to yourself if you constantly deprive yourself of something so vital and nurturing as sleep?
We also need to allow ourselves our dream time, time to connect with our sub conscious and inner wisdom; this too helps us to keep our balance in this very out of balance world.
Why is sleep important?
Just what is your body doing for all those hours while you could think of many other ways to fill that time. Experts say adults need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep per night. For teens 8.5 – 9.25 hours per night are recommended. It is a myth that we need less sleep as we age. Our sleep is just more likely to be interrupted as we get older.
Lack of sleep can be linked to : weight gain (hormone disruption affects growth hormone, appetite and insulin), Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, poor memory, lack of alertness and safety issues (at home, work and on the road).
Sleep contributes to healthy immune system and more balanced hormones as well as emotional and spiritual relaxation.
I’ve been delighted to see articles about napping in several types of media lately. Most of the chatter seems to be stemming from a fairly recent study on naps published by the US Department of Vetereans Affairs Medical Center .
When we are young and when we are old, we are encouraged to nap. However, it seems our culture has limited more and more the acceptable ages for napping. Take back the power of a nap!
Here are some reasons why you might benefit from a nap:
- Increase or restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.
- Scheduled napping can help those who are affected by narcolepsy.
- Napping has the psychological benefits of providing relaxation and rejuvenation. A nap can feel like a luxury, time away, without the hassle and expense of an actual vacation.
Tips for a successful nap:
- A short nap (20-30 minutes) is usually recommended for short-term alertness. This type of nap provides significant benefit for improved alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep.
- Find as restful of a place as you can and that the temperature in the room is comfortable. Try to limit the amount of noise heard and the extent of the light filtering in. While some studies have shown that just spending time in bed can be beneficial, it is better to try and get some actual sleep
- If you take a nap too late in the day, it might affect your nighttime sleep patterns and make it difficult to fall asleep at your regular bedtime. If you try to take it too early in the day, your body may not be ready for more sleep. So find you optimal time.
Good sleep habits
- What to avoid before bed: all the blue screens in your life (TV, computer, smart phone, etc.), food, vigorous exercise, lots liquid
- What are your body’s natural tendencies/rhythms? Are you working with them or against?
- Create a bed time routine. This will help signal your subconscious that it is time to slow down.
- Is your bedroom esthetically pleasing? Comfortable? Calming? Dark? Quiet?
- Lower your stress level during day so you have less winding down to do at night.
- Get enough exercise but avoid strenuous exercise up to three hours before bed. Exercise earlier in the day can aid sleep.
- Reduce stimulants; especially in the late afternoon and evening, but also during the day. Remember that nicotine is also a stimulant.
- Avoid alcohol. While it makes some people sleepy it can backfire when it wears off. If you are awake when it wears off you can feel energized and if you are asleep when it wears off you may wake up.
Here are some examples of essences that can be helpful for a good night’s sleep:
Peace Beach (Hawaiian Essences, http://janebellessences.com/flower-essences/hawaiian-essences) changing the habit of perpetual motion to allow our bones, blood, nerves, senses, brains and fluids to rest; deep interconnected relaxation that restores our peace and protects our sustainability
Dolphin Blessings (Hawaiian Essences, http://janebellessences.com/flower-essences/hawaiian-essences) helps you to cultivate an affinity for the resting cycle and an awareness of restoration through connectedness; deeply experiencing how rest, play love and joy recalibrate our nervous system toward greater health and well-being
Olive (Greek Tree Essences, http://www.melissaassilem.com/) builds and maintains new pathways in the brain and slows down the striving
Moon Milk (Planetary Essences, http://stargazerli.com/essences/planetary-essences) comforting, nourishing, gentle; brings in the energy of the moon, the time when most people sleep
Japanese Beautyberry ( Flora of Asia, http://www.floraofasia.com ) toner, provides a base level of peaceful support and trust that all will be well; the energy encourages harmonizing with challenging situations, to find the place of peace and ease within conflict
Giant Burnet (Flora of Asia, http://www.floraofasia.com) deeply calming; releases heat and aggravation from the body; soothes the heart and eases a nervous stomach
So, take a look at your relationship to sleeping and relaxation. Come back in a couple of weeks and I’ll go over some of the common sleep problems and what we can do about them. In the meantime, take a nap!