Strategies For A Better Night's Sleep

“No, four hours of sleep is not enough!” That was my quick response to a question about sleep that I saw on my Twitter feed one recent morning.

There are circumstances where our sleep is unavoidably cut short, such as when toddlers ask for a too-early morning snack, your cat is playing with a jingling toy, or we just had a late night enjoying ourselves. One night is probably not so detrimental to our health, but when limited shut-eye turns into a habit of pushing our bodies to make do with less and less sleep, that’s where your health may be compromised. 

Let’s take a look at some important things your body does while you’re sleeping. Of course, your mind takes a break from myriad daily concerns, processing what it needs and what it doesn’t. Your heart rate and blood pressure relax, taking pressure off your arteries. The muscles that you’ve used during the day replenish themselves. Proteins called cytokines are produced to help keep your immune system strong. 

Ideally you should aim for seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Unfortunately, you can’t make up for a deficit on the weekends! Lack of sleep can impair your immune system, cause memory problems and lead to poor judgement, while increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Furthermore, our stress hormones don’t get a chance to relax, which may lead to increased stress, hormone dysregulation and obesity. Not to mention that we just don’t look or feel our best when we’re tired. 

“In order to sleep, the body needs time, space and freedom from stress.” I like this quote by Dr. Mirella Hodzic because it reminds us that we need good sleep hygiene. What I mean by that is a proper winding down routine that we can make a consistent pattern.

Here are a few of my favorite tips to ensure the best possible zzz’s:

1. Set a timer for one hour before bedtime—every night! Let this be your reminder to turn off the television, turn down the lights and start getting yourself ready for a restful night of sleep. Put your phone or tablet away too, and cover any blue lights from electronic devices that might tell your body to wake up, not settle down, and inhibit melatonin, a hormone that helps trigger sleep. You’re better off with reading a book before it’s time for “lights out.”
2. Take a warm bath before bed with magnesium or epsom salts. Add in an essential oil such as lavender to calm the senses, decrease cortisol and reduce inflammation.
3. Meditate, meditate, meditate! Sit quietly, watch your breath, and smile at the thoughts that come in, instead of having them take you some- where else or resisting them. Guided meditations can be great, too. Find what works for you.

Talk to your practitioner at Tao of Wellness about your personal sleep hygiene. Ask if acupuncture or Chinese medicine might be beneficial for your sleep concerns. Clinical research has found that acupuncture can help calm the nervous system, restore hormonal balance and increase melatonin.