Not getting enough sleep? Or does the sleep you do get just not cut it? Let's face it...sleep is a necessity. You need sleep just as much as you need food, water, and breath. Good quality sleep helps keep our mind and body healthy. Benefits of sleep include the following: 1) a healthy heart, 2) stress reduction, 3) decreased inflammation, 4) increased alertness, 5) improved memory, 6) overall body repair, 7) improved physical performance and concentration, and 8) weight control.
Just how much sleep do you need? According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep requirements are based on age:
Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
Pre-Schoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
School-aged Children (6-13 years): 9-11 hours
Teens (14-17 years): 8-10 hours
Young Adults (18-25 years): 7-9 hours
Adults (26-64 years): 7-9 hours
Older Adults (65+ years): 7-8 hours
So, what happens when you do not get enough sleep? First of all, EVERY organ system in your body is affected!!
* Your brain does not work well, you are forgetful and may not make the best decisions * You are not in the best of moods
* You may become depressed
* You may wreak havoc on the roadways secondary to decreased alertness and reaction time
* Heart health is compromised (i.e., increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke)
* Your skin suffers (i.e., increased fine lines, wrinkles and uneven skin color) -- all the more reason for getting that "beauty sleep"
* Weight gain and increased risk of adult-onset diabetes (sleep deprivation interferes with hormones involved in weight regulation)
* You increase your chances of getting a cold due to the body's impaired ability to fight off illness
* Lack of energy to exercise
* Frequent headaches
With that said, here are some tips for better sleep and stress relief:
1) Avoid bright light from electronic devices (e.g., television, computer screen, cell phone) at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. The light from these devices tells your brain that you should "stay awake". Your brain produces the "sleep hormone" melatonin in excess during periods of darkness. Too much light alters release of this hormone.
2) Make sure you have a good (and comfortable) mattress. If your mattress is 8 years old (or older), head to your nearest retailer to purchase a new one!!
3) Keep the bedroom at a comfortable temperature. The best sleep temperature is 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit.
4) Get rid of all the clutter in your bedroom to create a more serene environment.
5) Turn your alarm clock so that you are unable to see the display (see explanation in Tip #1).
6) Try aromatherapy -- a favorite of mine! Aromatherapy involves the use of essential plant oils to improve mood, and enhance psychological and physical well-being.
7) Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon. Caffeine is a well-known stimulant which keeps your body active after consumption.
8) Spend some time meditating before bed.
9) Limit daytime naps (if you do not work nights). Naps should be no longer than 30 minutes.
10) Get regular physical activity, however, avoid being too active too close to bedtime. Vigorous workouts should be completed 3-4 hours before bedtime.
11) Do not sit in bed and work, cruise the internet or watch television! (I'm guilty of all 3 of these...)
12) Do not eat large meals late at night. This overloads your digestive system and impairs sleep quality.
13) Stop drinking fluids 2 hours before bed. Getting up at night to go to the bathroom may make it difficult to go back to sleep quickly.
14) Take a warm bath.
15) Instead of prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids (both which can become habit-forming), try herbal supplements. My favorites are valerian root and chamomile. It is, however, important that you examine potential benefits and side effects of any herbal supplement before you purchase. It is also wise to speak with your doctor, especially if you take prescription medications, have chronic health problems, are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Now, let me introduce you to my "sleep depot" (when I actually need them). Usage depends on how I'm feeling at the end of the day.
HERBAL TEASChamomile soothes and calms and acts as a very mild natural sedative. Sleepytime tea contains chamomile. Sleepytime Extra contains chamomile and valerian. Valerian acts as a mild sedative that helps calm the nervous system. It also lowers anxiety and promotes relaxation and sleep.
Melatonin decreases the time it takes to fall asleep and increases sleep duration. Some people lack adequate levels of melatonin at night, so this supplement can help.
Here are just a few of my favorites...
Make sure you purchase essential oils from a reputable supplier. It usually takes a large amount of plant matter to produce a small amount of oil, which means that good quality essential oils are NEVER cheap! I usually purchase my oils from Aura Cacia (auracacia.com). Other reputable suppliers include the following: Aromatics International (aromatics.com), Stillpoint Aromatics (stillpointaromatics.com), Florihana (florihana.com), Rocky Mountain Oils (rockymountainoils.com), Essential Elements (essentialelements.com), Essential 3 (essentialthree.com), Plant Therapy (planttherapy.com), Pompeii Organics (pompeiiorganics.com), Elizabeth Van Buren (elizabethvanburen.com), and Mountain Rose Herbs (mountainroseherbs.com).
I use three different sleep blends: (just add to a diffuser containing water and enjoy!)
Blend #1 (My Favorite)
3 drops Lavender (calming and relaxing; antidepressant)
1 drop Ylang Ylang (supports focus and restores peace)
2 drops Roman Chamomile (promotes restfulness; anti-anxiety)
1 drop Marjoram (calming and promotes peaceful sleep)
1 drop Clary Sage (promotes relaxation; anti-stress)
3 drops Lavender
2 drops Vetiver (calms nerves and mind; anti-anxiety)
1 drop Frankincense (promotes relaxation; anti-anxiety; antidepressant)
1 drop Ylang Ylang
1 drop Sweet Orange (relieves stress; calming and relaxing; promotes healthy sleep)
2 drops Roman Chamomile
1 drop Clary Sage
1 drop Bergamot (calming and soothing; balances emotions)
2 drops Lavender
Bottom line: Never minimize the importance of sleep in your journey to a healthier you! I hope this article helps you (in some way) get closer to grasping this "prized commodity".
Thanks for reading,