Guest Post from The Sleep Help Institute By: Ellie Porter (Managing Editor)| SleepHelp.org
On an average day, 28 to 44 percent of adults sleep less than seven hours, the recommended daily amount. Anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep is considered healthy with a few people falling above or below the average. Many people treat sleep as a luxury rather than a necessity. However, sleep is vital to your physical, mental, and emotional health and is key to reaching your personal and professional goals.
The Need for Sleep
There are key processes that only take place while you sleep. During the first of the deep sleep stages, the body releases human growth hormone to stimulate the repair of damaged, worn-out muscles. The immune system recharges and transports white blood cells through the bloodstream. And, the brain cleanses itself of toxic proteins, prunes and strengthens communication pathways, and consolidates memories all while you sleep.
Sleep is also important for your functioning during the day. Without enough of it, the body releases more of the hunger hormone ghrelin and less of the satiety hormone leptin. The brain’s reward center also goes haywire for high-fat, sugary foods, causing intense cravings for unhealthy foods.
Emotional stability relies on sleep too. The portion of the brain that processes your emotions goes into overdrive if you don’t get enough sleep, especially over negative experiences and feelings. The logic part of the brain that normally balances your emotions becomes less active, leaving you prone to mood swings, irritability, and overreacting.
How to Get More
Thankfully, the regularity and length of your sleep cycle are highly responsive to your personal habits and behaviors, giving you the power to change your sleep results. However, it will take a consistent effort on your part.
- Commit to a Bedtime: The body is designed for sleep, and one of the best ways to promote it is to commit to a regular bedtime. Consistency allows the brain to recognize and predict to start the sleep cycle.
- Make a Routine: Trouble falling and staying asleep? Try developing a soothing bedtime routine. Routines provide another way to trigger the sleep cycle while giving you a chance to address stress and tension. Those who need to bring their heart rate and blood pressure down before bedtime may benefit from adding five to ten minutes of meditation to their routine. Meditation improves the connection between the logic and emotion center of the brain, and with time, trains the body to elicit it’s “relaxation effect.” Yoga is another option for those who may experience stress and tension in their muscles. It has been shown to reduce stress-related inflammation while improving mood.
- Address Sleep Issues: Sometimes there’s more at work than poor sleep habits. If you’ve struggled with insomnia for an extended period of time, snore excessively, or struggle with restless legs, you may have an underlying issue that needs medical attention. There are medications, devices like anti-snore mouthguards, and other treatment options that may help.
- Turn Off the TV (and other electronics): Electronic devices can disrupt your sleep cycle in more ways than one. Some emit a blue spectrum light that suppresses sleep hormones. And, depending on what you watch or read, the content can stimulate your brain and emotions, making it difficult to sleep. Give yourself at least two to three hours of screen-free time before bed.
Changing your habits may take time, but the benefits you’ll see make it worth the effort. When adequate sleep is coupled with good nutrition and regular exercise, you’re creating a foundation on which to build a happy, fulfilling life.
At Better Health Clinic, there are a few services that can even further enhance quality sleep. From Nutrition to Acupuncture to Osteopathy – all can add different healing modalities to bring you that full night’s sleep, you truly need.