Should we really be getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night? Yes! Our bodies need the biological rhythms that allow us to stay healthy, by repairing our DNA, building tissues and muscle, regulating weight and mood chemicals. Sleep deprivation causes our cortisol levels to remain high, thus causing a cascade of harmful effects, including brain damage and dementia, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, a compromised immune system, and much more.
What can we do in insure we get adequate sleep? We need to first prioritize sleep! We also need to create a sleep ritual - a special set of rules that we set for ourselves in order to prepare for sleep.
Here are some rules to help get you started on the right path:
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time. This creates a rhythm.
- Do not use your bed for reading or watching TV.
- Eliminate clutter in the area where you sleep and create a serene environment.
- Create total darkness and quiet if possible.
- Avoid caffeine a few hours prior to bedtime. (Coffee/tea/chocolate) Also, try to avoid nicotine as well.
- Avoid alcohol prior to bedtime. It may help you get to sleep quickly, but it causes interruptions during your sleep.
- Try not to eat a heavy meal at least 3 hours prior to going to bed.
- Try drinking warm milk prior to going to bed. Milk contains tryptophan which our bodies use to make serotonin. The serotonin helps control our sleep patterns. Although milk does not contain that much tryptophan, many people claim that this works. It doesn't hurt to try!
- Take a hot bath prior to bedtime. Adding Epsom salts (Magnesium salts) can help relax muscles and ease any muscle pain, thus allowing for a good nights sleep.
- With you M.D.'s permission, try using one to three mg's of Melatonin at night.
- Try using a guided meditation or relaxation CD.
- Try to avoid using medications to help you sleep - these include sedatives and antihistamines. This can only lead to dependence and may cause a disruption of normal sleep patterns. This being stated, there is a time and place for these medications under direct supervision of your M.D. for short periods of time.
If all else fails, call you M.D. Have your doctor check you for sleep apnea, depression, thyroid problems, menopause, fibromyalgia, stress and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Remember... Do not skimp on sleep! It is a powerful healing tool.