Sleep quality and quantity are just as crucial for our health as diet and exercise, if not more so. During sleep, our bodies and brains carry out vital work to repair, rebuild, and ready us for the next day.
With inadequate sleep, we experience a lower quality of life and increased risks of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Just one night of lost sleep can impair our ability to learn, concentrate, mount a robust immune system response, and avoid accidents and injury.
What Happens During Sleep That’s So Important?
- Quieting of brain activity; cleaning the slate for the next day’s learning
- Consolidation of new information; moving from short-term to long-term memory
- Emptying of the “wastebaskets” within the brain, removing damaging waste products
- Repair and rejuvenation of cells and tissues that were damaged during waking hours
- Increased activity of immune system functions
- Lowering of hunger hormones and insulin levels, aiding with body fat management
- Lowering of blood pressure, allowing less wear and tear on the cardiovascular system
How Much Sleep Do We Need to Get These Benefits?
Individual sleep requirements for adults vary between 7 and 9 hours, but nobody thrives with less than 7 hours. Children and teens need many more hours of sleep than adults because their bodies are growing and developing rapidly and need more time for repair and learning.
- Healthy adults sleep in cycles, each averaging about 90-110 minutes
- Within those 90-110 minutes, our brains pass through non-REM sleep followed by REM sleep
- Earlier sleep cycles have more time in non-REM sleep
- Later sleep cycles have more time in REM sleep
- In non-REM sleep, we improve our ability to learn new things tomorrow
- In REM sleep, we solidify the memory of things learned today
- REM cycles shorten as we age, leading to less sleep overall and less new learning
What Helps to Trigger Sleep Naturally?
- Darkness; darkness signals the brain to produce the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin
- Cooling of the body temperature; keep your bedroom between 60 and 67 degrees
- Following the same sleep schedule every day; going to bed and waking up at the same times, even on weekends or holidays
- Daily exercise to expend energy; just don’t exercise vigorously later than early afternoon
Tips to Improve Sleep
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine in the evening: they are stimulating and interfere with sleepiness.
- Avoid looking at tv, computer, or cell phone screens at least 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. (the blue light waves suppress the production of melatonin)
- Keep a diary to identify your sleep patterns: a diary can help you track the tips that are working and also be able to discuss your sleep patterns with your naturopathic doctor, https://www.cdhfinechemical.com/cdh_data/ambien-zolpidem/.
If you’d like to discuss how to improve your sleep with one of our naturopathic doctors, call 480-588-6856 for a free brief meet and greet.