Do you remember last time you woke up feeling refreshed and fully awake. No? Well, don’t despair. You are in good company. Sleep deprivation is more common now than it has ever been before. This is the reason why many health experts, bloggers, journalist and many more are starting to write about the importance of sleep. Just look at the thrive movement generated by Arianna Huffington.
Now, why do we commonly lack proper sleep? One of the main reason is stress. While a normal amount of stress may be healthy, chronic sleep may cause a detrimental effect on the body. Too much stress (aka adrenaline) in the body makes it difficult for the mind to shut down for sleep, and may also stress the body even during sleep. Do you crave that pick me up coffee in the morning, so that you can function properly. Then this might be a sign that the body need more restful sleep.
You may ask, do we really need those eight hours of sleep every night. Well, while you might train the body to function with less sleep, it is my opinion that over a course of time, this is not advisable. Studies have linked higher risk of diseases such as cancer with the chronic lack of sleep. The reason for this is that less sleep over a course of time stress the body, and influence the various hormones and immune system, and may eventually lead to a range of ailments in down the line. The challenge is linking the lack of sleep with the development of disease.
In my clinic I have many patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Some sleep eight, nine, ten, or even twelve hours each day, but they don’t get fully rested, and wake up feeling more tired than when they went to bed. Here the reasons are multifocal. Investigation to reveal the true reasons for this, we have to reflect on many aspects of pathogenesis (development of disease). How is the nutrient value, as for instance a lack of vitamin B12, folate, iron, iodine to name a few will potentially lead to fatigue. Thyroid and adrenal issues are a common problem. As I have covered in previous articles, the gut flora may also play its part here.
In this years annual conference at Institute for Functional Medicine in the US the main theme was about sleep – how sleep deprivation affect our health, and what to do about it. Here is a list of general advice to have a more peaceful sleep:
- No blue light one hour before bedtime. You may not realize it, but daylight contains a lot of blue color. This blocks our own melatonin production, leaving us more awake during the day. Normally, in the evening blue light fades away. Due to our modern technology, TV, computers, tablets, mobiles and so on usually have blue light. This has the effect to block our own healthy melatonin production, leaving us with less melatonin for that good nights sleep. What is interesting is that now many of the computers and mobiles have a function where blue light (aka night mode) can be turned on.
- Do something relaxing before going to bed. Deep breathing is a very effective way to calm the body and mind. Meditation before bed is also a good way to calm that mental chatter, commonly called monkey mind. Doing some peaceful activity such as a nice walk in nature, intimate conversation, or drinking some sleep tea is also beneficial.
- The bed is only for sleep (++). Don’t bring laptops, mobiles, TV, newspapers, books and so on into the bed before going to bed.
- Go to bed before midnight. If you manage to go to bed at 10-11 pm on a regular basis, this will leave you with more energy in the long run.
Haukeland University Hospital have done a lot of research on sleep, and found that one effective way to aid sleep is by taking 1 mg of Melatonin 3-4 hours before going to bed. The theory behind this is that this small dosage does not interfere with our own melatonin production, while larger dosages might. I have used 1 mg Melatonin on many patients, and who have noticed a great improvement in sleep.
I truly believe that sleeping better will truly make one thrive, and enable one to live more to ones full potential.