When we think of quality sleep (the deep sleep that is so needed to prevent all chronic illnesses), we don’t just think about the number of hours that one is sleeping. We think about how many sleep cycles one is able to achieve, and if their brain actually remaining asleep throughout the night. We think of how one is breathing, especially if there is gasping, mouth breathing, congestion, blocked airways, etc.
Every night, we should be entering into several cycles of light, deep, and REM sleep. However, if we are going through a stressful period, if we are having difficulty falling and staying asleep, or if we have an undiagnosed sleep disorder, we may not be achieving the quality sleep that is so needed for our bodies. While we are sleeping, our cells are undergoing cleanup processes; one of which is called autophagy.This process is easier to achieve when our bodies get uninterrupted quality sleep, as our cells will then have the ability to spend energy on cleaning things up a bit. This entails recognizing defects, mitochondrial damage, DNA mutations, etc. and actually triggering autophagy, meaning self-consumption! It truly is beautiful, the way we are wired to heal. However, we have to give our bodies the resources they require in order to do so.
So how do you know if you are indeed getting quality sleep? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Do you get at least 7 hours of sleep per night?
Do you have trouble falling asleep?
Can you fall asleep but wake up throughout the night?
Do you snore/have you been told that you snore?
Do you feel rested when you wake up?
Do you wake with indigestion, headaches?
Do you wake with a racing heart?
If your answers reflect a need to address your sleep patterns, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a provider to talk about sleep disorders. However, sometimes people will go through a season of difficulty falling and/or staying asleep due to stress, anxiety, and even feelings of depression. There may be organic underlying causes for this to discuss with a provider in greater depth. However, we can create an environment as well as a solid sleep routine to help promote relaxation and deeper sleep!
Here are a few tips!:
Create a peaceful environment by removing clutter.
Dim the lights! Use blackout curtains to block out that street light or an eye mask. Turn down the brightness of your lights 15 min. before bed and avoid blue light from screens especially 2 hours before bed.
Address noise. Use a fan/filter or a white noise machine to block out noises that may jolt you awake in the night.
Avoid falling asleep with the T.V on. Even if you are asleep, the blue light as well as the noise will interrupt your circadian rhythm. Blue light tricks your brain into thinking it is day time, causing your body to halt melatonin secretion.
Address temperature- Sometimes something as minor as keeping your room cool can work wonders!
Avoid keeping excess electronic devices in your sleep space. Electromagnetic Fields may disturb your sleep.
If you have an overactive mind in the evening, try writing a to do list for the following day before bed, journal, pray, read, etc.
Try a relaxing herbal tea such as passionflower, chamomile, and lemon balm.
Sunlight Exposure in the day is SO crucial for maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm. Aim for a minimum of 20 min of sunlight exposure first thing in the morning. Drink your coffee on the porch/by a window.
Keep the same routine, going to sleep and waking at about the same time every day.
Use calming essential oils in a diffuser. This is relaxing but also may create a pattern, reminding your mind that it is time to wind down.
Try deep breathing, 20 soft belly breaths before bed to activate the parasympathetic state of the nervous system (aka, rest and digest).
Honoring your circadian rhythm and addressing sleep issues is one of the BEST actions you can take for your health.
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