Sleep & Health

Sleep, it’s one thing we can’t do without yet some people find it extremely elusive. We can go without food or water for 48 hours, but when it comes to sleep deprivation, the effects are much more immediate. We are the only species that will deprive ourselves of sleep for no reason, and yet lack of sleep is the fastest way to do serious damage to your brain and body. With less than 6 hours of sleep, your cognition, attention, learning, memory and mood start to get affected. We need sleep as it provides a restorative balance and is the best way to reset our body and brain health. Sleep is the foundation of our health and wellness.

Current statistics show that one third of the population currently gets 6 hours of sleep or less. Some believe the recommended time is 7-9 but according to sleep gurus the correct amount of sleep constitutes going to bed and waking when your body is ready to get up. We are conditioned to believe that sleep is equal to laziness and our culture praises the work ethic of our society: less sleep equals more work and more productivity. But really when sleep is abundant our minds flourish. In a recent study health metrics were measured while dialing back with less and less sleep our cardiovascular system, emotions, anxiety, blood pressure, immune and metabolic system will decline and eventually reach a breaking point. Sleep deprivation can even affect our genes. Some genes have increased activity which cause the growth of tumors, cardiovascular stress and long term chronic inflammation. Some genes are suppressed and this compromises your immune system.

So why do people today find it hard to get to sleep and to ultimately stay asleep. As you probably know in today’s world we experience tons of input from many different areas of our lives from our work to our relationships. Other factors include our lifestyle, stress levels , eating habits, hormone production ,dehydration, alcohol, addiction, blue light and the list goes on and on. A big one is insomnia: defined as a failure to turn off your thoughts and the inability to fall asleep at night.

So what can we do? We need to get a long enough and deep enough sleep 80% of the time we sleep. We need to go to bed when we are tired, instead of fighting it, to watch one more show. We need to start to journal during the day so that when our head hits the pillow we don’t have what I call monkey brain. Take 5 minutes to breathe, quiet your mind, create a grateful mindset and journal your thoughts out before your head hits the pillow. At night start to set up your house for night time success. Turn the lights down, this will help keep melatonin levels high. Any light in the form of tv, computers and overhead lighting will “kill” your melatonin levels which are necessary for sleep. If you wake up in the middle of the night make sure you avoid bright light and or the urge to look at your phone. As for caffeine, find your threshold: what is the latest time you can have caffeine during the day so that it won’t affect your sleep. As for eating, try not to eat 2-4 hours before bedtime. In the winter, in order for your body to get ready for sleep it needs to feel a 1-2 degree temperature drop, so turning down the heat will also help the body prepare for sleep. If you can elevate your feet, ankles above the chin, when sleeping it will clear the glymphatic system, wash out the brain’s debris, and help create a better night’s sleep. You can try yoga nidra, with Kamini Desai. Yoga nidra is a form of deep relation where the practitioner turns your awareness inward through a guided meditation.Essentially the shorter you sleep the shorter your life. The single most effective way to rest your brain and body is to get the most sleep that you can.