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How to Get Good Sleep?

Getting enough sleep is as important as eating a good diet, drinking plenty of water and exercising. When we don’t get enough sleep (or get too much) our bodies suffer along with our minds. “Enough sleep” is generally accepted to be 6 to 8 hours every night, but some people feel fine on as little as five hours a night, while others need as much as 9 or 10 in order to feel at their best. When we are sick or stressed out, we tend to need more sleep.

Our sleep patterns are dictated by our circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in your environment. The term circadian comes from Latin words that literally mean around the day, this is what drives the body’s clock and are important in determining human sleep patterns.

The body’s master clock controls the production of melatonin, a hormone and antioxidant that makes you sleepy. Melatonin also helps dictate sleep-wake cycles, cell regeneration, hormone production and release, patterns of brain wave activity, body temperature and other important bodily functions linked to this 24-hour cycle. When circadian rhythms are interrupted your body makes less melatonin which means your body’s ability to fight free radicals is lessened.

When your body can’t repair itself because you haven’t been able to rest, stress related health problems can become major issues. These can include heart disease, stomach ulcers, constipation or depression and mood disorders among other things.

Sleep Deprivation Symptoms

Sleep deprivation can cause serious effects on health. Poor sleep contributes to a weakened immune system, accelerated tumor growth, can cause a “pre-diabetic” state making you feel hungry when you shouldn’t be which can lead to weight gain, impaired memory, decreased mental and physical performance and decreased problem solving abilities.

Symptoms of sleep deprivation can include:

  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling tired when you wake up
  • Stress, anxiety and/or depression
  • Changes in appetite
  • Obesity
  • Driver Fatigue
  • Slow mental performance
  • Reduced motor skills
  • Mood swings
  • Weakened immune system and frequent infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Digestion problems
  • Hormonal imbalance

Sleep deprivation prematurely ages you by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep and during certain types of exercise. Growth hormone helps you look and feel younger.

Lost sleep is lost forever, and persistent lack of sleep has a cumulative effect when it comes to disrupting your health. Poor sleep can make your life miserable, as most of you probably know. One study has even shown that people with chronic insomnia have a three times greater risk of dying from any cause.

Sleep deprivation can even cause changes in your brain activity similar to those experienced by people with psychiatric disorders, and your body does most of its repairs during sleep, so not getting enough of it can weaken your immune system, leaving you less able to fight off diseases of ALL kinds.

According to Science Daily in an article published February 2, 2008, one of the largest epidemiologic studies of insomnia among adolescents ever conducted has revealed that youths with insomnia, especially chronic insomnia, are at greater risk of future somatic and psychological problems.

The study collected data from more than 4,000 youths between 11 and 17 years of age, with a follow-up one year later on more than 3,000 of them. Almost 14 percent suffered from one or more symptoms of insomnia, and almost half of those had chronic insomnia.

Among those who suffered from insomnia, there was a link to both somatic and psychological dysfunctions. The link to psychological dysfunction was particularly strong.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association lack of sleep can make other conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, gastrointestinal tract disorders, kidney disease, and behavioral problems in children worse.

Some Herbs and Tips on how to get good sleep

Optimizing Your Sleep Sanctuary

1.  Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your internal clock and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep.

This will help decrease your risk of cancer since your body’s antioxidant power is working to repair the day’s damage.  Close your bedroom door, and get rid of night-lights. Refrain from turning on any light at all during the night as best you can, even when getting up to go to the bathroom. Cover up your clock radio. Cover your windows, try using blackout shades or drapes.

Modern day electrical lighting has significantly betrayed your inner clock by disrupting your natural rhythms. Little bits of light pass directly through your optic nerve to your hypothalamus, which controls your biological clock.

Light signals your brain that it’s time to wake up and starts preparing your body for ACTION.

2.  Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 25 degrees C. Many people keep their homes and particularly their upstairs bedrooms too warm. Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is quite cool, between 15 to 20 degrees. Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep.

When you sleep, your body’s internal temperature drops to its lowest level, generally about four hours after you fall asleep. Scientists believe a cooler bedroom may therefore be most conducive to sleep, since it mimics your body’s natural temperature drop.

3.  Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs). It sounds kind of sci-fi, but these can disrupt the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin, and may have other negative effects as well.

To do this, you need a gauss meter. You can find various models online, or hire someone to do it for you. Some experts even recommend pulling your circuit breaker before bed to kill all power in your house. Not sure if this is totally necessary, but even unplugging unused devices and keeping your alarm clock at the foot of the bed can help.

4.  Move alarm clocks and other electrical devices away from your bed. If these devices must be used, keep them as far away from your bed as possible, preferably at least 3 feet. Remove the clock from view. It will only add to your worry when you stare at it all night… 2 a.m. …3 a.m. … 4:30 a.m.

5.  Avoid using loud alarm clocks. It is very stressful on your body to be suddenly jolted awake. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, an alarm may even be unnecessary. A sun alarm clock is a good way to wake up each morning if you can’t wake up with the REAL sun.

They combine the features of a traditional alarm clock (digital display, AM/FM radio, beeper, snooze button, etc) with a special built-in light that gradually increases in intensity, these clocks simulate a natural sunrise. Some even include a sunset feature where the light fades to darkness over time, which is ideal for anyone who has trouble falling asleep.

6.  Reserve your bed for sleeping. If you are used to watching TV or doing work in bed, you may find it harder to relax and drift off to sleep, so avoid doing these activities in bed.

7.  If you sleep with a constant snorer or mover, consider separate bedrooms. Recent studies suggest, for many people, sharing a bed with a partner (or pets) can significantly impair sleep, especially if the partner is a restless sleeper or snores. If bedfellows are consistently interfering with your sleep, you may want to consider a separate bedroom.

Preparing for Bed

8.  Get to bed as early as possible. Your body (particularly your adrenal system) does a majority of its recharging between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. In addition, your gallbladder dumps toxins during this same period. If you are awake, the toxins back up into your liver, which can further disrupt your health.

Prior to the widespread use of electricity, people would go to bed shortly after sundown, as most animals do, and which nature intended for humans as well.

9.  Don’t change your bedtime. You should go to bed and wake up at the same times each day, even on the weekends. This will help your body to get into a sleep rhythm and make it easier to fall asleep and get up in the morning.

10.  Establish a bedtime routine. This could include meditation, deep breathing, prayer, using aromatherapy or essential oils or indulging in a massage from your partner. The key is to find something that makes you feel relaxed, then repeat it each night to help you release the tensions of the day.

11.  Don’t drink any fluids within 2 hours of going to bed. This will reduce the likelihood of needing to get up and go to the bathroom, or at least minimize the frequency.

12.  Go to the bathroom right before bed. This will reduce the chances that you’ll wake up to go in the middle of the night.

13.  Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan needed for your melatonin and serotonin production.

14.  Eat a small piece of fruit along with the protein. This can help the tryptophan cross your blood-brain barrier.

15.  Avoid before-bed snacks, particularly grains and sugars. These will raise your blood sugar and delay sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you may wake up and be unable to fall back asleep.

16.  Take a hot bath, shower or sauna before bed. When your body temperature is raised in the late evening, it will fall at bedtime, facilitating slumber. The temperature drop from getting out of the bath signals your body it’s time for bed. Stick to baths if showers do more to wake you up than put you to sleep.

 17.  Wear socks to bed. Feet often feel cold before the rest of the body because they have the poorest circulation. A study has shown that wearing socks reduces night waking. As an alternative, you could place a hot water bottle near your feet at night.

18.  Wear an eye mask to block out light. As discussed earlier, it is very important to sleep in as close to complete darkness as possible. That said, it’s not always easy to block out every stream of light using curtains, blinds or drapes, particularly if you live in an urban area (or if your spouse has a different schedule than you do). In these cases, an eye mask can be helpful.

19.  Put your work away at least one hour before bed (preferably two hours or more). This will give your mind a chance to unwind so you can go to sleep feeling calm, not hyped up or anxious about tomorrow’s deadlines.

20.  No TV right before bed. Even better, get the TV out of the bedroom or even completely out of the house. It’s too stimulating to the brain, preventing you from falling asleep quickly. TV disrupts your pineal gland function.

21.  Listen to relaxation CDs. Some people find the sound of white noise or nature sounds, such as the ocean or forest, to be soothing for sleep. An excellent relaxation/meditation option to listen to before bed is the Insight audio CD. Another favorite is the Sleep Harmony CD, which uses a combination of advanced vibrational technology and guided meditation to help you effortlessly fall into deep delta sleep within minutes. The CD works on the principle of “sleep wave entrainment” to assist your brain in gearing down for sleep.

22.  Read something spiritual or uplifting. This may help you relax. Don’t read anything stimulating, such as a mystery or suspense novel, which has the opposite effect. In addition, if you are really enjoying a suspenseful book, you might be tempted to go on reading for hours, instead of going to sleep!

23.  Journaling. If you often lay in bed with your mind racing, it might be helpful keep a journal and write down your thoughts before bed. Try doing it in the morning when the brain is functioning at its peak and cortisol levels are high.

Changes in Your Lifestyle that Can Help You Sleep

24.  Reduce or avoid as many drugs as possible. Many drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, may adversely affect sleep. In most cases, the condition causing the drugs to be taken in the first place can be addressed by following the health guidelines. Many people are starting to talk about drugs and their side effects on forums, chat rooms and other places. It’s best to learn as much as you can about each drug, its side effects and what the root cause may be that could be relieved through nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.

 25.  Avoid caffeine. At least one study has shown that, in some people, caffeine is not metabolized efficiently, leaving you feeling its effects long after consumption. So, an afternoon cup of coffee or tea will keep some people from falling asleep at night. Be aware that some medications contain caffeine (for example, diet pills).

26.  Avoid alcohol. Although alcohol will make you drowsy, the effect is short lived and you will often wake up several hours later, unable to fall back asleep. Alcohol will also keep you from entering the deeper stages of sleep, where your body does most of its healing.

27.  Make certain you are exercising regularly. Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day can improve your sleep. However, don’t exercises too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake. Studies show exercising in the morning is the best if you can manage it.

28.  Lose excess weight. Being overweight can increase your risk of sleep apnea, which can seriously impair your sleep.

29.  Avoid foods you may be sensitive to. This is particularly true for sugar, grains, and pasteurized dairy. Sensitivity reactions can cause excess congestion, gastrointestinal upset, bloating and gas, and other problems.

30.  Have your adrenals checked by a good natural medicine clinician. Scientists have found that insomnia may be caused by adrenal stress.

31.  If you are menopausal or perimenopausal, get checked out by a good natural medicine physician. The hormonal changes at this time may cause sleep problems if not properly addressed.

Other Natural Ways to Improve Sleep

32.  Dr. Mercola’s current favorite fix for insomnia is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Most people can learn the basics of this gentle tapping technique in a few minutes. EFT can help balance your body’s bioenergy system and resolve some of the emotional stresses that are contributing to your insomnia at a very deep level. The results are typically long lasting and improvement is remarkably rapid.

33.  Increase your melatonin. Ideally it is best to increase levels naturally with exposure to bright sunlight in the daytime (along with full spectrum fluorescent bulbs in the winter) and absolute complete darkness at night.

34.  Natural supplements. Calcium, magnesium, B-complex, vitamin D, omega 3s which help reduce inflamation, a good multivitamin, Valerian, German chamomile and passion flower are just a few of the ways you can help your body be better equipped to have a good night’s sleep.

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