Have you been getting enough sleep lately? Do you feel well rested? Silly questions, right? With today’s hectic lifestyle it seems almost impossible to get a full night’s sleep. It’s estimated that 1/3 of our life is spent sleeping, 1/3 of all people are sleep deprived, 1/3 of all people have a sleep deficiency and 1/3 of all work-related accidents occur while the worker is tired on the job. When we are sleep deprived, our body has to pay the price somehow. Usually, the price is paid in a negative way.
Why is sleep so important? One reason is that your brain needs sleep to recharge itself. When you are sleep deprived, you start to experience micro sleep. Have you ever driven down the road and began to nod off? It’s seems almost unavoidable and uncontrollable. That’s your body’s way of getting micro sleep. A minute or two burst of sleep is happening without you even realizing it.
Studies have shown that sleep has a huge impact on your memory. While you are awake, your brain is encoding memories. Each experience you have during the day is being encoded as a memory in your brain. (1) While you are sleeping, your brain consolidates these encoded memories into long-term memory. Without proper sleep hygiene, long-term memory may be negatively affected.
When you are sleeping, your body produces protective cytokines and antibodies to boost your immune system. Your body doesn’t have the chance to build up its forces against invaders if you are not sleeping. Long term sleep deprivation can lead to developing chronic illnesses and diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Harvard Medical School stated that studies have been conducted to show that a lack of sleep and weight gain are linked together. During sleepless times, your body produces higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and lower levels of leptin (the hormone that tells your brain you are full). Eating more, along with a lowered sensitivity to insulin, causes your body to move toward an insulin-resistant/prediabetic state.
Each night you should be entering 4 stages of sleep:
1st stage: You are lightly sleeping. This is a transition time between wakefulness and sleep. It usually lasts around 5 to 10 minutes. You are easily awakened; muscles twitch and relax.
2nd stage: This stage lasts around 20 minutes. Your body temperature begins to lower and your heart rate and respiration slow down.
3rd stage: You are less responsive and environmental noises are less likely to wake you up. This is a transitional period between light and deep sleep. Bed wetting and sleep walking are likely to occur here.
4th Stage: AKA REM (rapid eye movement). Dreaming occurs during this stage. You may experience eye movements and an increase in heart rate and respiration.
Do you often wonder why infants and teenagers sleep so much? It’s because they are growing like weeds! Growth hormones are released while we sleep. So, let them sleep! It’s good for them during this time of rapid growth and development.
Common Sleep Disorders
Did you know that an estimated 50-70 million US adults suffer from a sleep disorder? Nearly 40 million Americans suffer from insomnia, making it the most common sleep disorder! Insomnia may be characterized by drowsiness, lack of energy, anxiety,
irritability, difficulty performing tasks, learning difficulties, memory issues, etc. Insomnia may be described as having difficulty falling asleep, returning to sleep or difficulty staying asleep. (2) Now you may be asking, “what causes insomnia?”. Well, there are many factors that can cause this common sleeping disorder including stress, anxiety, depression, poor sleep habits, certain medical conditions or a change in your work schedule.
Another common sleep disorder is sleep apnea. 1 in 7 adults have sleep apnea. With apnea, your muscles completely relax while sleeping causing your airways to become blocked. This condition results in the inability to sleep and breathe at the same time. Your heart has to pump harder and faster in order to keep your body oxygenated. Because of this, letting sleep apnea go on without treatment can cause your heart to enlarge over time.
Dr. Jessica’s tips for a better night’s rest
Getting regular chiropractic adjustments can help you obtain a better night’s sleep! Many of our Radiant Life Chiropractic patients have reported feeling more relaxed and able to get a better night’s sleep following an adjustment. Chiropractic adjustments have been shown to increase activity of your parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the “rest, digest and recover” portion of your nervous system.
Essential oils can be a wonderful addition to your bedtime routine. There are many essential oils that can promote rest and relaxation. Each person will respond differently to the oils, so trial a few out until you find what works best for your body. The blends discussed below are found at www.planttherapy.com. Some of my favorite oils to use to promote relaxation and restfulness include:
Lavender: Promotes relaxation, calming the mind and creates a peaceful environment. Lavender is known as the swiss army knife of oils because it is so versatile. This oil is gentle enough to use around children and can easily be incorporated into their bedtime routine. Uses for lavender are endless. I enjoy diffusing this oil during the day and at night to help calm my nerves and create a relaxing environment. I love using this oil in a bath. I will get a cup full of Epsom salt, add 2-3 drops and shake well to mix. I will then add this mixture to a warm bath for a relaxing soak to help ease sore muscles and prepare me for bed. ** Photo credit: Plant Therapy
Let It Go: This blend promotes relaxation and helps create a peaceful environment, and contains: Tangerine, Ylang Ylang, Patchouli, Orange Sweet and Blue Tansy. This oil is my favorite blend for relaxation! I love using this oil at night to help quiet my mind, reduce my stress levels and promote a restful night's sleep. There are a couple of ways that I enjoy using this oil. Before bed, I will add 4-6 drops to the diffuser that I have on my nightstand. Another way to use this oil is to add 1-2 drops to a carrier oil and massage along the bottoms of your feet (don't forget to put socks on so you don't get oil on your floor). Lastly, I love to add 1 drop to a carrier oil and rub along my wrists. During stressful days, I can smell the oil on my wrist to help calm me down. **Photo credit: Plant Therapy
Sleep Aid: This blend contains: Lavender, Mandarin, Ylang Ylang Complete, Valerian Root, Neroli. This blend calms the mind and relaxes the body preparing you for a restful night’s sleep. This is a great oil to add to a diffuser. Add 4-6 drops and get ready for a great night’s sleep. **Photo credit: Plant Therapy
Sweet Slumber: This blend contains: Cedarwood, Ho Wood, Orange, Vetiver and Chamomile. This blend is Kid Safe and helps calm the mind, reduces anxiety and nervousness, quiets busy thoughts, relaxes the body and promotes restful sleep. This blend is great to use in your child’s room to help calm their minds. Add 4-6 drops to a diffuser.
**Photo credit: Plant Therapy
You can use several methods of relaxation until you find what works best for you. Other options include taking a warm Epsom salt bath, meditation, progressive relaxation, deep breathing, and turning electronic devices off at least 30 minutes before bed among many others to help quiet the mind and prepare you for a restful night's sleep. These strategies all help to slow down the body's fight or flight response and increase the rest, digest and recover mechanism.
As mentioned throughout this post, the importance of sleep cannot be overstated. Quality sleep helps boost immunity, cognitive function, athletic performance and recovery, along with so many other benefits. Always focus on your sleep first and foremost when adopting a healthy lifestyle!
1: Rasch B, Born J. About Sleep’s Role in Memory. Physiol. Rev. 2013 Apr;93(2):681-766. Doi: 10.1152/physrev.00032.2012.
2: Insomnia. Sleep Foundation. Sleepfoundation.org.