Sleep 101

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Heal, Health

Sleep 101

Neglect not the obvious

Noooo… I don’t want to go to sleep!” we may have wailed as children, preferring to run, play or even hide to avoid the confines of a bed. This approach to nighttime has been known to last a couple decades. As we age, however, and take on the stressors of adult life, sleep becomes the new party. I don’t know about you, but a good night’s sleep is pretty high up on my list of favorite things to do.

Did you know that stress can kill you faster than a bad diet and no exercise? Before you invest in high-priced supplements or bio-hacking gadgets, it’s a good idea to take full advantage of the free habitual healing modalities of ancient man: Hydration, proper breathing and sleep will do wonders for energy levels, pain and disease. Address these habits first.

Here’s how to show up to your slumber party in style and get the best night of sleep ever.

Sleep is like the control-alt-delete mechanism the human body (including the brain) needs in our high-stress world.  Don’t let the pace of modern life rob you of this high-quality rehab. To realize the full restorative benefits of sleep, we have to work with the rhythms of nature.

The chart on this page, from the book How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy by Paul Chek, shows a hormonal rhythm of a healthy person in a 24-hour cycle (also known as a circadian rhythm). The black line represents cortisol, aka the stress hormone. Cortisol gets a bad rap these days as people blame it for the spare tire around their midline. In reality, however, we need cortisol to wake us up. When the sun hits the horizon your body begins to flood with this hormone, giving you the energy needed to face the day.

The white line on the graph represents the “rest and repair” hormones. As the sun begins to set for the day, so does cortisol. A variety of other hormones begin to dance through the blood stream, making us sleepy.They are ready to repair the damage done to our body/mind during the waking hours. The human body naturally wants to heal, love and support itself.

However, due to many beautiful gifts of modern man, most people’s hormonal rhythms look a little more like the second chart. There are things we do throughout the day and night that prevent a natural rhythm. When we take small steps to change habits that keep our cortisol levels from dropping, we can begin to get the “quality high” that sleep offers. Your body does so much to support you; loving it back is a gift that keeps on giving!

 

Sleep tips

Let the sun and moon be your guide: The body repairs itself between the hours of 10pm to 2am and the brain reboots from 2am to 6am. If you are awake during this time, you miss out on the physical and psychological repair that can keep you from needing physical therapy and antidepressants!

 

Caffeine, sugar and alcohol—oh my…: These substances can have a detrimental effect on your sleep cycle. But do not fear—you do not have to eliminate them completely; just use them wisely. Caffeine has a half-life of six hours so cutting it out of your day by 10am will allow the cortisol to fall naturally with the sun. Sugar and alcohol can lull you to sleep with a nice “high” but what goes up must come down and usually does so in the middle of the night. When our blood sugar crashes and we don’t hear the body’s messages to eat, we often are flooded with adrenalin and cortisol, usually at 3am. This will either wake us up in the middle of the night or make us feel like we ran a marathon in our sleep. If you have a sweet tooth or like a glass of wine to end your night, follow it up with a good fat and/or protein to give the body something to keep the blood sugar from falling so hard. Even better: Get your wine and sugar in and done by 6pm before a good dinner.

 

Screen time: Ancient man used fire to light his way after the sun. By contrast, most Americans lull themselves to sleep in front of an electronic screen. But our bodies register the light from this technology as sunlight. The bright blue lights lull our bodies into thinking the sun is rising, and with it, our cortisol rises. If you want to enjoy evening screen time, you can program your electronics to dim the blue light with Nightshift (on iPhone), Flux (free online software) or purchase a pair of glasses that have red or orange lenses.

Electro-Magnetic Frequencies: Although we don’t hear it with our ears every time our phone checks for messages, the electromagnetic frequencies disturb our cellular rest. To remedy this, switch your phone to airplane mode before sleep. Keep your wi-fi router some distance from the bedroom or put it on a timer so that it shuts down nightly at 10pm.

Lighting and bedtime routines: The more we can prepare the body to calm down, the easier it is to fall asleep and rest deeply. In my home, we begin using dimmed lighting (salt lamps and candles) around 9pm. Activities that settle the mind and body such as stretching, baths, meditation, deep breathing, journaling or audio books after the day comes to a close give my body the nudge it needs to let go and drift into slumber.

Grounding sheets: Earth has a natural hum called the Schumann resonance. This resonance has the capacity to decrease inflammation and activate the parasympathetic nervous system that helps recovery in the body. We connect to it naturally when our skin touches the earth. Companies like earthing.com make sheets containing silver threads that act as a conduit for this energy. Sleeping on an earthing sheet has changed my life; I give them every year for Christmas presents to share the healing they bring.

We are now entering the darkest time of the year; the nights are much longer than the day. Bears, bees and even trees hibernate. Maybe we humans, too, should try it. So as you cook, clean, wrap and party, take some time to give yourself the gift of good sleep habits. I promise it will help you enjoy this season and beyond to the fullest.

Nicole DeVaney is an instructor for the CHEK Institute as well as a medical intuitive, writer, speaker and self-proclaimed “how-to” healer. She has a private holistic practice at Cutting Edge Physical Therapy in Murray, Utah. Nicoledevaney.com/

 
 
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