Most everyone has heard that sleep is important to your health. That’s true enough! But did you know that poor sleep, both in quality and quantity of hours, is linked to your being overweight?
In fact, those who sleep more healthfully tend to consume fewer calories in a day. This is because sleep deprivation disrupts the hormones responsible for appetite and may cause poor regulation. And yes – it’s been documented – those of us who sleep poorly have more of a risk for heart disease and strokes. Yikes!
Sleep deprivation can also reduce insulin sensitivity, as well as putting you more at risk for depression – something none of us needs. Poor sleep seems to have a major impact on your body’s levels of inflammation. Remember, there is always inflammation present when you’re sick with anything. More specifically, poor sleep has been correlated with long-term inflammation of the digestive tract (where about ¾ of your immune system is located), and you may be more prone to inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease). Sleep deprivation takes away from your ability to interact socially in a positive way.
But enough of the bad news – let’s get into some good news! With good, healthy sleep patterns, all of the above can be reversed. Getting a good night’s sleep can help boost your immune system, and in this day and age, we need all the high-quality immunity we can get to fight off internal (poor diet, stress) and external invaders (like coronavirus). Don’t forget that a healthy diet (one that is healthy for you specifically) will indirectly help you get a good night’s sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep can also help to prevent weight gain, not directly, but by suppressing the hormone ghrelin, which boosts appetite. Better sleep, both in terms of quality and quantity (i.e., number of hours), can help give your overall mood a boost. Being well rested helps your energy levels. With a good night’s sleep behind you, you’re less likely to get into a car accident. Your productivity at home and at work can also be better with a good night of Z’s, as sleep is linked to better concentration and higher cognitive function. Getting a good night’s sleep can help you perform better with exercise, and it can even help improve your memory.
Are you interested in getting into a healthy bedtime routine? A few great suggestions are to keep a consistent schedule when you go to sleep. You can set a bedtime which can help you reach for 7 hours of sleep. Avoid going to bed if you’re not sleepy (unless it’s time of course!). Make sure all lights are out and that your room is sufficiently dark. Turn off computer screens and any other LED lights. Play some soothing music, turn on binaural beats (sound waves), and diffuse some essential oils. Perhaps a few minutes of meditation are helpful to you. These can all be very calming and relaxing. Find out what works the best for you … then do it regularly.
Try to use a high-quality mattress, one on which you feel relaxed. Make sure your pillow is also very comfortable. Your spine needs proper support for optimal relaxation and to avoid aches and pains. Your sheets and pillowcases can also make a difference. There are some made specifically for people with allergies and these can help you relax more if that is one of your issues. It goes without saying that keeping noise to a minimum is a must-do. If you fall asleep with your television on, perhaps you can program it to go off at a reasonable hour. Make sure the temperature in your bedroom is exactly right for you – not too warm and not too cool.
If you’re into essential oils, certain scents may help you get drowsy. Lavender is known for relation, chamomile can help by lowering anxiety and depression, and sweet marjoram oil is also known for calming qualities. Bergamot oil, which is a citrus fruit derivation, is known to be calming (whereas other citrus scents are known for stimulation); it can help to lower heart rate and blood pressure. Valerian oil works on similar principles as drugs prescribed for sleep – it inhibits the breakdown of GABA, a neurotransmitter which helps induce sleep. Another favorite is jasmine oil is known for assisting with insomnia, and peppermint oil has an anti-inflammatory effect and assists in clearing airways and reducing snoring. If you have serious health issues, please check with your competent health care provider!
It might be helpful to you, personally, as well as your health care provider, to keep a sleep diary. Note medications (and supplements) you may be taking, how many caffeinated beverages you consume, as well as how much alcohol you drink during the day and night (list the amount and time), whether you exercise, if you feel sleepy during the day, if you nap, etc. Also, note the food you consume during the day and especially within 3 hours of your bedtime. (Are these foods healthy [i.e., fresh produce], are they stimulating [i.e., sugar and especially processed grains like wheat], etc.?) By analyzing the results, you may be able to start to narrow down elements which might be inhibiting your ability to get enough high-quality sleep each night.
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of your taking care of yourself so you can be fully available for others, like your family and friends. Don’t neglect or ignore it!
And as always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.