Are you one of the millions of Americans who struggle with getting to sleep at night? Or do you fall asleep easily but have trouble staying asleep?
All of us long for quality sleep, but many find that life frequently intervenes to make it harder and harder to experience.
In our increasingly 24/7 world, insistent devices, bright screens and stressful work demands leave some people struggling to get enough sleep. The average American barely gets seven hours a night, with 40% getting less than six.
Why is a good night’s sleep so important?
Quality sleep is as essential to good health as exercise and nutrition. Poor sleep increases the risk of depression, obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, inflammation and more.
A lack of sleep can have the same effects on the body as alcohol intoxication: slower reaction times, an inability to concentrate or to make optimal judgments. Even after getting seven hours of sleep, physical and mental exhaustion toward the end of the day can resemble having a blood alcohol level of 0.05. If you are awake 21 hours straight (not unusual in many professions), it can resemble having a blood alcohol level of 0.08, the equivalent of being legally under the influence in most states.
- Reduces the effect of adenosine that accumulates during a day’s busy activity. That brain strain you feel at different times of the day? That’s a build-up of the sleep-inducing molecule adenosine in your brain.
- Restores the nervous system – improving cognition, concentration, productivity and performance.
- Improves athletic performance – speed, accuracy, muscle repair, and reaction times.
- Enables secretion of the important growth hormone that stimulates cell production and regeneration
- Properly regulates cortisol.
- Helps memory by coherently consolidating information we’ve acquired during the day.
We can help. Greenleaf Integrative’s CEO, Dr. Siddharth A. Shah, has written and recorded a guided meditation to help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and experience tranquil rest. We recommend you combine it with good sleep hygiene to maximize its effect.
What is good sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is creating the lifestyle and surroundings that help you to spend appropriate amounts of quality time asleep. This helps you to:
- Fall asleep in 30 minutes or less.
- Wake up no more than once per night.
- Return to sleep within 20 minutes or less.
- Sleep at least 85% of the total time you are in bed.
The National Sleep Foundation has outlined several methods that assist in building good sleep hygiene. Their recommendations include:
- Ensure your sleep environment, bed, and pillows are comfortable and non-distracting. Temperatures are best when they are cool (some say approximately 67 degrees) for optimal sleep. Full darkness – facilitated by blackout shades and/or eye shades – encourages deep sleep. In that vein, avoid looking at screens and their blue light at least an hour before bedtime.
- Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes.
- Establish a regular bedtime routine. Going to bed at the same time helps the body to recognize that it is time to go to sleep. A warm shower or bath can be soothing and relaxing, helping to trigger a sleep response.
- Avoid eating foods that trigger heartburn – for example fried, fatty, spicy foods – in the evenings.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine at least four hours before bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol before bedtime. While it can make you fall asleep faster, it can also disrupt the second half of your night’s sleep as your body begins to process it.
Some say that sleep hygiene is dead.
We have unlimited access to diversions at our fingertips, and optimal rest takes a back seat in our ever-connected world. Our desire to watch one thing at night to decompress can easily slip into multiple episodes of content. And our devices’ notifications don’t always help us in our goal of getting to, and staying, asleep.
So, if you are one of millions of people who can’t maintain the perfect conditions for sleep every night, we invite you to listen to this meditation created by Dr. Shah. The first seven minutes set the intention for what you will experience.
Then it transitions into healthy affirmations that will filter into your subconscious as you drift off to sleep. This can create passive positive change. It then moves into calming music that supports your mental and physical relaxation. The full recording is 20 minutes long, and an excellent tool to use nightly to induce restorative slumber.
May you experience a deep and restful sleep every night, and awaken refreshed, alert and energized!