Sleep is an important time for the body and we do most of our healing when we are sleeping. Lack of sleep is associated with increased heart disease risk, stroke risk, reproductive dysfunction and cognitive problems.
One study found that natural killer cells (vital part of the immune system, destroy cancerous cells, for example) decreased by 70% when sleep quantity was reduced to 4 hours for just one night, so sleep deprivation is linked also to increased cancer risk.
Sleep problems can be for a variety of reasons, some complex, (and I recommend consulting a professional if you suffer from severe sleep problems), but if you implement these habits you’ll be on your way to getting what you need:
1. Regularity. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day of the week. If you only do one of these, do this one.
2. Ditch the nap. Naps can be great but if you have trouble sleeping at night, don’t take them.
3. Stimulants. Avoid or reduce alcohol, caffeine (regardless of time of day), exercise (close to bedtime) and exciting or scary TV (close to bedtime) if you have interrupted sleep or trouble getting to sleep.
4. Keep your sleeping environment cool. The ideal temperature is 18 degrees celsius or 65 fahrenheit.
5. Respect and reinforce the circadian rhythm. Get outside in daylight as early as you can in your day and turn off blue light a couple of hours before bed. If you have to use a phone or computer, use night mode or wear blue blockers (glasses that block out the blue light).
5. Have a bedtime routine that tells your body it’s time to sleep. A bath, 5 minutes of meditation, reading a book. Dim the lights and wind down.
6. If you wake in the night, this may be because your blood sugar has dropped too low. Some people can benefit from a very light snack before bed (eg. an oatcake) to stop this from happening.
Disappointingly, sleep quality declines as we age, so even if you have good sleep now, implementing these habits might mean avoid problems later.
These habits will usually help improve sleep quality however some problems can go deeper. In working with the whole person, and their individual needs, nutritional therapy aims to work out the root causes and to address them, giving the body what it has been lacking so that sleep will come more easily.
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