By Melonie Jorgensen, Wellness Program Director for Dr. Thad Gala
So often clients talk to me about the trouble they are having with getting a good night’s sleep. I want to share today what the current literature is saying about the importance of sleep. In addition I will offer you some tips and tricks to getting a good night’s sleep.
There are two books that I will be referencing today in my segment regarding the importance of sleep: Thrive by Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor in chief of the Huffington Post in New York City, and Essentialism by Greg Mckeown. I find both of these books to be great reads in promoting emotional, social and physical wellbeing, and I believe that they will be very helpful for you.
In her book Thrive, Arianna Huffington quotes Dr. Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer of the Cleveland Clinic as saying, “Sleep is the most underrated health habit.” In fact current literature is telling us more and more frequently that there is practically no element of our lives that’s not improved by getting adequate sleep.
Let’s take a look at sleep deprivation. According to Drs. Stuart Quan and Russell Sanna, from Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, sleep deprivation negatively impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and our ability to access higher-level cognitive functions. A study at Duke University has found that poor sleep is associated with higher stress levels and greater risk of heart disease and diabetes. There’s more to sleep deprivation than physical problems. If you rob yourself of sleep, you won’t be able function at your personal best. This has been shown to be true of work decisions, relationship challenges, or any life situation that requires judgment, emotional equilibrium, problem solving and creativity.
Your sleep patterns can have a physical effect on your brain. A study conducted at Harvard Medical School found that people who got more sleep than bare minimum increased the volume of grey matter in their brains, which is linked to improved psychological health. A 2013 study on mice showed that during sleep the brain clears out harmful waste proteins that build up between its cells- a process that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Maiken Nedergaard,a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Rochester states “The brain only has limited energy at its disposal and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states – awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up.” As the Great British Sleep Survey found, poor sleepers are seven times more likely to feel helpless and five times more likely to feel alone. These are consequences that can impact everything from our relationships to our ability to focus on our health. A study published in Science even calculated that for the sleep deprived, an extra hour of sleep can do more for their daily happiness than a $60,000 raise. Dr. Breus explains why dreaming is so important. “Dreaming (most often in REM sleep) helps consolidate your memories. So what might that mean for you? You will begin to see an improvement in your overall memory and your ability to organize your thoughts, and maybe getting things done.” Regular sleep even helps you exercise better.
Greg McKeown, in his Book Essentialism, discusses the need to pace ourselves, nurture ourselves, and give ourselves fuel to explore, thrive and perform.
Too many of us think of our sleep as the flexible item in our schedule that can be endlessly moved around to accommodate our fixed and top priorities of work, watching television, social engagements, etc. Like a flight or train, your sleep should be thought of as the fixed point in your day, and everything else should be adjusted as needed so you don’t miss it. When you wake up unprompted, feeling refreshed, you have slept enough. You can hit the ground running minus the morning mental fog.
Tips/Tricks for better sleep: There is a number of sleep aids that can be used to tell your body that it’s time to shut down:
- Get a new pillow. And a new pillowcase.
- Have specific “going-to-bed-clothes”
- Counting backwards from 300 by threes works so well, that you won’t get below 250.
- Make your bedroom darker and keep it cool.
- Let your electronics to charge far away from your bed.
- Practice deep breathing before bed.
- Take a warm bath before bed.
- Keep a Blessings Journal: write just before turning off the light to end the day on an up note.
- Save a good novel to read while in bed. This is not work related material, maybe not even a self-help book will help here. Choose something that will help you unwind from the day.
- Exercise or at least walk every day.
- Banish all LCD screens (laptops, tablets, smartphones, TV) at night.
- Avoid alcohol and food before bedtime to give your body time to metabolize it.
- Avoid water before bedtime so that you don’t have to get up to go to the bathroom.
- And during the day, to prevent stress from building up – which makes it harder to fall asleep at night – every few hours take sixty seconds of recovery time. Stop what you are doing, and simply bring your awareness to the palms of your hands or soles of your feel, or both. Feel all tension leaving your boy, drifting away from you through your hands and feet.
Share the importance of sleep with friends and family. Learn from many medical experts through The Sleep Summit taking place now. Register to attend for free: https://qt247.isrefer.com/go/SLEEP16reg/DrThadGala/
As Dr. Gala always says, Here’s to making the rest of your years the best of your years!