Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. ~ Thomas Dekker
Are you sleep deprived? Professor Michael Rosbash believes most of us are. He and fellow biologists Jeffrey Hall and Michael Young received the 2017 Nobel prize in physiology for their insights into our internal biological clocks. You can read Nobel Prizes 2017: Everything you need to know about circadian rhythms for the full story.
“Virtually everything in our body, from the secretion of hormones, to the preparation of digestive enzymes in the gut, to changes in blood pressure, are influenced in major ways by knowing what time of day these things will be needed,” said Clifford Saper, a professor of neuroscience at Harvard Medical School. “The most common misconception is that people think that they do not have to follow the rules of biology, and can just eat, drink, sleep, play, or work whenever they want.”
Even though we know how important sleep is, it can be challenging for many people. So many factors can disrupt our systems – lifestyle choices, environment, schedules… And worrying about it only seems to make it worse. If you have difficulty falling or staying asleep, or wake up tired, proper sleep hygiene can be a game-changer.
Here are some suggestions for a peaceful, restorative sleep:
- Establish a pre-bed ritual – a warm bath, stretch, meditation, some herbal tea.
- Maintain a daily (including weekends) sleep/wake schedule. A 10 to 10:30 pm bedtime and a 6 or 6:30 am wakeup is ideal.
- Add movement to your day. Bonus points for taking it outdoors in the early morning. Natural light sends strong signals to your circadian clocks.
- Minimize stimulants (alcohol, caffeine), especially later in the day. I even avoid watching the evening news – way too stress-inducing.
- Turn off your screens and dim the lights a few hours before bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
- If you share your bed, consider separate duvets. Better temperature regulation and less disturbance when the covers inevitably get pulled away.
Chris Carruthers’ Exhausted Person’s Guide to the 4 Fundamentals to Overcome Insomnia and Conquer Fatigue has even more ideas. Shout out to Petra Fisher for sharing. It has strategies, skills and detailed checklists to help you create an action plan. It’s fantastic – highly recommend!
Osteopathy can help too. Many of my clients report improved sleep post-treatment, even if that was not their primary concern. Osteopathic treatment addresses the autonomic nervous system, tipping the scales in favour of the parasympathetic (rest and digest ) vs. sympathetic (fight or flight). I know the physiology behind it, yet somehow I’m always surprised at how much better I sleep after seeing my osteopath.
Commit to getting the sleep you need (7 – 9 hours for most adults). Set your alarm to remind you to unwind and get to bed on time to make it happen.
What are your secrets to a good night’s sleep? I would love to hear.