So how much sleep is enough?
Adults need anywhere from 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. For some people sleep can be one of the most elusive of health goals, even more so than exercise. Many people accept this as a way of life and find that their health declines, but you need to understand that sleep is crucial to well-being We require sleep in order to heal and restore mental acuity. Sleep is when our bodies focus on making new cells to keep us going. Without it we lower our immune response and increase our risk for chronic disease.
Top six reasons to get your sleep
According to Harvard Medical School, here are the top six reasons to get your sleep.
- Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
- Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
- Lapses of attention and safety: Sleep deprivation is linked with a decrease in a person's neurological function. Those who are sleep deprived will usually perform poorly at work or for children at school and those driving may cause road accidents.
- Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Not getting enough sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
- Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
- Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.
So, what can you do to help improve your sleep? Here are our top 10 tips to help you get a good night's sleep.
Stay on schedule and say no to all nighters
Try to develop a regular sleep and wake schedule (even during the weekends). A consistent schedule will reinforce your body's sleep-wake cycle and help you to fall asleep more readily at night. Missing one night of sleep can take up to 2 weeks to recover.
Unwind and de-stress
Stress is the worst culprit limiting sleep, and yet it is so ingrained into our daily lives that many of us simply don’t notice it anymore. Decreasing it can be as easy as taking a few minutes of “me time” every day. This could be as easy as 30 minutes of TV, a quick angry bird’s break, or your favorite exercise.
Regular exercise can promote good sleep. A good time to exercise is in the morning or early afternoon. If you exercise in the evening, be sure to finish at least two to three hours before bedtime. If the only time you have to exercise is just before bed, do some stretching instead. Stretching will help your body reconnect and unwind.
Limit caffeine intake
Caffeine is a stimulant, which is why many of us love it. Unfortunately, many people don’t realise they’re addicted until they try to stop drinking it and experience symptoms like mood swings and headaches. If you do drink coffee, or caffeinated beverages, try to limit them to before noon to allow the body adequate time to metabolise it.
Watch what you eat before bed time
Eat a light dinner a minimum of 2-3 hours before going to sleep. Eating proteins at dinner, such as fish, chicken or certain vegetables will prevent hunger pains at night. Protein is required to make new cells and is pivotal in the rest and digest process so consuming protein a few hours before bed is very important. Be sure to avoid carbohydrates before those 2 hours before bed as they’re used for energy and we don’t want to be amped up before bedtime.
Avoid sleep aids
Medications that are marketed to promote sleep are shown to actually decrease REM sleep. REM sleep is where we sleep our deepest and heal and it’s vital to maintaining our health.
Limit your daytime naps
Sleep primarily at night. Try to avoid excessive napping during the day. If you feel the need to rest, keep your naps to 20 minutes or less.
Create optimal sleeping conditions
Always sleep in a dark room. Having lights on during sleep or a brightly lit alarm clock interferes with the amount of melatonin produced naturally in the body. Also, keep technology away from your bed. Computers and TV use causes rhythmic image hypnosis which prevents sleep from coming easily. Limit technology use to 15 minutes before bed and use the 15 minutes to read instead.
Adopt proper sleep posture
It's important to take strain off your back by making simple changes to your sleeping posture. The healthiest sleeping position is on your side. If that’s how you sleep, draw your legs up slightly toward your chest and put a pillow between your legs. Be aware that sleeping on your stomach is generally bad for your back. In this position, the cervical spine undergoes considerable strain, which can cause nerve compression, muscular imbalance and muscle pain.
Need a new pillow?
You need to also think about the position your head and neck are in when you sleep. The most important thing to do is find a pillow that keeps your head in a neutral position. At Helou Chiropractic we recommend Technogel pillows. These pillows are specially designed to help your neck stay in the proper position while sleeping. It might take a few days to get used to them, but once you do, you will notice a major difference in how you sleep and how you feel in the morning! If you would like to find out more about these pillows or if you are interested in purchasing one, send us an email.
Yours in good health,
The team at Helou Chiropractic.