A Focus on Sleep

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By Kay Leaman, Health Architect

I’ve dealt with sleep issues over the years. What I’ve discovered is that getting quality sleep means developing a routine and sticking with it. I have also found a couple nutritionals that have helped me sleep better. As our lives ebb and flow, so does our sleep. However, sleep is critical for our health and ignoring it, hoping it will get better, is not a healthy choice to make. Mine is a work in progress with stress being the main interrupter. So, let’s dive in and learn a little more about sleep.

What is sleep? It’s restful if we sleep well. It’s not an idle mode. Our body and brain are working. It activates a process that helps us rest, repair and recharge.

There are 4 stages in the sleep cycle:
Between wakefulness and sleep – Everything slows down and muscles soften, heart and breathing rates decrease and brain patterns begin to change.

Light sleep – The process continues and body temperature drops.

Deepest state – It’s hard to be awakened. Our heart and breathing are at their lowest point, muscles extremely relaxed. It’s integral to quality sleep. If this stage is cut short we don’t wake up feeling rested.

REM – Rapid eye movement sleep. In many ways it’s the opposite of the other three stages. It’s the dreaming stage; heart rate increases, breathing rate can quicken and become irregular, eyes move rapidly behind eyelids and brain activity livens. As a protective measure the body can experience temporary paralysis of limbs preventing the body from acting out movement about which we dream.

All 4 stages run through in succession until we wake up. Without both NREM and REM sleep our memory consolidation is harmed.

Things that can interrupt our sleep:
Caffeine, alcohol, diet (sugar intake) or eating too close to bedtime. Physical activity, stress level or emotional state, bright lights or blue light.

Things we can do:
• Put away electronics at least 30 minutes prior to going to bed. Consider removing electronics from the bedroom as the electromagnetic waves can interfere with sleep.
• Develop a consistent bedtime as this will develop a rhythm of our internal clock
• Relax by doing some light stretching
• Dim lights
• Play soft music, etc.
• Use blackout curtains (Light is the signal that turns on and off our sleep hormones.).
• Instead of tossing and turning, consider getting up, take a slow walk around the house, have a sip of warm water, read for a few minutes or stretch using slow movements to relax the body. Then return to bed and focus on your breathing.

Sleep is important for a healthy immune system. Here are a few things that happen when we sleep:
• During sleep immune cells move around, creating memories.
• Immune cell effectiveness is being preserved, proliferation of white blood cells and protective immune proteins (cytokines).
• Activation of immune cells
• Differentiation of new white blood cells
• Optimization of natural killer cell function (quick-acting white blood cells of the innate immune system)

When your cells are cared for with quality sleep your supply of bodyguards are stocked, locked and ready to protect you properly.

The American College of Physicians does not recommend taking sleeping pills for a long time as they sedate the mind rather than help to naturally induce sleep. Here are some holistic options:
• Essential Oils:
Methods of use: Inhaling – diffused.
Direct application – to skin, dilution recommended using avocado oil, almond oil, etc.
Ingesting – added to food or drink, get professional advice before utilizing this method
• Oils to consider:
Lavender (diffuse), bergamot (can lower heart rate and BP and help with anxiety and stress), clary sage (may reduce cortisol levels), valerian, sandalwood, ylang ylang, jasmine, frankincense (expensive), chamomile (tea can be used in place of the oil)
• Nutrients (I can help you with these):
A high quality melatonin, magnesium tea or a stress relief supplement

Some age-related sleep issues are due to:
First part of the brain to suffer from the aging process is the same region that allows for deep sleep. This can begin as early as our 30s.

Sleep issues are linked to heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, stroke and obesity. (It’s important to exercise the mind and the body. There are myriad puzzles and games that exercise the mind. Learn something new like a new hobby, exercise, take a class, etc. or read.)

Here’s to Health! succeed.hdhl@gmail.com