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Healing approaches mentioned in this blog are for educational purposes only. Suggested supplements, etc. should not be used as replacements for conventional medical treatment without guidance from a licensed and trained medical professional.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Maybe God is trying to tell you something .. about sleep!

Can't sleep at night and you wonder why
Maybe God is trying to tell you something
Crying all night long, something's gone wrong
Maybe God is trying to tell you something

I always liked that song from The Color Purple.  If you can’t sleep at night and God isn’t trying to tell you something, then your body definitely is trying to tell you something.
Sleep should be a priority in your life as it plays a dramatic role in your overall health.  Without enough sleep, your body may accumulate a sleep debt that affects your normal thinking abilities, and you might not notice!  Most people need at least six hours of sleep for peak memory.  Regular sleep makes you less forgetful.
Getting a good night’s sleep can release certain hormones that boost your immune response. Previous studies have made it very clear that not enough sleep will increase your insulin levels, increase your risk of diabetes, affect hormone levels and accelerate aging.
There are many reasons for insomnia.  Due to the demands of life, we often freely choose to cut back on our sleep.  I like to stay up a little later and read to wind down.  Some of you like to watch the late night talk shows or “farm” on Facebook for the same reason.
Other reasons for insomnia include:   a cluttered, too warm bedroom
loud neighbors, street, animals
exercising too close to bedtime
caffeine after noon
chronic pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc.
Dr. Deepak Chopra has an insomnia protocol to which I often refer my patients.  These are the highlights:
*    The natural human biorhythm is to sleep between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.  This means you should be in bed, lights out by 10 p.m. and be up at 6 a.m.  (I always tell my patients they should get up and go to sleep at the same times every day.  Being on the same schedule, including weekends, helps your body know better when to pump out certain hormones that wake you up, help you sleep and deal with stress better.)
*    Decrease your mental activity after dinner.  Journaling may help with stress.
*    Take a hot bath 30 minutes before bedtime.  You can include calming fragrances, music and lighting to let go of your daily stress.
*    Use your bed for sleep and sex only.
I learned in medical school to tell my patients to go to sleep in a cool, uncluttered room, with no lights on and preferably no electronics like TV’s in the room.  Sometimes deep breathing and progressive relaxation can help you relax into sleep.
Skullcap, passionflower and valerian, in capsule, tea or tincture form, help promote a good night’s sleep for most people.  If tight muscles or anxiety is a problem, kava kava can often help.
If you go to sleep well and then wake at 2 a.m. for no apparent reason, you may have a cortisol issue.  I like to test a patient’s cortisol level four times throughout the day to see if it’s out of whack.  If it is, there are things that can help, depending just what and when things are wacky.
It is also helpful to remember that your sleep requirement can change with the seasons.  In the middle of the summer you might actually be able to get by on six hours of sleep or less.  In the winter you might require nine or more hours of sleep to optimize your health.
Do you have insomnia or other sleep problems?  What do you do to help yourself?

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