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By Dr. Loren Hager
According to a study released by the National Sleep Foundation in 2011, two thirds of Americans say their sleep needs are not being met during the week. About 15% of adults between the ages of 19 and 64 and 7% of 13-18 year-olds report getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night on weekdays, which is significantly less than the recommended and required amount of 7-8.5hours per night. 40% of adults say that they are so sleepy during the day that it interferes with their daily activities.
What does this mean for you?
Well, lack of sleep can lead to sugar metabolism issues, digestive issues, thyroid dysfunction, fatigue, poor circulation, irritability and weight management issues. Furthermore, every time you get less than that required 8 hours of sleep, those missing hours get added up into your “sleep deficit” bank which will need to be made up at some point.
Why is sleep so important?
Sleep rejuvenates the body through the process of “self-detoxification,” in fact, the only time the brain is able to clear itself of the toxins it creates throughout the day just from living is during stage IV sleep, the deepest stage. Sleep also recharges the immune system and helps repair challenges done to the body, sleep helps process, sort and store everything learned, felt or experienced during the day and promotes growth, enhances memory, sharpens the mind, stabilizes the emotions and slows the aging process. Wow, that’s a lot of really important stuff.
Why aren’t people getting enough sleep?
For some people, the answer is quite simple. They just need to realize that sleep is important, turn off the TV, iPad, smartphone and go to bed!! For others, the answer can be more complex. While it is important for anyone with a sleep issue to start good “sleep hygiene” habits, for some the problem is deeper still.
Good sleep hygiene includes:
- Establishing a good, relaxing/unwinding bedtime routine such as a pre-bedtime bath or meditation
- Limiting if not eliminating caffeine, sugar and alcohol from the diet
- Not watching TV or other screen an hour before bed there are blue light filters you can download for your screens or blue light blocking glasses you can wear if shutting down the screens is impossible for you
- Keeping ALL electronics out of the bedroom (not even a charging cell phone or electric blanket)
- Avoid foods rich in tyramine (an amino acid) after 5pm. Tyramine rich foods include ripe bananas, pizza, processed and cured meats, avocado, liver, caviar, aged cheeses, chocolate, alcohol (especially red wine and champagne) and any soy product.
- Eat protein 3 times per day and if your last protein meal is more than 2 hours before bedtime, a light protein snack such as a handful of nuts or a few pieces of cheese before bed is a good idea as the body needs adequate protein for quality, restful sleep.
- Exercise. Even just a short, half-hour walk everyday can help to “tire” your body out and assist in getting a good night’s sleep.
- Reduce and manage stress. Sounds easier than it is, finding things that help calm you is key. Some things to try are journaling, meditation, exercise, good time management, leaving work at work, finding a hobby and spending time in nature.
- Make your bedroom a cave.
- Find blackout curtains and/or eye mask, white noise machine and/or ear plugs
- Sleeping temp should be between 60 – 68 degrees Fahrenheit
- Use cotton sheets
While the rules/tips above are a good idea for anyone with a sleep issue, sometimes the problem is more complex and needs more help to make a change. When that’s the case, whole food nutrition and herbal supplementation can be extremely helpful, especially as compared to taking medical sleep aids which, when taken as little as 18 times per year, can increase your risk of death 3.6 times (Kripke D, et al. BMJ Open. 2012;2:e000850). It goes up from there based on amount of doses per year. So, if you or a loved one struggle with sleep, it is a good idea to have them checked out by a natural health care practitioner.
Dr. Loren Hager is a chiropractic physician and applied clinical nutritionist (ACN). She focuses on the whole patient to help them find better health and vitality. Dr. Hager works with people who struggle with hormonal issues, fatigue, sleep problems, fertility and sex-drive issues, and other chronic problems to find relief and better health. She can be found at www.hagerhealth.com.