Getting a good night's sleep is the most important thing we can do for our health. We can eat right, exercise and do all the good things but if we are not getting good sleep we will not see the results we want. Have a goal of getting 8 hours of sleep every night. This means having a regular schedule where you go to bed and get up at the same time everyday.
Lets look at stress for a moment and how the body interprets stress:
The body cannot differentiate between physical stress and mental stress, nor can it determine what is real stress and what is just perceived stress. It all does the same thing in the body. Now when it comes to stress you can think of the body as having a toggle switch for the nervous system with two options, the sympathetic system or the parasympathetic system.
The sympathetic side is our fight or flight response, where our body pumps out some adrenaline and is ready to fight for its life. It sends blood to the muscles so that they are ready to function at their peak, your heart pumps, eyes dilate, and the juices are flowing. Conversely, the parasympathetic response is to rest and repair. It is where our body relaxes, blood travels to the digestive system to process our food, and the body works on repairing any damage done in the last big fight for its life situation.
So when I say the body can’t differentiate between real stress (begin chased by a tiger) and perceived stress (I have a work deadline coming up) it means the body can get suck on the sympathetic side of the toggle. When we live in a constant state of sympathetic response our body is never able to fully recover and repair and renew our energy reserves. That’s why it it crucial to healing to manage stress and give the body adequate rest.
A way to help flip the toggle switch back to the parasympathetic response side is to actually give the body rest.
That means actually taking care of yourself and getting to bed at a reasonable hour, and actually sleeping. Turning off the world around you, not checking your email late into the night, not watching TV until you pass out from exhaustion. Part of this process will actually be saying no to things you use to say yes too. Maybe that means fewer social engagements, or fewer extra projects, or even less time to take care of everyone else. I give you permission to be selfish and take some time for you. That whole thing on the airplane about putting your oxygen mask on first, it is true. If you don’t take care of you, you won’t have anything to give anyone else. It is very empowering to take space for yourself. This will help in not only your pain level but also your mind and spirit.
Here are some tips to get better sleep:
Keep the bed for sleeping - avoid eating, working, reading, watching TV and the like from the bed. This will help condition the body to sleep when in bed.
Turn off screens or use blue light filtering glasses in the evening. Screens should be off at least 2 hours before bedtime (for you and the kids!)
Keep a strict bedtime and wake up time everyday of the week. This helps build better circadian rhytmes and deeper sleep.
Keep your bedroom dark and quiet. Remove as many distractions as possible from your bedroom.
Get out into the sunshine everyday, especially in the morning. This will help the body know when it is day and when it is night!
Use a fitbit to help track your sleep (here is the one I use). If you suffer from sleep apnea or are a snorer, have your sleep evaluated by a professional.
If you are struggling with sleep, please get in touch and I am happy to help with acupuncture and/or nutrition and herbal recommendations for sleep.
How many hours of sleep do you need to feel your best?