Why Sleep Matters

     Lets talk about sleep.  The realization of the importance of good sleep has really come to play in our home lately.   For myself I have known for years that good quality and enough sleep are key to how I feel the next day.   The last couple of weeks I have really begun to realize how important good quality sleep is.   My husband had a sleep study done this week for his chronic snoring and lack of "good" sleep.  My 10 year old has chronically been tardy lately due to being so tired in the morning.
An earlier bedtime has been implemented.  This has brought to light the how the importance of sleep should be a priority in all families.
    There are two distinct types of sleep slow-wave sleep (SWS) or otherwise known as non-REM sleep and rapid eye movement also know as REM sleep.   We spend most of our time in slow-wave sleep, During SWS the brain waves are slow, muscles are relaxed and our breath slows down.  This helps the body to recover after a long day.  After SWS we enter REM sleep.  This is were we dream.  During this time the brain becomes highly active, the body's muscles become paralyzed and breathing and heart rate become erratic.
    There are numerous benefits of sleep.  According to Chris Kresser, "You cannot be healthy without adequate sleep."  Sleep is imperative for repairing neurological, endocrine, immune, musculoskeletal and digestive systems.  Sleep is so important that total sleep deprivation has proven to be fatal within a couple of weeks.
   An article in the Huffington Post states that sleep creates and brings together memories.  It helps to form new memories and consolidate old ones. The hippocampus which controls memory making is effected when there is lack of sleep.  When we get enough sleep it helps with us retaining new information that we learn.  Sleep also clears out toxins.  According to a study conducted by University of Rochester found that during sleep, the brains of mice clear out damaging molecules associated with neurodegeneration.  The space between the brain cells actually increases when sleeping. This is basically the lymphatic system of the brain. If we're not getting enough sleep our brains don't have adequate time to clear out toxins.  The study concluded that adequate sleep could play a role in decreasing Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Here is a great Ted Talk on sleep being the only time the brain cleans itself. Sleep Ted Talk
   Another benefit of good sleep is that during sleep we learn and remember how to perform physical tasks.  The brain stores information into long term memory through something called sleep spindles.  Sleep spindles are short bursts of brain waves at strong frequencies tat occur during REM sleep.  This process can be particularly helpful for storing information related to motor tasks.
     So how do we get more and better sleep.  As a massage therapist my rule has always been to spend good money on a good mattress, good pillow and good shoes (yes I realize that shoes have nothing to do with sleep).  I generally recommend memory foam pillows and mattresses.  Memory foam takes the pressure off of your joints and allows your body to truly relax.  Throughout the years I have had clients that were in chronic neck and back pain and once they changed their mattress and/or pillow their pain went away.  There are occasionally exceptions depending on if you are a side, back or stomach sleeper.  If you have questions feel free to email me.
   Next up is sleeping in a completely dark room.  This one goes back to our ancestral days before electricity.  Our bodies are naturally hardwired to sleep in a dark, cool and clean environment.  (more)
   Do things to help your body relax, turn on the parasympathetic nervous system.   A few suggestions are to get a massage, epsom salt baths, diffuse essential oils such as lavender and cedar wood, meditate. Listening to white noise and 528hz music is also helpful.  I also like to use face oils that have a relaxing scent, not only does it make me feel beautiful it helps me to relax.
   Restricting artificial light at night is so helpful, especially blue light.  Blue light can hinder the production of melatonin which is the main hormone that regulates sleep.   If you are one that enjoys watching tv at night to help you relax I recommend blue blocker glasses.  They can be found on Amazon or other retailers.  These are also good for someone who spends a lot of time in front of a computer.  these glasses can help with eye fatigue. Many smart phones today have a night time setting that will block the blue light when the sun goes down and turn it back on when the sun comes up.
   And for all of my Bible loving friends a great way I have found to fall asleep quick is to read the Old Testament.  I'm kidding, well kind of...
   So you've tried all of the natural solutions but are still having trouble with sleeping.  These are the ones that have helped me relax and sleep:
   My favorite is Phosphatidlserine.  Be sure to get soy-free if you are sensitive to soy.  Phosphatidlserine also has bonus brain building qualities.  Magnesium is also helpful.  It has calming effects on nervous system.  My favorite forms are Natural Calm and Magnesium oil which is a transdermal spray.  The amino acids L-theanine and taurine can also be helpful.  L-Theanine can have calming effects on the brain.  And taurine increases the production the neurotransmitter GABA which is our bodies natural "off" switch.  5-HTP is a precursor to melatonin but be sure to not take it if you are taking SSRIS our other antidepressants.  And last but not least melatonin.  Some reports show that   constant use of melatonin can restrict the body from making its own.  Lower doses such as .5mg and 1 mg are less likely to cause dependence.
   These are my favorite sleep tricks.  Let me know what yours are?  


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