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Sleep, The Foundation For Health

Sleep is a complex physiological process that allows our body and mind to recover, rejuvenate and prepare for the challenges of a new day.

Our internal body clock, known as the circadian rhythm, regulates our sleep-wake cycle and influences bodily functions such as hormone secretion, metabolism and cognitive performance.

Blue light emitted by screens on phones, tablets, computers and TV’s can disrupt our circadian rhythm by decreasing the production of melatonin and affecting our sleep cycles.  Disrupting our natural circadian rhythms due to irregular sleep schedules or overexposure to blue light can lead to health problems. During sleep the body heals and repairs damaged tissue, clears out old cells, releases growth hormone and consolidates memories. Lack of sleep or having sleep-wake times that vary more than 1 hour every day can decrease our body’s ability to heal, repair and recover.

Gut health also plays a factor in sleep. Lack of sleep and high stress can increase cortisol which affects gut health. Increased cortisol can impair the lining of the intestinal tract making it more permeable to foods and toxins. This can cause bloating, increased inflammation, stomach pains, food sensitivities and changes in the microbiome or bacteria that help us digest our food.  Reciprocally, impaired digestion can affect our sleep. It’s a two way street.

By understanding the intricate relationships of these factors and making a conscious effort to prioritize them we can create a foundation for a healthier life.

Here are a few suggestions for optimal sleep habits.

  • Consistent Schedule:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

  • Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine:

  • Engage in calming activities before bed, such as reading, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation techniques.

  • Limit Screen Time Before Bed:

  • Avoid electronic devices (phones, tablets, computers) at least an hour before sleep due to the blue light that can disrupt your body's production of melatonin.

  • Comfortable Sleep Environment:

  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature.

  • Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows.

  • Regular Physical Activity:

  • Engage in regular exercise, but avoid intense workouts close to bedtime.

  • Mind Your Diet:

  • Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime.

  • Limit Naps:

  • If you need to nap, keep it short (20-30 minutes) and earlier in the day.

  • Manage Stress:

  • Practice stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga during the day to promote better sleep at night.

  • Get Sunlight Exposure:

  • Get natural sunlight exposure during the day to help regulate your body's internal clock.

  • Limit Liquid Intake Before Bed:

  • Minimize the consumption of liquids close to bedtime to prevent waking up for bathroom trips.

  • Use the Bed for Sleep and Intimacy:

  • Avoid using your bed for work, watching TV, or other non-sleep activities.

  • Be Mindful of Your Circadian Rhythm:

  • Understand your body's natural sleep-wake cycle and try to align your sleep schedule with it.

  • Limit Clock Watching:

  • If you're having trouble falling asleep, avoid continuously checking the clock, as this can increase anxiety about not sleeping.

  • Avoid Long Sleep-Ins:

  • While catching up on sleep occasionally is fine, avoid excessively long sleep-ins as they can disrupt your sleep schedule.

  • Seek Professional Help:

  • If you consistently struggle with sleep, consider consulting a healthcare professional or sleep specialist for guidance.

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