“He who sleeps half a day has won half a life.”
Sleep is one of the most healing techniques of all.
One of the most important things you can ever do to improve your overall health is to get a better night’s sleep.
Sleep is so essential that it’s considered equally as important as your nutrition and your exercise in the body building equation. It’s the R in B=ExAxRxN. Your Body equals your Exercise times your Attitude times your Rest times your Nutrition.
You must sleep enough hours every night and sleep soundly enough to repair your physical tissues, rebuild your brain chemistry and balance your hormones. The New York Times reports Americans now spend about $5 billion each year on sleep medications, so there are countless numbers for whom these essential processes are not happening either easily or naturally.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that to look fit they have to starve or work out harder when in reality the critical factor in their appearance may actually be the amount or quality of their sleep.
The simplest form of torture is sleep deprivation. Nicole Bieske, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International Australia, has stated, “At the very least, (sleep deprivation) is cruel, inhumane and degrading. If used for prolonged periods of time it is torture.”
Are you torturing yourself by overlooking this essential step?
In fact, among new clients to Total Fitness, adequate rest is the key ingredient that we find most consistently overlooked. Many of our clients are aware that they need to exercise or eat better, but they continue to think they can overwork and deprive themselves of adequate rest and look the way they really want to look. That’s simply not possible.
Given the physical, energetic, emotional, mental and spiritual components of a good night’s sleep, there may be multiple areas where you could improve if you are not sleeping soundly every night.
Here are a few suggestions on where to begin:
Allow yourself enough time to get the job done. Start by getting into bed at 10 p.m. Every minute of sleep before midnight is worth 10 minutes of sleep after midnight. Give yourself permission to stay in bed as long as possible – ideally, until 8 a.m. the following day if your work or family schedule allows. Research at the National Institutes of Health shows that even adults need 10 hours of rest daily. Even if you are not a good sleeper and tend to wake up in the middle of the night, if you allow yourself enough time, you can go back to sleep and get more rest.
Use this equation. 10 minus the number of hours you slept last night equals the total number of hours you need in rest and relaxation the following day. If you sleep less than 10 hours, as many people do, then make up the difference with a combination of meditation, hot baths, naps or prone activities like lying on the couch reading a funny or spiritually uplifting (not work-related) book. If you don’t know what we mean by relaxation, that may be a problem in and of itself.
Make your bedroom as dark as possible. Even shining a light on your knee in the middle of the night can inhibit your brain’s production of melatonin, which is required for deep sleep.
Remove electronics like TVs and clock radios. Keep all electronics, including digital telephones, at least 6 to 8 feet away from your head where they may interfere with your brain wave activity.
Give yourself permission to eat a small, glycemically balanced snack before bed. Eating before bed may be helpful for those with a high metabolic rate who tend to wake up when their blood sugar drops. Each person is metabolically different. If you tend to high insulin levels, you will do better if you eat dinner earlier and avoid a bedtime snack. Experiment to find what works for you. A good bedtime snack may be kefir with berries or turkey with hummus.
Keep your serotonin level balanced during the day. You’ll know if your serotonin is adequate because you will feel generally happy and will not be craving carbohydrates. In the brain, serotonin is used to produce melatonin. If you are low in serotonin, your brain will have a hard time producing the melatonin necessary for deep sleep. Make sure your diet includes enough carbohydrates – at least 150 grams of carbohydrates per day if you tend to be depressed, preferably from low glycemic carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables. If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates, you can’t make enough serotonin. Paradoxically, long-term use of antidepressants has actually been proven to block serotonin, so turn to more natural solutions. Read my book, Healing Depression: A Holistic Guide (New York: Marlowe and Co., 1997).
Ask your Total Fitness practitioner to test your food sensitivities. Many people are not aware of the fact that over 90 percent of their serotonin is produced in their GI tract. Eliminating foods you are sensitive or allergic to can go a long way to improving your mood and the quality of your sleep, not only in terms of serotonin production but also in eliminating GI distress that might keep you awake.
Teeth grinding, especially at night, is a symptom of parasites. Ask your Total Fitness practitioner about appropriate testing and you’ll find yourself feeling more in control of your hunger and able to sleep more restfully.
Lower your stress level during the day. Negative thoughts, staying constantly busy and rushing to multi-task can all deplete your brain chemistry. The more depleted your brain chemistry, the harder time you will have getting a good night’s sleep.
Purchase the Loving Kindness Meditation CD and listen before bed. One of our clients asked us to produce this CD so she could go to sleep more easily. Not only is the Loving Kindness meditation CD helpful for relaxing, it will also help you to resolve any outstanding tensions between yourself and other people that may keep you awake worrying at night.
Avoid caffeine. Ask your Total Fitness to test to see if you are sensitive to caffeine. You can also find out by filling out this free questionnaire on our website at this link: www.totalfitness.net/radio_show_free.htm. Fill out free file No. 39, Caffeine Addiction.
Avoid alcoholic beverages, which interfere with REM sleep.
Get enough exercise during the day to release muscular tensions.
Avoid high intensity exercise in the evening. Your body has to secrete the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol in order to keep your heart rate over 90 bpm for continuous aerobic exercise. Cortisol has a 6-hour half life and has the unpleasant side effect of keeping you awake. If you want to exercise in the evening, choose relaxing exercise like a walk after dinner, relaxing yoga, qi gong or Tai Chi. Join Total Fitness yoga class that meets every Tuesday and Thursday and ends at 9 p.m. after a 10 minute meditation.
Avoid getting angry. Just five minutes of anger will raise your cortisol for six hours. If you argue late at night, you can almost be sure to find yourself sleepless. Practice forgiveness – it is not only good for others, it is good for you.
Keep your brain chemistry balanced. If your brain chemistry is depleted you may not be able to sleep well even if you are exhausted. Ask us your Total Fitness practitioner to test your amino acid levels and eat enough protein and the good fats the brain needs to function well. Eating less than 1800 calories per day will deplete your brain chemistry within 24 hours, so avoid low calorie diets and choose high quality, nutrient dense foods that satisfy what your body is really craving.
Keep your blood sugar balanced during the day by eating 5 to 6 mini meals. Your stress hormones go up every time your blood sugar drops. If your blood sugar roller coasters during the day, chances are it will continue doing so during the night.
Ask your Total Fitness practitioner to test your kidneys. Many people are chronically dehydrated but still not absorbing the water they drink. Improve the health of your kidneys so you don’t have to wake up to answer the call of nature.
Eliminate inflammation. If your tissues are inflamed, your cortisol levels will be out of balance. We see many clients who wake up with abnormally high cortisol levels due to chronic inflammation. Avoid inflammatory foods like gluten and alcohol and use natural anti-inflammatories, beginning with the basics of a high quality fish oil.
Say prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude. When you pray and align with God Source, you let go of stress and worry that might keep you awake.
Ask your Total Fitness practitioner to check to see whether or not your atlas is off. Misalignment of your first cervical vertebrae affects your sympathetic nervous system as well as blood supply to the head and pituitary gland. You may be able to sleep better if you visit a non-force chiropractor for an adjustment or ask James Williams for an appointment for cranial sacral therapy.
Test your adrenal glands. Before menopause, your adrenal glands make 40 percent of your sex hormones. After menopause, your adrenal glands make 90 percent of your sex hormones. Don’t let depleted hormones keep you awake. Find out how to balance them naturally.
Choose organic foods. Many people are not aware how much food additives and artificial ingredients like MSG and aspartame affect their nervous system.
If you find yourself waking up between 1 to 3 a.m., ask your Total Fitness practitioner to test your liver. In Chinese medicine, the liver is most active at that time. Following a simple detox plan can help you sleep better.
Find out if any of your medications are causing your insomnia. Look up the side effects of your medications at www.rxlist.com.