Are You Getting Your ZZZ's?

Here is a little sleep quiz for you: Do you get between 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night? Do you have an easy time falling to sleep and staying asleep? Do you wake up to the sound of the birds outside your window or the sunshine through your blinds? If you are like most Americans, and I am sure that you are, you may have answered, "no" to one or all of these.

As I enter my third pregnancy, I have been reminded of the importance of sleep, and not just the good ZZZs we should be getting at night, but the power of a good nap. As the first trimester nausea and dizziness kicked in, there was no better remedy than a simple short nap while my other children were doing the same. I felt a lessening of my symptoms, and awoke refreshed and recharged.

Most of us have structured our lives to be so busy that we do not have the pleasure of a short nap mid day, and are so amped sometimes during the day that our relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous response) has a hard time kicking into gear in the evening. Our nation's experts state that 25% of our population has difficulty sleeping and that as many as 33% of Americans are sleep deprived.

We spend 1/4-1/3 of our lives sleeping. When we talk about health as a culture we usually discuss our food intake and exercise habits. When was the last time you really evaluated your sleep habits? All healing takes place when we sleep, and it is not just falling asleep that makes sleep great. We need to travel through 4 cycles of sleep before experiencing REM sleep (dream sleep), and repeat this throughout the night. Many Americans do not ever achieve full REM sleep which is why we can sometimes awake tired and groggy.

Here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of your sleep time:

  1. Take moments of relaxation during the day. If you find yourself overwhelmed, take time to focus on deep belly breathing and allow your eyes to close as you take your mind to a happy place.
  2. Exercise during the day.
  3. Try to lessen any caffeine and/or alcohol intake to begin to balance your sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous responses.
  4. Avoid any caffeine or nicotine within 4 hours before bed.
  5. Avoid being exposed to bright lights and stimulating television before bed.
  6. Sleep in a dark room with a cool temperature. If you are able, open a window to allow for some fresh evening air.
  7. Try to create a regular sleep schedule.
  8. Sleep with your head to the North.
  9. Take time for prayer or meditation as you prepare for sleep.
  10. Try heart healing posture: cross your wrists and ankles as you lay in bed breathing, praying, or meditating. This balances the right and left hemispheres of your brain, and helps you to metabolize your daily stressors.

If you regularly experience symptoms of sleep deprivation such as: difficulty concentrating, drowsiness, inability to wake without alarm, irritability, or achiness, to name a few, take time to consult with a natural health practitioner who can help you find your ability to sleep deep.

Sweet Dreams.