Sweet, Sweet Sleep. How to Achieve It: Part 1
It's not just the quality of the sleep that's important, it's also the consistency. There are so many opinions of what constitutes a 'good night's sleep' in the media, however, that it really comes down to figuring out what works best for you.
Being a mom, I've had my share of nights when I didn't sleep. Taking care of little ones can wear a person out, but somehow, I survived. Finally, when my kids got a little older I was able to enjoy sleep again. I am also a dreamer and often wake up with vivid dreams. Eventually, my husband tired of hearing about my dreams, so I started to write them down. The last dream I had was so beautiful. I was on the swinging bridge at Grandfather's mountain in North Carolina. The view was spectacular and there was a rainbow in the mist. I can remember just feeling the cool breeze and listening to the birds. My dreams are so real that I wake up still in the moment. I am blessed to mostly have good dreams and I enjoy drifting off into that stillness of the night. (Photo Credit: Dr. Corinne Weaver)
I am very mindful of sleep because I know how I feel without it and … I love to sleep!
That's why, when I hear patients tell me consistently that they can't sleep, I encourage them with tips I will be sharing with you today and next week (Part 2). One of the biggest health challenges that people face today is a lack of sleep. In fact, an estimated 50-70 million adult Americans suffer from a sleep or wakefulness disorder and given that to be healthy we should be spending one third of our entire lives asleep, this figure is staggering! This can be due to several reasons and (as with any health issue) can be influenced by varying external factors. It could be that they are not creating the space in their schedule for adequate sleep, or not understanding the importance of it and, therefore, letting any sleep-related responsibilities go uncared for. By attending to our sleep-related needs, we can ensure the rest of our day is maximized, enhance our health and productivity levels, and overall cultivate a deeper connection with the world around us as we finally possess the energy required to do so.
So, what is a "Good Night's Sleep?"
A "Good Night's Sleep" can be defined by a period of 6-9 hours depending on the individual's activity levels, during which 20% of this is deep sleep and 25% is REM sleep. However, it's not just the quality of the sleep that's important, it's also the consistency. There are so many opinions of what constitutes a ‘good night's sleep' in the media, however, that it really comes down to figuring out what works best for you.
If your body learns to function on low levels of energy over the course of a period of poor sleep, this means there is less energy left over to help aid your body in its recovery from illnesses that might not seem directly influenced by sleep levels. Lack of sleep has been linked to several serious conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and even heart disease. It's crazy to think that we could develop a disease simply because of a lack of sleep. Not only that, sleeplessness is known to shorten your overall life expectancy!
While, generally, there are several other factors involved in the cause of these illnesses, it's still quite telling that they could all be shaped, or at least improved by, examining our sleep patterns and energy levels over a given period of time. Short-term studies where subjects have deprived themselves of sleep (to examine the immediate effects of a lack of sleep) have noted a heightening in blood pressure, lowering of blood glucose levels, and increased inflammation. It follows that long-term persistence of these symptoms could lead to more deeply-rooted expressions of these imbalances. It can lead to imbalances in hormone levels, making us more prone to mood swings and difficult emotional states. Physically visible side-effects of sleep deprivation include dull skin, dark eye circles, and general fatigued appearance.
Why do so many people experience this uncomfortable and stressful sensation of not being able to sleep?
The constant over-stimulation we are presented with in our daily lives means that there is always something externally going on or happening that we feel we need to achieve or catch up with. This sense of needing to be aware of every little element of our lives (and more importantly, the need to be IN CONTROL of it) is what keeps our minds so active -- not only at night time - but in the daytime, too. I am guilty of this, myself.
Here are some of the top reasons why adults today are suffering lack of sleep:
Before technology became such a massive and overwhelming factor in our lives, our bodies were in tune to the rising and the setting of the sun. The further and further away from this we've come, however, the less in tune with our bodies we've become, so that even the most basic needs -- like sufficient sleep -- has been shaken by external technological influences. During the days of "sleeping when the sun sleeps," the retinas in our eyes immediately detected a natural hormone called melatonin. As soon as the light started to decrease, it caused humans to feel sleepy, and during a healthy period of deep sleep, it remained elevated within the bloodstream. But be warned: don't take melatonin thinking that this problem will be fixed. I do a hormone test for patients to see how imbalanced their hormones are, and I check melatonin levels. Knowing your numbers can be helpful to help rebalance your hormone levels. (If you would like my help, just email me and we will set something up.)
Think about the bright ‘Blue light' emitted by phone screens and flashing lights of technological devices that we've become addicted to checking. As soon as this kind of light hits the retina, the effect of melatonin is immediately reversed and actually PROMOTES a state of wakefulness over that of sleep. All of this -- combined with artificial lighting -- has caused disrupted sleep patterns and lowered the overall quality of the sleep we get, as the bright light we so crave lies inches away from us. Ways to combat technology and light-related sleep issues:
- Dim the light on your device screen to the lowest setting possible. Dimming all of the lights in your house will actually send signals to the retinas that it's time to wind down towards sleep.
- At least one to two hours before a set bedtime, turn off all blue-light devices in the house, including TVs, computers, tablets, and smartphones. This will help trigger the production of melatonin and sleepiness will set in at the right time. Try to regulate this bedtime routine to occur at around the same time each day to allow your body to create a regulated sleep cycle. Limit the mind's stimulation in the hours leading towards bedtime decrease. Activities such as reading a book, listening to music, or meditating are all much more beneficial to still the mind and help it focus on a singular thing, meaning it drifts to sleep easier. Charge any phones or devices that might tempt you in a moment of wakefulness AWAY from the nightstand. The farther away the better!
REM Sleep, and how to boost it
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep occurs in cycles of about 90-120 minutes throughout the night, and it accounts for up to 20-25% of total sleep time in adult humans, although the proportion decreases with age (a newborn baby may spend 80% of total sleep time in the REM stage). In particular, REM sleep dominates the latter half of the sleep period, especially the hours before waking, and the REM component of each sleep cycle typically increases as the night goes on. As the name suggests, it is associated with rapid (and apparently random) side-to- side movements of the closed eyes, a phenomenon which can be monitored and measured by a technique called electrooculography (EOG). This eye motion is not constant (tonic) but intermittent (phasic). It is still not known exactly what purpose it serves, but it is believed that the eye movements may relate to the internal visual images of the dreams that occur during REM sleep, especially as they are associated with brain wave spikes in the regions of the brain involved with vision (as well as elsewhere in the cerebral cortex).
How to boost REM sleep
By cultivating a day AND night time routine, we can more successfully engage with REM sleep when the need arises. Following guidelines regarding your diet, fitness, and health regimens, lifestyle factors, and environmental factors in the immediate proximity to where you plan to sleep all contribute to raised levels of REM sleep. (Photo Credit: Pixabay)
Breathing for Sleep Disturbances
One amazing way to start maximizing your sleep is by learning how to breathe. You can find my book called Learning How to Breathe on Amazon for more details. By becoming more aware of your thoughts, tendencies, and patterns, breathing supports an overall more balanced, rounded and energized lifestyle. Another aspect of this kind of lifestyle is a regular sleep cycle. Effective breathing that can be done to support a better cycle of sleep. As many people find it difficult to know where or how to start with their breathing patterns. Follow this night breathing routine and help yourself drift into a deeper state of sleep.
Night Breathing Routine
The deep-muscle relaxation technique is the most time-consuming, but it can also be the most rewarding for your body. This works best when combined with belly breathing; it is a wonderful way to attain full relaxation. Doing this technique will exercise each major muscle in turn (although pay the most attention to any muscles that are causing discomfort or aching). To start, lie down in a comfortable position and focus on belly breathing, closing your eyes if need be. While playing soothing music, do the following:
- To relax your face, knit your eyebrows together, then release.
- To relax your neck, tilt their head down towards their neck and push their chin to their chest, then release.
- To relax your shoulders, make a shrugging motion, then release and roll.
- To relax your arms, push both arms away your torso, stretch them out, and then relax them by your side.
- To relax your legs, point your toes as much as they will stretch, then relax.
All of these stretches should be done while doing the belly breathing down below. Breathe long and deep and take time with each stretch. My kids and I enjoy doing this with soothing ocean sounds in the background.
The first thing you need to learn is what's called "belly breathing." This is the most basic breathing method we can do anytime; therefore, it is the one you should master before trying out any of the others. It's very simple—it just requires a few steps.
- Sit or lay down comfortably, depending on your personal preference.
- Place one of your hands on your stomach, just below your ribcage. Place your second hand on your chest.
- Breathe in deeply through your nostrils, letting your first hand be pushed out by your stomach. Your chest should not move.
- Then breathe out through your nose, expelling all of your negative thoughts. Gently press on the hand that's on your stomach, helping press out your breath.
- Slowly repeat 3 to 10 times.
Encourage your nervous system to relax, integrating breath with movements of the mind.
Next week I will be discussing sleep enhancing foods and juices, my favorite essential oil blends, and best sleep positions to help you see the rainbows in your dreams. Of course sleeping at home in your bed is best….There is no place like HOME! I will be hosting a free Facebook class on Adrenal Fatigue. You are welcome to join me in your PJs at home on May 22nd at 8:00 pm. Register here http://drcorinneweaver.synduit.com/AFFB0001.
If you want more healthy tips you can subscribe to my YouTube channel here https://www.youtube.com/drcorinneweaver. Like and comment on my channel so I will know what tips and topics you want to know about. I am forming a community of people who want to take action in their own health with my social media channels and I want to know what health topics you want to hear.
I hope my column speaks to you and you can wake up each morning with a purpose. What I do every day is a calling, and I give God the glory for allowing His gifts to work through me. I do believe in miracles, because I get to see them every day! For more information you can go to www.nomoremedsmovement.com and sign up for my closed Facebook group #NoMoreMeds-Community for more healthy tips.
Dr. Corinne Weaver
Dr. Corinne Weaver is a compassionate upper cervical chiropractor, educator, motivational speaker, mother of three, and internationally bestselling author. In 2004, she founded the Upper Cervical Wellness Center in Indian Trail, North Carolina. Over the last 13 years, she has helped thousands of clients restore their brain to-body function. When she was 10 years old, she lost her own health as the result of a bike accident that led to having asthma and allergy issues that she thought she would always have to endure. Then, after her first upper cervical adjustment at age 21, her health began to improve thanks to upper cervical care and natural herbal remedies. This enabled her to create a drug-free wellness lifestyle for herself and her family, and she also enthusiastically discovered her calling to help children heal naturally.
Dr. Weaver was recently named one of Charlotte Magazine's "Top Doctors" in 2016 and is now a number-one internationally bestselling author to two books: Learning How to Breathe and No More Meds.
Upper Cervical Wellness Center is known for finding the root cause of health concerns through lifestyle changes, diagnostic testing, nutraceutical supplementation, and correction of subluxation (as opposed to just medicating the symptoms). The practice offers cutting-edge technological care at its state-of-the-art facility, including laser-aligned upper cervical X-rays, bioimpedance analysis (measures body composition), digital thermography (locates thermal abnormalities characterized by skin inflammation), and complete nutritional blood analysis, which is focused on disease prevention.