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Monday, May 14, 2018

Sound Sleep

The psychology textbooks will teach you that there are four stages of sleep. This is true, but when it comes to health and vitality, there are two levels that are highly restorative. These are the deep sleep level and the rapid eye movement (REM) level of sleep. Sleep experts like to refer to these levels similar to nourishment where deep sleep is like water and REM sleep is like food for the mind. In the end you need both! While required amounts of sleep vary from person-to-person, most experts agree that if you’re getting less than seven hours per night, you simply are not getting enough of these deeper levels of sleep. For this article, I found some data on why getting the proper amount and the proper type of sleep is so important.

To prevent sleep deprivation and the host of health problems it accompanies, we should commit to at least seven hours of sleep per night. In general, you should look at your energy levels through the day. If your energy is steady and consistent you’re probably doing o.k. The next question is how deep is your sleep? It turns out dreaming is very important and it occurs in the latter third of our sleep time within that REM stage. It generally takes 4-5 hours to get into this level. Research has proven that dreaming is tied to our memory and our ability to learn from the information that we’ve acquired over the last few days. When we dream, the hippocampus portion of the brain becomes very active. This part of the brain is known to convert short-term memory into long–term memory. Think of this as downloading recent information that you’ve learned or experienced onto your hard-drive. When you’re not getting into this deepest level of sleep your memory will suffer and you stop adding to who you are.

I find that many people simply have trouble sleeping. Many times this is due to pain or discomfort and many times it is due to a chronic level of subconscious stress. Fortunately for me, one of the most common “side-effects” of chiropractic adjustments to remove stress from the nervous system is . . . better sleep. If you are someone who has trouble sleeping, you will want to make certain your sleep area is dark, quiet, and cool. For many people, the electromagnetic fields created by cell phones, TV, alarm clocks, and electric blankets will mess with your energy and deter proper sleep. Try to move these devices away from your bed. Likewise, the blue light that comes from television, computers and phones will suppress melatonin production. Melatonin is important for sleep, but it also has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits. For these reasons, you should try to shut down all electronics for about an hour before sleep. 

In the end, most sleep problems are not the result of inadequate sleepiness, but are due to excessive wakefulness. Most people are simply running too hard and are revved up due to stress and stimulants. Find some habit after you unplug the electronics to slow your system down! As I’ve reported numerous times, meditation and yoga can be very effective for slowing your brain down and calming the stress hormones. Go to the internet or YouTube and find guided meditations. Even if you just listen to these before going to sleep, your results will often be improved.

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