How to Get a Good Night's Sleep
Dr. Joel Fuhrman's article, New Information to Sleep on, reminds us that "in order to work optimally in our daily activities...sleep is a crucial component of excellent health." Rarely do we ever get a solid night's sleep - we toss and turn worrying about our lives, then fall to sleep just before the alarm clock goes off.
Why is sleep so essential? Our brains function optimally when well rested:
- "During sleep, our brains stabilize newly formed memories, and adequate sleep promotes learning and cognitive performance the next day."
- "Sleep is also essential for proper immune function. Getting adequate sleep regularly may reduce the severity of cold symptoms and also may maintain sufficient numbers of natural killer cells. In fact, there is some evidence that poor sleep could impair the immune system's ability to eliminate, small, newly established tumors before they become dangerous."
- "Melatonin, which is a hormone produced in response to darkness and during sleep, is an antioxidant and an inhibitor of cancer cell growth. Allowing the body to produce sufficient melatonin is essential."
- "Inadequate sleep is associated with impaired learning ability, faster aging of the brain, impaired driving and work performance, overeating, obesity, elevated cholesterol, and increased risk of diabetes, hypertension and death from all causes. Plus, lack of sleep negatively affects our appearance and emotional state."
Dr. Fuhrman offers some strategies to improve the quality of your sleep:
- "Minimize electronic device use at night. Smartphones, computer screens, televisions and tablets emit blue light, which suppresses melatonin production. Using these devices close to bedtime can disrupt sleep."
- "If you wake in the middle of the night, don't turn on your TV, smartphone or computer; the light will turn off melatonin and cause you to feel more alert. Instead, relax, read under low light or meditate until you feel sleepy again."
- "Make your sleep environment as dark as possible. Don't keep clocks that emit light or night lights in the bedroom; light-blocking curtains or a sleep mask can reduce exposure to outside light and enhance your sleep quality. Light exposure regulates our internal clock: bright light makes us alert in the morning, and a dark room at night promotes melatonin production and good sleep. Exposure to light soon before bed or during sleep reduces the depth and quality of sleep. Even a low level of light exposure through closed eyelids (such as a night light) can reduce melatonin production, and this disruption of our natural rhythms has ill health effects. Light exposure at night is associated with an increased risk of cancer, most strongly with breast cancer."
- "Sleep on a consistent schedule, going to bed at the same time every night, and waking up at the same time every morning."
- "Don't wake up to an alarm clock if possible; the alarm clock wakes you abruptly and use of the snooze button can rob you of valuable REM sleep. When you wake naturally, your body prepares you during the final sleep cycles by shifting hormone production—reducing melatonin and increasing cortisol, which helps you to become alert."
- "Minimize noise. How noise affects one's sleep is somewhat individual, based on what is familiar and typical. Earplugs or 'white noise' (for example from a fan) may help to prevent noises from disrupting sleep."
- "Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Although alcohol may cause you to fall asleep more quickly, it reduces the quality of sleep. Caffeine also disrupts sleep, especially when consumed in the evening."
- "Exercise. Exercising regularly (especially vigorous exercise) promotes healthy sleep, but exercise close to bedtime is usually not recommended."
- "Sleep at a comfortable, but cooler temperature. Body temperature naturally drops during sleep. Sleeping in a warm room (above 75°F) or trapping in excessive heat with extra blankets may disrupt sleep."
- "Follow a high-nutrient diet. A low intake of vegetables is associated with poor sleep. Those following a Nutritarian diet may get better quality sleep than people eating poorly, and therefore may require fewer hours of sleep."
- "For those who experience difficulty sleeping, morning light exposure (or light therapy) helps normalize melatonin cycling as a means of establishing better sleep patterns and resolving insomnia. In the mornings open the shades wide and get in a sun lit room, go outside or use a therapeutic light."
Dr. Fuhrman says that these "natural methods are preferable to prescription sleep drugs, which are linked to a dramatic increase in risk of death. These findings demonstrated a three-fold increased risk of death associated with regular use and a 35 percent higher risk of cancer."
For more information regarding sleep, click on the following links:
Joel Fuhrman MD Links
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