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Satisfying Sleep

Did you know that humans spend one third of their lives ASLEEP!

Sleep is essential to our physical and mental well-being. Many things can affect the quality of sleep including stress, diet, environment, physiological or hormonal changes, and worry.

Sleep seems to be a time when we “shut down”, but it is actually an active time when the brain resets our metabolism and cellular function, repairs memory, concentration, mood, and learning ability. Sleep is restorative and regenerative. All humans need a night of restful sleep to perform well.


  • When you don’t get enough sleep or your sleep is poor quality, your reflexes will be slower, decision making flawed, you can’t focus, and you may feel angry, depressed or agitated.

  • Long-term, poor sleep patterns have a negative effect on your immune system, diminish your ability to heal, and promote chronic inflammation in the body which increases the chance of developing chronic health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Occasionally, all of us experience disturbed sleep, especially at times of travel, increased pressure or stressful life events. This is usually not a cause for concern. However, you should seek help if you frequently experience:

  • Tiredness or headache when you wake up, despite having enough hours of sleep.

  • Feeling very tired, having difficulty concentrating, or falling asleep during the day.

  • Disturbed sleep, such as waking often during the night or in the early hours of the morning.

  • Trouble getting to sleep at night.

Experiencing these symptoms may indicate a sleeping (or breathing) disorder. Consider an evaluation by an integrative healthcare specialist to determine the ROOT CAUSE of your sleeping difficulties.

What is a “Good Night’s Sleep”?

The biological clock cycles through phases, called “circadian rhythms”, which are influenced by the normal light and dark cycles we experience every day. Thus, we sleep at night and wake in the morning naturally. 7-9 hours of sleep for adults and 9-12 hours for children is generally required for best performance and focus each day. Of course, everyone is different!

  • Young people (< 24 years) need more sleep - at least 9 hours or more!

  • You should wake naturally, be alert, and feel refreshed after a restful sleep. Going to bed & waking at the same time each day can help ensure effective sleep.

  • Work out your own optimal “sleep plan” to ensure quality sleep and great performance the following day!

Our sleep consists of different stages:

  • Drowsiness: Body drifts in and out of sleep for 5-10 minutes. Easy to wake up. Eyes move slowly and muscle activity is slowed.

  • Light Sleep: Eye movement stops. Brain waves slowed. Heart rate slows. Body temperature drops.

  • Deep Sleep: No eye movement or muscle activity. Very slow brain waves. Very hard to wake up and if woken, feel groggy and disoriented.

  • REM Sleep: Eyes move rapidly. Heart rate increases. Breathing rate increases. Arm & leg muscles temporarily paralyzed. Dreams occur.


Many sleep problems are related to an imbalance between stress & recovery. This imbalance can be addressed by making simple lifestyle changes like learning to relax more effectively.

THE BEDROOM: A comfortable environment will aid quality sleep.

  • Keep the bed for sleep & intimate activities only. All other activities (computer, phone, TV) should be done in another room.

  • Determine appropriate temperature – too hot or cold will cause restless sleep.

  • Dim the lights – UV light inhibits melatonin (sleep hormone) production. Reducing white light for at least 30 min before sleep promotes melatonin production for better mood & quality sleep.

  • Eliminate unnecessary electronics – Electro-Magnetic Fields (EMFs) emitted from devices interfere with physiological function & disrupt sleep cycles. (Turn off phone, TV, tablet, and consider turning off the Wifi or putting it on an automated timer to shut off during sleeping hours.)

  • Reduce noise by closing doors & windows, use earplugs, try a noise-cancellation device, listen to calming music, or a meditation audio file.

ACTIVITIES: What you do during the day and especially before bed affects sleep.

  • Get at least 30 min of vigorous physical activity earlier in the day.

  • Avoid stimulating activities for at least 1 hour before bed – talking on phone, texting, e-mailing, computer work, watching TV, & exercise.

  • Practicing meditation, prayer & other mindfulness activities promote healthy sleep.

  • Don’t fight it! Trying too hard to force sleep may increase stress – don’t stare at the ceiling or count sheep. Get up, sit on a chair and do something relaxing (no pixels – TV, phone, computer) until you feel sleepy. Then go back to bed.

  • Don’t fight it! Trying too hard to stay awake when you feel drowsy in the evening might kick in your “second wind” which activates hormones such as adrenaline to wake you up. This may impact your ability to fall asleep later when you do turn in. If you reach the state of drowsy in the later evening, just go to bed.

YOUR DIET: What you eat & drink during the day and especially before bed affects sleep.

  • Get adequate calories throughout the day. Follow a balanced diet appropriate for your needs, including plenty of vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

  • Avoid stimulating foods & drinks for at least 3-4 hours before bed – sugar, caffeine (coffee, cola, chocolate, tea) and spicy foods.

  • Avoid alcohol – it is a depressant which contributes to restlessness, snoring & early waking. It may seem to help you get to sleep at first but will cause problems and can lead to dependency.

  • Foods containing naturally calming enzymes and some supplements promote sleep – melatonin, valerian, magnesium, tryptophan, omega 3 fatty acids, and Vitamin D3.

STRESS & RELAXATION: The pressures of life are many.

  • Balance your life with leisure & pleasure activities. Sleeping problems can occur from stress-related conditions.

  • Learn & practice stress management skills that work for you. Try to “turn off” your overactive mind by allowing quiet time to unwind before bed. Wait until you are sleepy before going to bed.

  • Try soaking in a warm bath or shower to ease transition into sleep. Essential oils ingested, applied topically, or diffused in the air can enhance sleepiness, such as lavender oil.

  • Try restful activities like breathing exercise, reading, meditation, visualization, or gentle stretching.

  • Consider significant lifestyle changes if stress is causing physical illness &/or injuries which lead to ineffective sleep. Seek professional help if you feel helpless or overwhelmed.

MEDICATIONS: Trouble sleeping often leads to use of medication to aid sleep.

  • Sedative & hypnotic drugs are designed to help you fall & stay asleep, but they eliminate deep & REM sleep stages causing reduced memory storage & increased inflammation in the body.

  • Drugs should be the LAST option & only used for short-term situations under medical supervision.

  • Over-the-counter sleeping supplements are not regulated so must be carefully considered. Best used only if recommended by a healthcare specialist based on your body’s physiological needs.


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