Eight Things You Need To Know About Sleep

Posted on April 12th, 2014 by in Healthy Living

sleepAlthough we spend about one-third of our lives asleep, most people still don’t know how to get a good night’s rest and how important it is.

Sleep is a good indicator of someone’s overall health says Susan B. Lord, MD, an integrative family physician who teaches the Healthy Living program Transforming Stress at Kripalu. “If they go to bed and wake refreshed that says a lot.”

Susan says how we sleep actually reflects how happy we are and how well we deal with stress. Take care of yourself during the day—by eating healthy food, exercising and dealing with whatever is causing you anxiety—and your sleep will naturally improve at night.

While it varies among individuals, the average adult needs seven to nine hours. A recent study from the UK’s Surrey Sleep Research Centre shows getting less than six hours a night for just a week can start to disrupt hundreds of genes that fight stress and disease.

“If you get less than 6 hours sleep chronically, you can keep your body in a cycle of chronic stress and inflammation, and disease comes from that,” explains Susan. She says while we might begin to think it’s normal to be tired, it is causing real physiological and biochemical problems.

Another way of saying that is people who don’t sleep enough end up being at greater risk for obesity, heart disease, depression and, not surprisingly, car accidents.

Meditation, journaling, yoga and other stress reduction activities are all important tools to help relax the mind and body. Here are some of Susan’s tips for a good night’s sleep.

  • Keep the room dark:  Even the tiniest bit of light can keep you up. Make the room as dark as possible. An eye mask can also do the trick.
  • Cool down: A cool room is better for sleeping.
  • Remove or cover your clock: Watching the minutes or hours go by can make you anxious. Surprisingly even that small amount of light from your alarm can affect the body’s production of melatonin, which supports your natural sleep cycle.
  • The bedroom is for sleeping: Don’t work, use your computer or watch TV in bed. The visual stimulation as well as the light can keep you awake.
  • Stick to a schedule: Ayurveda teaches us that human bodies work better on schedules, so try and unwind an hour or two before bed and go to sleep at around the same time each night. We get out best sleep between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., so don’t stay up late.
  • If you’re hungry at night… Have a snack 1-2 hours before bed, ideally protein and fruit, not grains or sugary foods. Cookies will raise and then crash your blood sugar, causing you to wake up during the night.
  • Take a hot bath: A few drops of lavender oil in the water and on your temples will help you relax.
  • Journal before bed: Writing a gratitude diary or just recounting your day can clear the mind and release the tension associated with whatever happened.

Are you getting enough sleep? What helps you get to bed at night?

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About Jennifer Mattson

Jennifer Mattson is a journalist, writer, yogini, and kirtan junkie. A former volunteer resident at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, she’s a former broadcast news producer for CNN and National Public Radio. Her reporting and writing have appeared in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, USA Today and the Women’s Review of Books.