Updated: Apr 18
Sleep Long. Sleep Well.
Americans are sleep-deprived. Here are some statistics for you. Seventy million people struggle with insomnia in the United States. In 2016, Americans spent $41 billion on sleeping pills and other sleeping aids to combat sleepless nights due to stress, anxiety, and other conditions. We are sleeping less than we ever have in the past due to modern technologies. According to research, most people need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Over the last 50 years, our average sleep has decreased by 2 hours a night. We are currently getting an average of 5-7 hours of shut-eye.
It is also the American way. In the past, sleep has been considered a waste of time. We have all heard the sayings, "Sleep is overrated!" or "Sleep when you are dead." We wear sleepless nights like a badge of honor and grind away fiercely for success. Here is some news for you. Sleep is paramount! It affects every aspect of wellbeing. Many scientists now believe sleep is the most important thing you can do for your health. We need a culture shift. The better quality and quantity of sleep you get, the better you function in the world - physiological, emotional, and social. It is the secret to productivity and peak performance. Game on! Let's get started! Here are some benefits of sleep:
• Sharpens the mind
• Make better decisions
• Boosts mood
• Improves cardiovascular function
• Regulates blood sugar
• Strengthens the immune system
• Helps manage weight
• Reduces stress
• Reduces inflammation
• Increases alertness
• Improves memory
• Reduces depression
• Aids in recovery
• Improves concentration, productivity, and performance
• Increases positive emotions and social interactions
Now that you know the benefits. Here is a question to reflect on.
If you were able to get more sleep and better quality sleep, how would that impact your life? What can you do to start improving your sleep tonight?
I am here to help. Let's start with some basics. Insomnia is a sleep disorder where you experience difficulty in falling or staying asleep. Symptoms also include waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep. It's normal to have some short-term insomnia throughout our lives which can last serval days to a week or two, depending on the circumstances. However, many people experience chronic insomnia that can last for months and even years. It can be the symptom of a more significant health issue. If left untreated, it can have dire consequences on work performance, overall health, quality of life, and longevity. Whichever one you might be experiencing, it is crucial to know the root cause of your sleepless nights for appropriate treatment and actions.
Eastern medicine has known the importance of good sleep for health for thousands of years. Acupuncture and herbal medicine have been used to diagnose and treat sleep disorders effectively. According to Eastern theory, insomnia is a fundamental imbalance of energy, yin and yang qi. Consistent and uninterrupted sleep is a product of the natural rhythm of these energies flowing in the body. They are opposing forces that manage the sleep/wake cycle. In the day, yang qi dominates as it fuels the body's activities. It keeps us warm and alert. However, as day turns into night, the yin qi dominates. The cool, quiet, and nourishing yin helps slow down the body's activity so that it is relaxed and calm for sleep. When this natural rhythm is disrupted, there is an imbalance of yin and yang qi, which results in insomnia. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can bring balance to the yin and yang qi for a night of deep slumber.
Once you are clear on the type and root cause of your insomnia, another essential step is to develop good sleep hygiene. What is sleep hygiene? It refers to a series of healthy sleep habits that can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Every person can tailor their sleep hygiene practices to suit their needs. It's a personal journey. In the process, you will harness positive daily/nightly habits and routines that promote a good night's sleep. Don't forget to celebrate your accomplishments along the way. Here are some tips and strategies to make it easier to sleep soundly throughout the night and wake up well-rested.
• Get sunlight first things in the morning
• Exercise, especially in the morning
• Have a relaxing pre-bed routine
• Reduce sugary and processed foods, especially before bed
• Hydrate throughout the day
• Avoid caffeine and alcohol at least 2 hours before bed
• Sleep in a cooler environment, 60-72 degrees Fahrenheit
• Get up and go to bed a the same time every day
• Fix your gut
• Dump your worries and mind chatter in a journal before bed
• Pair your bedroom with deep sleep
• Start winding down 1-2 hours before bed
• Lower lights at home to trigger melatonin
• Put electronics away 1-2 hours before bed
• Make your bedroom comfortable and free of disruptions
• Relax with a meditative body scan before sleep
Sheri Davidson is a licensed acupuncturist and integrative health coach in Houston, TX specializing in preventative medicine. She loves sharing her passion for natural and holistic approaches through her online articles and at her clinic, Element 5, Acupuncture + Wellness in Rice Village Dstrict. Call for an appointment at 713.942.7110