More than just a pleasant escape, extensive research ties sleep to longer, healthier lives. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is the kind that promotes physical and mental well-being as it aids memory and healing processes. Usually, a good night’s sleep stacks four approximately ninety minutes of progressively deeper sleep cycles, that renew and refresh us, as we awaken the next day, ready to “conquer the world”.
But, lots of things get in the way of getting this deep, restful sleep. Day to day stresses and strains, demanding jobs, jet lag, financial problems, family issues, set our minds a whirl, making it difficult to put our cares to rest and calm down at the end of the day.
Actually, sleep is a biorhythm which directly responds to environmental rhythms like stress, activity, mood diet, light and body temperature, which means we can affect the quality of our sleep by affecting these rhythms.
When we first wake up, morning sunlight strikes our pineal gland, stimulating chemicals that cause activity and alertness. At nightfall, melatonin levels start to rise. As we age, melatonin levels reduce, potentially causing insomnia and a host of degenerative diseases like arthritis and cancer. Research is just starting to uncover the amazing benefits of melatonin, a powerful brain hormone.
There are also some simple strategies you can implement to improve the quality of your sleep if you practice them on a consistent basis. Intense exercise during the day tends to help you sleep better, as does taking a hot bath about an hour before bedtime. Bathing relaxes nerves and muscles, followed by a drop in core body temperature.
Sleeping in a slightly cool, dim to dark environment provides the best escape from our daily entrapments.
I would not eat for two hours before bedtime and turn off your computer, cell phone or any backlit electronic devices that can trick your biorhythms into thinking it’s daytime.
As you cycle through high quality sleep stages, your body is doing amazing things like managing blood pressure and cholesterol, countering your stress hormones, reducing inflammation and consolidating your memories, to name a few.
High quality shut eye may help regulate your appetite, make you smarter and more productive and reduce your risk for depression.
All that from high quality sleep, one of the best times your body can recover from the assaults of the day as you drift off to dreamland.