By Carol Heckman, RN, CHNP, CNC, MH

In my past few articles, I’ve talked about ‘the new normal’: our crazy lifestyle as a society and the resulting everyday stressors most of us endure. It seems we’re on the go multitasking 24/7 these days… more places to be, people to see, things to do…

How do we fit it all in? Well, we’re certainly taking this extra time from our sleep by staying up late and getting up early. It’s become a bragging right these days: who is the busiest and who functions the best on the smallest amount of sleep.

Yikes! No wonder we’re all having so many health problems.

How much sleep do I need for good health?

Adults need 7-8 hours of quality sleep, while teens require 8 hours minimum, and are healthiest with 9-10 hours. Younger children need 10 solid hours of shuteye to promote growth and health.

How sleep repairs your body and mind

Did you know you have a built-in master ‘repair clock?’ It’s the circadian rhythm, which synchronizes all metabolic, cellular and behavioral processes for optimal health. This rhythm signals when you should sleep and wake, so your body has time to regenerate.

When you alter this natural rhythm by sacrificing sleep, your body, mind and health suffer. Sleep is essential for the body to heal, for cells to regenerate, and for waste to be processed for elimination.

Research has shown, without enough quality sleep, people (of all ages) are at increased risk for:

  • Heart and kidney diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure and/or blood sugar
  • Stunted growth and development
  • Immune deficiency
  • Mood imbalances and impaired brain function

Even your organs have specific times on the clock for repair. For example, your adrenal glands (which help with daily energy and stress response by secreting cortisol) are active during the light hours of day and switch off at night.

Today, many of us have adrenal glands out of sync with the circadian rhythm. This causes insomnia – even when we want to fall asleep, we can’t (the adrenal glands are still making cortisol).

Do you know someone who awakes nightly between 2 and 4 AM? This is naturally known as Liver Time: when a person’s liver is doing its most detoxification and healing work.

Getting the sleep you need

So, how can you add sleep back into your night and make sure you get restorative slumber?

Set up a sleep routine. You have a schedule for the gym, right? A routine to calm your body and mind for sleep, is really key.

Our natural rhythm works best with a 10 PM lights-out time. If you tend to stay up late, slowly adjust your bedtime: get into bed 15 minutes earlier each week until you reach your 10 PM goal.

As well, begin to unwind from you day earlier: by another 15 minutes. Unplug from your to-do list, your phone, TV, news, and work. Get into your jammies, do your beauty routine, brush your teeth and climb into bed. Light reading, calming music, writing in a gratitude journal, deep breathing, and aromatherapy are all great supports to add to your sleep routine. Pick one or two.

Lighting is very important, too. Make sure when lights are out, the bedroom is dark. That’s one of the reasons it’s good to keep cellphones and computers out of the bedroom (and TVs turned off): these emit light and EMF frequencies that can disrupt sleep.

Additional help for falling and staying asleep

  1. Epsom salt bath – Draw a warm bath and add one or two cups of Epsom salts. The Magnesium in the salts relaxes your muscles and mind, as well as helps your liver with detoxing.
  2. Melatonin – When adrenals cycle-off, your pineal gland makes melatonin to help you sleep. A little extra melatonin may make you fall asleep more easily and help you stick with a sleep routine.
  3. Magnesium capsules – Taking 100-200 mg at bedtime is very helpful for relaxing the body and mind.

If you have difficulty with your sleep, give us a call. I can help with a poor-sleep intervention, including dietary adjustments, herbs, nutrients, lifestyle modification, and tools for self-care.

Carol is a Registered Nurse, a traditionally Certified Natural Health Practitioner, a Master Herbalist, and a Certified Nutritional Consultant.