Sleep and Rest

A good amount and good quality sleep is crucial to our health. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night although some people (very few) can survive well on much less (genetic variation).

Good sleep helps us feel energetic and decreases fatigue. Poor and too little sleep leave us feeling achy and tired, moody, irritable, and feeling negative. Good sleep improves mood and in particular dreams help us process emotions.

Sleep helps with brain function and is essential to preserving memory, complex thinking and decision making.  A program to preventing dementia should focus on sufficient and good quality sleep. All our repair mechanisms are active during this period of prolonged fasting and inaction. So, sleep is important to all our body functions. Our immune system functions better with good sleep as well.

 Finally, not getting enough sleep is also associated with increased weight, poor control of diabetes, bone loss, increased blood pressure, and increased incidence of cancers.

Our society provides lots of sleep disruptors. These are well known to all of us: TV, especially activating programs such as late-night news or other emotionally intense programs, blue light generated from computers and cell phones, anything really that activates and wakes up the brain. In addition, the availability of electricity(!) has allowed many of us to shift our circadian rhythm.

Ayurvedic Medicine (ancient healing systems from India) states that the best sleep is achieved if we go to bed not later than 1030-11pm. We then go to sleep in the resting phase of the day (kapha) and we get deeper sleep.


General information:

    These are the basic guidelines to achieve and maintain a good night’s sleep that you can implement yourself. sleep hygiene
    1. Sleep as much as you need to feel rested, then get out of bed.
      How much time do we need to sleep? It is different for each person. Most adults need 7-8 hours, some may need 9 and some may function well on 5.5 hours of sleep. Sleeping more than 9 hours or more than you need will also make you feel tired.
    2. Get up at the same time every day, including weekends, if you need to shift it do not shift by more than an hour or two. If you are in the habit of snoozing, put alarm clock far so you can get up.
    3. Maintain a regular relaxing sleep ritual; avoid stimulation by a computer or TV prior to going to bed. Examples of unwinding rituals:
      • Listening to soothing music
      • Lighting candles
      • Taking a warm bath
      • Meditating or practicing the relaxation response or doing body scan.
      • Drinking calming decaffeinated teas
    4. Avoid caffeinated drinks after lunch (coffee, most teas, cola)
    5. Avoid alcohol before bedtime
      • While alcohol may help us fall asleep, it worsens the quality of our sleep
    6. Avoid nicotine, especially in the evening: also a stimulant
    7. Do not go to bed hungry, you can have a light healthy starchy snack before bedtime such as oatmeal, brown rice cake or sweet potato or apple for ex. Carbohydrates increase serotonin, thus deepening sleep whereas high protein meals activate. (best to leave for lunch)
    8. Create a comfortable sleeping environment: the bedroom should be dark, quiet and slightly cool, minimize clutter. Darkness increases melatonin production.  Blue light from computers and cell phone diminish melatonin production. Blue light from computers and cell phone diminish melatonin production. LED lights diminish melatonin production as well.
      • To minimize light, you can use a sleeping mask; to reduce noise, try earplugs or a noise machine.
      • Do not watch TV or use a computer in your bedroom.
    9. Keep a regular schedule. We function better with a routine.
      • Regular mealtimes, exercise, and other routine activities keep our inner body clock running smoothly.
    10. Try to deal with your worries before sleep
      • It helps to make a list of your problems and how you plan to work on them, but this should be done at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Have a pad by the bed and if you remember a problem or solution just write down for the next day rather than dwelling on it.
    11. Have some natural sunlight exposure, preferably at least 20 minutes a day and most importantly in the morning. Exposure to light helps us awaken and helps our mood.
    12. Exercise regularly for at least 30 minutes a day 5 days a week but avoid rigorous exercise 4 hours before bedtime (although some people do not mind it)
    13. Do not look at the clock when you are unable to fall asleep, turn the clock away.
    14. If you have chronic insomnia, consider enrolling in our CBT I: cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, it is the best treatment for insomnia!. Look under internal.
    15. If you suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness despite a good amount of sleep time or if you experience snoring or night terrors, consider contacting our Sleep Disorders Center



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