Here are a selection of recommendations in order to take control of your sleep health to live your optimal life :
• Be consistent with sleep. Sleep is as important to a person as fuel is to our car, both in terms of quality and quantity. You need proper sleep to run your physiological engine and if you have poor quality sleep its like putting water in your fuel tank. Remember you can’t store extra deep sleep or additional, creative REM sleep so approach your sleep health with balance and respect. It takes approximately 90 minutes to complete one sleep cycle, which is repeated about 5 times each night. Each cycle has 4 different stages, 3 being the deepest sleep and stage 4 being REM sleep which has been scientifically proven to be a more creative stage of sleep and can increase the associative networks in our brain and is linked to improved learning, focus and memory.
• Tired in the afternoon? Take a nap or siesta! Napping has shown to improve productivity, improve alertness, reduce stress and the risk of heart disease and reduce accidents at work and on the road. If you’re limited with time and work schedules, 10-20 minutes should be enough to set you up for a productive afternoon!
• Reduce pain and improve healing responses. Through 29 years of treating headaches, neck and back injuries as well as chronic muscle and joint pain, I firmly believe that sleep disruptions and or deprivation can have a major impact on pain as well as healing due to the alteration of transmission and excitation of neurotransmitters associated with pain. Disruptive sleep due to abnormal breathing patterns can literally change oxygen concentrations in the bloodstream which can also lead to headaches and poor healing.
• Stay young! Sleep affects every vital organ of our bodies in a profound way and can dramatically increase the way and manner that the aging process develops. Premature aging begins when the breakdown and oxidation of tissue exceeds the normal growth and maintenance of tissues within our bodies. Skin is the most visually dramatic and recognizable organ that expresses aging. Aim for Optimal Aging, which I define as maximizing the body’s natural daily healing process to rejuvenate and restore cellular tissue as well as actively minimize the breakdown and oxidation of all of the trillions of cells within our body. Good sleep hygiene is a critical factor in Optimal Aging.
• Improve mental alertness. Think of your sleep control mechanism as a variable dimmer switch that controls your lights. When you crawl into bed from a busy day, your dimmer switch is on high and then you slowly begin to lower the switch to go into the first, then second and so on phases of sleep to where your lights fade to be completely dark in the 4th stage of sleep, also called ‘deltasleep’ or ‘deep sleep’. This is a very important sleep for hormone production and physiological regeneration. Then, after about 50-60 minutes, your dimmer reverses itself creating a brighter light whereby the REM sleep kicks in. REM or ‘Paradoxical sleep’ is where the muscles of your body become essentially deactivated and your brain produces almost a high level of frequent and low amplitude wave forms, similar to the waveform when you are awake. The REM sleep lasts about 20-30 minutes and is said to be essential; in computer terms, you empty your recycle bin (decreasing some of the mind clutter), solidifying your memory of facts (taking the info from your software and transferring it to your hard drive) and interestingly enough, has shown to increase the creative neural networks.
• Remember you’re in control of your sleep health! Make your choices wisely and seek out a mattress that supports your body – not molds around you -, and remains cool and breathable. Similarly your pillow. Choose an advanced design with science behind it to demonstrate and prove its health benefits. Find one of the new generation of pillows that offers correct, anatomical support for your neck to increase oxygenation and open your airwaves. Is your pillow pushing your head into a forward head posture? We don’t want to sleep in the same way we spend our day, with our shoulders curved and head and neck pushed forward over a computer or smartphone. Find a pillow that supports and lengthens your spine for back and side sleeping bringing more restful sleep, preventative health and improved beauty sleep. Increased, optimal back-lying position sleeping – with the correct contour for your neck – prevents wrinkle production and promotes beautiful, healthy sleep, naturally!