The Importance of Sleep and How to Get More of It

The Importance of Sleep and How to Get More of It

A couple of years ago, I was suffering through a serious bout of insomnia. I would stay awake until 4 or 5 in the morning, and then have to get up around 8AM Attribution to Kimberly Recorto get ready to go to work.  After a month of getting between 3-4 hours of sleep
a night, I was a mess.

Physically I felt awful, my body was achy, and I displayed symptoms similar to flu symptoms. Emotionally I felt as if I was on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Things that usually wouldn’t even faze me, sent me into a downward spiral of emotional outbreaks and tears. On top of all of that, my brain just barely functioned, turning the simplest of tasks into the most difficult.

After making some lifestyle adjustments, I began falling back into a regular sleep pattern. My health and emotional/mental well-being were restored, but I’ll never forget how negatively those months of sleep deprivation affected me.

Sleep is one of the most important factors to living a healthy, happy life. It allows your body to rest and heal, and helps support healthy brain function. Sleep deprivation can cause serious health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.  If you’re prone to being depressed, not getting enough sleep will only feed those symptoms. Insomnia and depression tend to go hand in hand, with sleep loss intensifying depression symptoms, and those symptoms in turn, causing sleep problems.

One of the biggest side effects of my sleep deprivation was that my memory began to fail me big time. I couldn’t remember the simplest things. According to a recent study, the brain waves that are responsible for consolidating memories usually only happen during the deepest level of sleep. When you go for long periods of time without getting into a deep sleep cycle, your memory will begin to falter like mine did.

There are two different types of sleep cycles: non-rapid eye movement (NREM sleep) and rapid eye movement (REM). A person usually circles back and forth between REM and NREM every 90 minutes. Many people, especially those entering the second half of life, tend to wake up throughout the night, which interrupts their sleep cycle. Some can’t fall asleep at all. It’s always good to consult a doctor if your insomnia persists, but there are some simple things you can do to deal with sleep deprivation. We’ve listed some below:

There are many vitamins that can be beneficial for your sleep patterns, but magnesium and calcium taken together is the ultimate sleep booster. Start out with a low dose, and then up them as you see fit. Melatonin is also a great supplement to take, as it naturally induces sleep. Just make sure to take low doses, as it can cause toxicity if taken in high doses. It is always good to check with your doctor.

Lavender essential oil has been proven to be an effective sleep aid. Just dab a couple of drops on your pillow before you go to sleep, and see what happens.

Cut Out the Caffeine
Try cutting out caffeine no later than early afternoon for a couple of weeks and see how your body responds. Many people have found that coffee (and sometimes even tea) were the main culprits behind their insomnia.

Quiet Your Mind Before Going to Bed
Calming down your mind before you go to bed can be helpful in inviting restful sleep. Instead of watching television or listening to stimulating music, try listening to quiet instrumental music, having a quiet meditative time, or saying prayers.

Yoga or Mediation
Having a daily meditation practice such as yoga is a great way to calm the mind. Just a 10 minute daily mediation practice can be effective when dealing with insomnia.

Cutting out caffeine, yoga, and going to acupuncture is what helped me with my insomnia. Acupuncture has been scientifically proven to increase nighttime melatonin production and total sleep time.

Author: Kimberly Recor, staff writer at Designing Brighter Tomorrows

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