The importance of sleeping well
When I was a child I didn't like much sleeping, especially at night. I remember asking my parents: "Please let me stay up 5 minutes more" and behaving good, I was trying to earn that extra 5 minutes for watching more Tv or playing with my toys. Staying up late made me feel that I was more "adult" because I was convinced that adults don't need to sleep much.
Growing up things haven't changed too much. When I was still in high school I was barely sleeping 3-4 hours per night because I was hanging out with friends or talking for hours with some girlfriend over the phone. I bet that all of us did that, but slowly, as we get older keeping this same rhythm becomes more difficult.
Human bodies are perfect bio-machine with natural batteries that need to be recharged through sleep. It is impossible to survive without sleeping, even if you try to be awake to see how much you can resist you would probably end up with some Psychotic disorders.
In the 1960s a high school student named Randy Gardner broke the world record for the longest time spent awake, 11 days. The experiment was conducted under surveillance of scientists but anyways he contracted problems with eyesight as well as various cognitive deficiencies included hallucinations, speech and memory loss during the time spent awake.
In our modern society problems of insomnia and non-restful sleep is reality for many people. We associate those “problems” to stress and other lifestyle factors but we don’t do much about it as the temporary “solutions” most likely satisfy us.
Sedatives of any kind (drugs, sleeping pills, alcohol, etc.) are used for fall asleep and caffeine or other stimulants are used for go through the day functioning like a zombie.
We take no rest - rushing through life missing out the important and beautiful things that we encounter everyday. We tend to say: “I don’t have time” therefore we don’t make time even for sleep.
When we sleep the body has the capacity to regenerate and this means healing faster from pain, diseases and injuries. The human body can heal itself with the right environment and tools, appropriate rest and sleep is part of that ideal environment.
How much is "enough" sleep and what could be the consequences of not sleeping enough?
You may feel like that you sleep enough, but that coffee is still needed for you to start the day. It may feel hard to get off your bed when the alarm rings, because even sleeping the recommended 7-8 hours doesn’t mean that the quality of your sleep is good.
Not sleeping enough or not sleeping well can affect our everyday life and health in many ways.
We became more irritable, making our relationship with others really hard and can affect our decisions as we lose clarity, which leads to us making horrible ones. We can’t overlook our food choices as this is one of the major reasons why poor sleep is also one of the main cause of obesity and being overweight.
When tired we confuse our needs to rest, with needs for food and usually in that period we thrive more fatty meals, high glycemic foods, more sugars, salt and caffeinated drinks.
Most of all there is a higher risk of falling prey to infections that weaken our immune system, lead to an increased heart rate and consequentially a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
It is really important that we get enough hours of sleep although this isn't the only factor.
What affects our sleep quality?
There are many factors that may affect the quality of our sleep, one of them is the foods or fluids we ingest during the day.
Eating a clean diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains nourish the body and set the right environment for sleep, is also important to avoid big meals before bed time. If you do eat later in the night, go for a 20-30 minute walk, this is a useful tool in order to enhance digestion and go to bed lighter.
Junk food are usually high in refined sugars, fats and other chemicals that keep you awake and confuse the body thus disturbing the sleep quality.
Animal products, especially meat even including fish are harder to digest. When trying to digest meats, the body uses a large amount of vital energy, which could be used for restoring and repairing the body and it’s functionality.
As we consume foods, we also consume information through the day that can affect our sleep quality. Information comes in the form of things that we read, what we see on TV and social media, interaction with others and other life experiences.
The information that we encounter each day not only affects our mood but also our sleep quality so its really important to live and create the right environment around us. Limiting the junk information and filtering it before bed is critical to promote healthy sleep.
It’s common to see our gut as our second brain so we can picture our brain as our second gut, as we can have indigestion after eating bad food, we can have indigestion of information, as results we have nightmares or other worries during the night that keep our mind awake and we can’t fall into a deep sleep.
If we take sleep from its natural context, it used to be connected to the “Circadiam rhythm” and so related to the cycle of light and darkness. Our bodies, in conjunction with nature, does exactly what the natural environment does at night - so when the sun goes down, our body temperature gradually drop and slowly comes up in the morning.
Following nature, we should fall asleep as soon as it gets dark, however it’s quite difficult in our modern society but 10 pm would be the best time.
Going to sleep at 10 pm not only enables you to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep, but it also allow you to sleep during all the night when actually is getting the best quality of sleep. Plus this then allows you to wake up fresh and rested by 5 or 6 and have some morning ritual before starting the day instead of rushing your daily routine whilst you are already exhausted with sunglasses and a large cappuccino in your hand.
Dreaming is as important as sleeping. They are involved in emotional healing and they function to consolidate memory, where there is dream deficit in the long term memory deficit will occur.
We need to dream, when we suppress our dream capacity it leads to an increased risk for mood disorders, and usually what suppresses our dreams is our lifestyle. Using the common medications - antidepressant, sleeping pills, alcohol and waking up in the middle of the night.
Sleeping at night is not the only time that our bodies can recharge the biological batteries.
Having few days off for resting is really important to therefor not feel overtired, but we often confuse rest with recreation and inebriation.
The days off usually result in running around scheduling the day with thousand of activities, drinking a few alcoholic drinks and/or smoking some weed. This will contribute to a dissipated level of energy and it won’t allow the body to fully recover. If you ever needed a day off after your day off you know what I am talking about.
How can we improve our sleep, its quality and dream more?
Have a regular sleeping schedule
Try to go to sleep always at the same time and not too late everynight. It may seem hard at the beginning but once it becomes a habit you will not need an alarm as you can now wake up automatically every morning feeling fresh and energised without needing any coffee.
Improve your lifestyle and dietary habits introducing more whole food plant-based and reducing or eliminating refined sugars, animal products and fatty foods especially close to bed time
Eating a clean diet is beneficial to your health and it will help you sleep better.
Have bigger meal through the day but light meals at night possibly 1-2 hour before go to sleep
This will depend on your daily routine but its a good idea to consume bigger meals during the day and stay light at night especially if you are used to eat just before to sleep.
Drink plenty of water through the day but avoid drinking before you sleep otherwise you will most likely wake up for the toilette thus interrupting your sleep.
Drinking enough water during the day prevents the body from dehydrating and requiring water during the night.
Have a lifestyle where you include physical exercise
Exercise contributes to more sound and restful sleep. Physical activity increases time spent in deep sleep, the most physically restorative sleep phase.
Sleep in a dark room eliminating or limiting lights and electronic appliances
We tend to use our phone before going to sleep whilst we lay in bed, or watch a movie on our laptop or tv and don’t realise the impact it will have on our sleep quality. We absorb the artificial blue light that emanates from these devices, which then disturbs and confuses our Circadiam Rhythm.
Do some meditation or breathing exercises before bed
Meditating or doing some breathing exercises while in bed or just before sleeping helps to relax the body and clear your mind, this helps with falling asleep peacefully.
I found really helpful the 4-7-8 breathing exercise by DR.Weil it is simple, fast and efficient.
Dr Weil's 4-7-8 breathing technique:
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one breath.
Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
If you want to know more about check his website, he also has a video about how to do it.
We need to sleep and all of us love to sleep we just need to re-learn how to do it properly and in a way that becomes useful.
Nowadays we are used to sleep with our phone next to our bed or even worse, under the pillow, so messages, lights, emails, social media feeds constantly disturb our sleep;
Before to get into the bed set your phone on airplane mode, put it in a drawer and don’t use it until the next day. This will not only improve your sleep quality but also your productivity.
Drink more water during the day, eat more clean food and keep your meal really light before bed. A vegetable soup, or a salad are the best choices.
Stay far from news programs, it is ok to be informed but you don’t have to fill up your head with negative news and stories.
Disconnect from social media and connect with more positive people around you, see through your eyes the life that you have ahead of you and what you are capable of, stop relying only on your instagram likes.
All those little changes can have drastic effect in a positive way. Going to sleep earlier and getting enough hours of sleep is much more productive than sleeping less and poorly— you will notice that you don’t need that 3rd or 4th cup of coffee in order to make it through your day. The energies will be there and in a natural way!
Get synchronised with the natural cycle of life and you will have the perfect balance, energy, rest, motivation and mental clarity in order to reach your goals and accomplish your tasks in an accurate way.
Sleep deprivation is not an accomplishment, there is always time to sleep, and remember that rest is part of the process of creation.
We can’t create if first we don’t regenerate.
Thanks for reading, I hope you find these information interesting. If you think that it may be helpful to someone else feel free to share it :) I would much appreciate it!!
Sleeping is really important in order to be healthy but is not the only thing that we need to adjust in our life in order to reach an optimal health!
Click here to know the 5 basic principle for optimal health.