Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.
Why is sleep so important?
An article from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health provides a nice summary:
“Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
The way you feel while you're awake depends in part on what happens while you're sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.
The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.”
I recommend you read the whole article, which provides many excellent points that are good to be aware of.
If you are a mom or dad with a newborn, some of this may not come as welcome news!
What can you do to support healthy sleep?
I’m a maestro at solving sleep issues! I’ve faced and conquered them myself, and it’s a common problem among patients, though for various reasons. We live in a speeded-up world, for one! Here are some of my favorite tips to improve sleep:
1. Chiropractic adjustments! Didn’t you know I was going to say that? In fact, so many of my patients report improved sleep after receiving adjustments that I can confidently list it as a great step to take. And I’m including patients of all ages. That colicky baby -- and his parents -- may sleep much better after an adjustment. It’s not unusual for small children, teens or even adults to nap for several hours after. Sometimes the body just wants some healing time when it’s good and ready. What a blessing!
2. Finish dinner early -- at least one to two hours before bed. This gives your body time to digest before sleep, and allows your liver to focus on digestion when it should, rather than robbing sleep time of the repair and restoration work that needs to be done.
3. Reduce screen time at least one hour before bedtime. Think about this: what are you watching on TV or engaging with on your computer? Your brain will be processing that information when you go to bed. Something light and humorous might help with slumber, while something violent might be stressful and disruptive.
4. Dim lights one hour before bed. Bright lights may suppress the production of melatonin, our sleep-inducing hormone.
5. Consider valerian or magnesium supplements. Both are time-honored for settling the body for sleep. Valerian is available in capsules or tinctures. For children, experiment with Sleepytime or Extra-Strength Sleepytime tea, which doubles as a bedtime treat if you add a little honey and homemade almond milk. My favorite magnesium is Calm brand. Add a teaspoon to a small glass of water for a pleasant fizzy drink one hour before sleep. It comes in several flavors; I prefer the plain.
Do you notice a couple of themes?
Slow down and dim lights as you get closer to bedtime; reduce screen time; choose content wisely. Think about nature, and how darkness, moonshine and starshine are more natural for humans late at night than a stiff dose of CSI!