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Sleep And Rest, and Their Importance

sleep2Millions of people throughout the world do not get enough rest and sleep.  In fact, they falsely believe that rest and sleep are a waste of time and energy.  This is the opposite of the truth and may be the most ignored cause of disease next to bad nutrition.

 

This article discusses the great need for sleep, the many benefits of sleep, the harm that occurs when one does not get enough rest and sleep, and finally how to sleep better.  Let us examine why each person today needs much more rest and sleep than in past generations.

 

WHY GET MORE SLEEP?

 

Most People Are Exhausted. Fatigue is epidemic.  Studies by American, British and Australian Traffic Safety Agencies report that 20%-30% of traffic fatalities involve a fatigued driver.  If you need coffee, soda pop, chocolate, anger, worry or other stimulants to get going in the morning or keep going, you are not getting enough sleep.

 

Prolonged fatigue contributes to nutritional imbalances that may not be so easily undone by just sleeping.  However, rest and sleep are still important steps as part of a total program including nutritional balancing and sauna therapy to recover from chronic fatigue syndrome and many other conditions with fatigue as one of the symptoms.

 

All Healing Requires Extra Sleep. During the day, one primarily uses the sympathetic nervous system, associated with spending energy and tearing down the body.  This is balanced by the parasympathetic system, associated with rest, nurturing and regeneration of body tissues.  This is equally important and takes place when one is resting.  One may call it maintenance or repair time.

 

If you skimp on regenerative activity by not sleeping enough, physical and mental performance suffers, as well as one's work and relationships.  Illness develops because there is not enough time to repair damaged tissues in the body.  If you have a chronic illness, you definitely need extra rest and sleep.

 

Cleansing and Rebuilding the Body Require Energy.  Elimination of toxins, an issue for everyone, occurs primarily at night while the body rests.  The removal process requires energy and one's energy is finite.  If you use most or all of your energy running around all day, you will not detoxify well.

 

Most Emotional Processing Occurs During Sleep. Often, during the day, thought processes are not completed due to interruptions or other distractions.  The mind completes these processes during sleep. You may notice that problems that seemed difficult are solvable or even solved after a good night's rest.  This can be due to increased energy, but is also due to actual problem-solving that goes on during sleep. In fact, many types of emotional development and processing of one’s past take place during the sleep state in many people.  Thus, not giving yourself enough ‘down time’ is harming yourself in an emotional way as well as a physical one.

 

The Importance of Dreaming. Dreaming is another very important activity that only occurs during the sleep state.  Dreaming is not a solitary phenomenon, meaning that it can have many different meanings.  Even higher animals such as cats and dogs engage in dreaming. Dreams can represent processing of one’s past or even just daily events.  In most people, dreams are often also processing other phenomena such as information from television shows and radio programs that the mind needs to mull over, as it were, and make more sense of.

 

Even unpleasant dreams, nightmares, premonitions and other phenomena may be important, at times, and should not be stopped by not resting or with the use of drugs.  Of course, some dreams are due to just overeating or some other physical health condition.  However, dreaming is a fascinating subject that could fill an entire article of this size. If one does not sleep enough, or does not sleep well for some reason, the dreaming process is interrupted or prevented, and this always impacts one’s health and mental development.  It is another reason why adequate rest and sleep are so critical for everyone, particularly the young, who are often the ones who do not “have the time;” or are “too busy” to stop and rest often.

 

THREE STAGES OR ASPECTS OF SLEEPING

 

Sleeping actually involves at least three aspects of human physiology. These are:

 

1. Rest. The body simply rests. This is extremely important for a number of hours each day. Otherwise, the body literally can wear out sooner. Rest is the time the body begins to regenerate itself.

 

2. Muscle relaxation. Although this is similar to rest, it is listed separately because it is somewhat different. The muscles require a special type of rest that is somewhat unique.  Just putting your feet up on the couch or in bed is excellent to relax most of the musculature of the body, another necessary aspect of rest and sleep.

 

3. Dreaming and rebuilding the body. This aspect of rest requires that the conscious mind be put aside for a time.  Also, the best time for this process is the hours before midnight. The other processes are not time-dependent.  The reasons appear to be complex, but the deep rebuilding of the body seems to occur the most in the hours before midnight to 1 AM.  This is why going to bed as early as is conveniently possible, and no later than 9 or 9:30 PM is excellent.  It is also why if you travel, stay on the local time zone with your sleeping habits.  Do not stay up until midnight just because you are accustomed to a different time zone, even for a few days.

 

WHEN AND HOW MUCH TO SLEEP

 

Here are guidelines for the best sleeping experience. The hours before midnight are far more valuable for rejuvenation than those after midnight.  Some say they are two or three times more useful for healing the body and mind.  The hours after midnight are less conducive because the energy of the earth has shifted and the new day is starting.  This brings a crescendo of solar energy that can tend to cause lighter sleep in many people.

 

When To Go To Sleep. Thus, going to bed early is the first rule of ideal sleep. we recommend going to bed between nine and ten PM every night except the weekend.

 

How Long To Sleep. If one goes to bed early, less sleep time is required.  Eight or nine hours of actual sleep is usually enough.This means 8 to 9 hours of actual sleep, not lying in bed falling asleep or lounging in the morning as you wake up.  In order to obtain a full 8 or 9 hours of sleep, most people need to set aside another half hour to an hour in bed for this reason.

 

HANDLING SLEEP DIFFICULTIES

 

Sleep problems can be related to diet, lifestyle, the sleeping environment, biochemical imbalances, ones temperament and other factors.  Here are suggestions for improving your sleep.

 

1. Reduce your salt intake, if you are eating a lot of salt. Salt, even good quality sea salt can be very stimulating.  This is why many people love chips, dips and a lot of junk foods such as French fries, pickles, relish, ketchup and more.

 

2. Eat dinner early. Eating late may leave undigested food in the stomach that interferes with sleep, especially if the food quantity is excessive or you have gas or other symptoms of indigestion.

 

3. Avoid sweets, juices or chocolate, especially at night.  Sugar upsets body chemistry and may cause one to toss and turn or to get up hungry in the middle of the night.

 

4. Avoid stimulants, particularly in the evening.  Stimulants just whip your body.  They always result in more tiredness eventually.  These include coffee, tea, caffeinated soft drinks, chocolate and sugar in any form.  More subtle stimulants include anger, hatred, resentment, worry and fearfulness.  Remember this next time you listen to the news or watch a violent movie.

 

5. Reduce mental activity in the evening.  If you have trouble sleeping, it is wise to forgo intense intellectual effort at night.  Relax, do light reading or other activities that do not overstimulate the mind.

For example, you may need to turn off the computer at 6 PM and will only read or watch programs that are relaxing or engage in social activities after 6 or 7 PM.  Also, decide you will not initiate or take phone calls after perhaps 8 or 8:30 PM, since this can easily stimulate a person and keep one awake.

 

6. Avoid vigorous exercise in the evening.  Better to exercise in the morning or during the day.  In the evening , limit exercise to perhaps a gentle walk, an excellent way to end the day.

 

7. Be sure you are warm enough, but not hot.  This includes your feet.  Wear socks if needed, or heat your feet with a heater.  A warm bath or sauna before bed can also be excellent.

 

8. Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet.   Install black velour fabric behind curtains or use other methods so your sleeping area is very dark, and preferably very quiet as well.

 

9. Some ventilation and movement of air is often helpful for sleeping. This might mean running a ceiling fan or just cracking a window open a small amount if it is cold outside, for example.

 

10. Ear plugs. These are often helpful, especially in noisy environments, when traveling, or when sleeping with a partner.  The foam rubber type are fine, but not nearly as good as the silicone type.  They cost more, but block much more sounds.

 

11. Avoid becoming overtired. When one is overtired, the adrenal glands are overstimulated.  One may need to unwind before going to bed in this case.  This is one of the most important reasons to go to bed early.  If one stays up for some reason, the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal glands will help keep you up by secreting some adrenal and thyroid hormones. This is fine, except that when you wish to go to bed, you cannot sleep well as you are overstimulated.

 

12. Turn off electronic appliances, or at least sleep 8-10 feet away from wifi, cell phones, TV sets, computers and all other sources of EMF (electromagnetic fields).  If at all possible, turn these devices off and do not keep alarm clocks right next to your head.  Battery powered devices are not nearly as much of a problem, however, if you need an alarm clock.

 

If you are very sensitive to electronic emissions, know that even turning off some electrical equipment is not always enough.  Listen carefully as many radios, boom boxes, tape decks and more have transformers that stay on even if the device is off.  These will disturb sensitive individuals and are not healthful for anyone during sleep. Wifi should not be near your bed.  Move the router, modem and other components to other parts of the house or apartment.

 

13. Drink more earlier in the day. Drink water in the morning and not after 6 PM so you are not having to get up many times to urinate at night.  This is quite disturbing to your sleep in some cases, especially if you do not fall asleep easily.

 

14. Natural Sleep Remedies that we most recommend. These include a cup of strong, freshly brewed chamomile tea, valerian root, herbal combinations, Sleepytime teas and homeopathic remedies that are available at health food stores.

These are excellent because they do not interfere with body chemistry to any significant degree.  For this reason, they can be used at any time and for longer periods of time.

 

Use calcium and magnesium during the day to assist sleep. we always recommend extra calcium and magnesium for everyone, even if sleep is not a problem.  However, several clients have reported that taking more calcium and magnesium during the day as well, and not just before bed, helps them sleep better. Most likely, the reason is it keeps the nervous system calmer all day and avoids one becoming as overtired or overstimulated. The amount to take is usually about 500 mg of calcium and about 300 mg of magnesium two times a day with meals.  Even more is fine, if needed.