The first sign of a problem with the brain is shortened sleep, in particular, napping during the day and not sleeping through the night. With even one hour loss of sleep per night, the brain slows down, we become more emotional and our thinking slows down. What is the major cause of sleeplessness? For most, it is chronic stress and anxiety, resulting in elevated cortisol levels, particularly in the evening, keeping us from enjoying a proper night’s sleep.
Sleep affects every organ system. The body does not do well without an optimal 7 to 8 hours per night. The more sleep deprived we are, the less effective our immune function, the more prone we become to injury and accidents and, even, to serious medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
27% of sleep deprived people are more likely to become overweight. Sleep is vital for learning and memory so is necessary for education and maximum productivity in the workplace. Sleep allows for the body to balance itself.
There are four major sleep cycles. In general, we go from falling asleep, to light sleep, to deep sleep, to REM sleep. These cycles are repeated many times throughout the night. Earlier cycles have longer periods of deep sleep and later cycles, more REM sleep. Deep sleep makes us feel refreshed and keeps us healthy. During REM sleep, the brain becomes more active, the body more relaxed, and most of our dreams occur. “REM sleep is important to your sleep cycle because it stimulates the areas of your brain that are essential in learning and making or retaining memories.” Longer periods of REM sleep occur in the morning hours.
Suggestions for improved sleep include going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, even on the weekends; sleeping in a totally dark, quiet, and comfortable space; removing all electronic devices, particularly computers, tablets, and cell phones from the room where you sleep; avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco for at least 3 to 4 hours before bedtime; keeping all daytime napping short and before 4 or 5 pm. Try not to go to sleep hungry or stuffed. If you do wake up during the night, avoid checking the clock or looking to see if you have any new texts or emails. In a study of 20 volunteers, after 8 weeks of meditation and yoga, novices in meditation expressed 2209 new genes, most improving health and the body’s response to psychological stress.
Magnesium before bed is a great, safe source of calming and relaxation. Bananas are loaded with magnesium. You can enjoy a banana tea by washing a banana, removing the tips, cut it in half and boil it, with the peel on, in 3-5 cups of water for 4-5 minutes. Pour the liquid into a tea cup, add cinnamon and a little honey and enjoy! You may find that you sleep like a newborn baby.
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