Sleep is critical for health and healing, as most people know by now. Unfortunately, our culture still applauds the powerhouse mentality of getting by on a few hours a night. The mom who cleans the kitchen after everyone else has gone to bed, or the corporate manager who brings work home every night after dinner. Even if you are not working late into the evening, but zoning out in front of the TV until the 11pm news, finally turning in at midnight- your habits of sleep hygiene are working against what your body needs.
Our Circadian Rhythm determines our wake and sleep cycle, and is majorly governed by natural light and the hormones it stimulates. Before modern culture, the sun determined man’s wake and sleep times. People woke with the sun, did their hunting, living activities during the day and when the sun went down went to sleep. The natural light of the sun stimulates the production of melatonin, which should kick in to bring rest and tell the body to wind down for rest. And during that rest, things are actually very busy- the liver and kidneys are detoxing the body, cells are repairing and growing, the immune system is working to find and destroy unwanted viruses, bacteria, cancer cells. When you don’t get enough hours in deep restorative sleep, you are not getting these critical tasks done. When that happens often enough, chronic health conditions ramp up and good cellular function breaks down.
Shut off all electronics- cellphone, computer and tv at least 2 hours before going to bed. Listen to music, dim to soft lighting, take a bath, have a cup of herbal tea, read a book, have a conversation with someone, or any hobbies that you enjoy to a backdrop of music instead of tv.
If you find that shutting off electronics is not an option, then purchase a pair of blue light blocking glasses to change the spectrum of light that is coming into your eyes and your brain. These can be $20 on Amazon and just look like any regular glasses. Your brain will not get the incorrect information to stay awake when you block out this electronic light.
As soon as you can in the morning, get exposed to morning light. Walking the dogs, stepping out on your deck with your morning coffee, even sitting by a window is so helpful in resetting your Circadian Rhythm.
Speaking of coffee- as you work on a natural reset- consider giving up caffeine altogether. If the thought of that makes you shudder, definitely stop any caffeine intake my 11 am, for some people even sooner. The effects can be long lasting into the night.
Depending on your necessary wake up time, plan to go to bed at least 7 hours prior. You can move your time in 15 min increments until you are getting the right amount for your body. When you wake up naturally without an alarm, after sleeping deeply for most of the night, then you are at the right amount for you.
Stop drinking too much liquid after 8 pm. Start the day with hydration and plan accordingly so that you do not need to drink very much in the evening.
Notice the times during the night that you are waking up, if any. According to Chinese Medicine, waking up between 2-4 am can indicate your liver is struggling to do it’s job, as those are the hours that it normally goes to work. Also, gut infections, specifically parasites, can become active during sleeping hours, so that could be an indication to get some lab work done to see what your body is dealing with.