Breaking into 2017, actress and Goop lifestyle blog founder, Gwyneth Paltrow declared 2017 the year of clean sleep. The message is starting to pop up everywhere, get more sleep! But why? The last 50 years has not only built up a world and an environment that is not conducive to a good night’s sleep, but has encouraged raving about how little one can survive on. But the way health has changed it is sounding the alarm that we got it all wrong. Sleep is arguably the body’s best healing mechanism. It not only serves the purpose of energy conservation and memory consolidation but proves to be our most restorative function to keep all of our biological processes running smoothly.
When we do not sleep well, we feel it. It only takes one night of bad sleep to cause havoc on our everyday lives. We have less patience, we become impulsive with both personal choices and our nutrition. We skip the gym because we are too tired or we go and end up getting hurt, as our bodies are not able to repair and recover as quickly. It touches everything we do and who we are when it comes to our overall well-being.
We know that fatigue is the most common symptom of almost every disease and often a sign that we are not consuming the right diet, but getting to the source of our sleep challenges isn’t always easy. Your sleep schedule, bedtime habits, and day-to-day lifestyle choices have an enormous impact on the quality of your nightly rest, but where do you look first when you are too tired to even think straight? You should start by creating a daily diary. Some of my best tips for getting to the source of a sleep issue come from a comprehensive assessment but listed below are the easiest places to start on your own, as an advocate for your individual health.
Medical History- What are you currently diagnosed with? What medications are you taking? What are the side effects? What time of day are you taking them? What is the diet you are consuming when taking them? And in my opinion one of the most important- is the prescription you are taking the best for you and is what you are taking what the prescription was intended for? Especially when it comes to sleep challenges, physicians are quick to prescribe off-label and sometimes cause more harm than good. A quick recommendation they often make, although over the counter in the United States is melatonin- marketed as safe and natural, it is actually considered hormone therapy. We now know that it does not resolve the underlying issues regarding insomnia. Did you know it can also can interfere with diabetic medications and undermine the effectiveness of blood pressure prescriptions. There are ways you can produce it naturally and safely every day. First by being conscious of how much natural light you take in. Start the day by going to the window and soaking it in. This will help to regulate your sleep-wake cycle and the ability for your body to produce it naturally when you need it at night.
What supplements are you taking? The majority of the nutrients we get should come from REAL food, not supplements because they are not all created the same. This is an area the FDA has truly failed the healthcare industry. Despite the fact that traditional medicine doctors spend less than 23 hours on nutrition they are quick to recommend multi-vitamins. Although most do not consist of quality ingredients or contain the right combination of recommended daily amounts. Also in there falls the fact that not everyone absorbs minerals in the same way, which is why the majority of the population tends to suffer from a magnesium deficiency. Are you seeing a pattern? Health is about you - what works for you as an individual.
Diet - Believe it or not. Your eating habits should be to promote good sleep! Avoiding spicy foods and dairy for some before bed is recommended to avoid issues with reflux and digestion. While we sleep our bodies are at work, help it out. At the same time, you can incorporate foods to promote sleep! Bananas are a natural source of potassium and magnesium, Tart cherries as a natural source of melatonin and sweet potatoes or oatmeal as a late night snack, if you can’t beat the late night munchies. Juicing is a great way to incorporate the necessary recommended dietary needs as well.
What type of sleeper are you? What position do you sleep in and do you have the right tools? People often overlook the importance of the right mattress, pillows, sheets, pajamas and temperature regulation. Which all play a huge part in how well we sleep through the night and if we wake up stiff or rested.
Evaluation of Environment to include air quality, airborne mold, toxins, pet dander and dust. The tools we use can also play into this. Wake up sniffling? It could be the composition of the materials your mattress is made of. Make sure to dust often and incorporate plants into the bedroom.
There are many factors beyond the generic- watch your caffeine intake, which also includes the type of caffeine you are consuming- coffee vs soft drinks and some medications have caffeine in them. There is also the well-known recommendation to turn off your electronic devices. There are tools for that too, apps like f.lux to dim your screen and blue blocker glasses to cut through the blue light. You can still scroll through social media, emails and help your body produce the melatonin it needs naturally to get to a place where you are ready to fall asleep. Although in this day and age it isn’t always just about the light, what you are reading or watching can affect stress levels and raise your blood pressure. It really is all interconnected.
Understanding why we sleep is fairly new in that we are still studying the body and learning more each day the role it plays in our everyday functioning. If you are struggling with sleep take the time to speak with a sleep specialist. You have to understand yourself holistically to get to the bottom of why you are not sleeping well, it takes both art and science. It is too important to ignore the long term effects of sleep deprivation or the risks of a medical sleep disorder like sleep apnea can have on your overall health and quality of life. Do not wait for your doctor to ask, choose to create a dialogue. Make the connection to how sleep helps you maintain a healthy lifestyle. In the words of the father of modern sleep medicine, Dr. William Dement- "You're not healthy, unless your sleep is healthy". Make 2017 the year you make yours a priority.
Soda Kuczkowski is the owner of START WITH SLEEP a resource center and retail boutique that focuses on both behavioral and medical sleep health in Buffalo, NY. She is also the founder of the SE+T™ Sleep Program, a guide for improving sleep quality naturally. She is committed to addressing sleep concerns and questions by providing sleep health education through a channel of various educational components including sleep consulting, coaching, workshops and corporate health programs.
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