Fruit flies do it. Fish do it. Dogs, cats, and lions do it. YOU do too—and you’re so attached to doing it that you spend a quarter of your life doing it because if you don’t, you die. SLEEP! BEAUTIFUL SLEEP.
But why? Why do you suspend voluntary functions to lie supine in an unconscious state? To relax muscles? Rev-up your brain? Restore energy? To learn? Make memories?
So, what in the world—or out of this world—are you doing there with your eyes closed? Hibernating, organizing or regenerating? No one knows. After 50 years of study, researcher William Dement said it well; “As far as I know, the only really solid reason that you need to sleep is because you get sleepy.”
ON THE DOWNSIDE OR UPSIDE
“I got critical sleep last night… An inner voice kept calling me names.”
We do know that the quantity and quality of sleep helps regulate your weight, keeps you from getting gray hair, strengthens your immune responses and replenishes your blood and organs. Ifyou don’t sleep enough, you’re more likely to make bad decisions, take more risks and behungrier when awake. Get enough sleep and you’re more easy-going, happier and makebetter choices. So, sleep tight and “Slaap Lekker” (Dutch phrase meaning “sleep delicious”).
Fish gotta swim; birds gotta fly…
I gotta sleep (though I don’t know why).
Blame it on instinct or the bossa nova;
Rest assured sleep’s a time to get to know ya.
Zzzz… Say scientists, your brain’s abuzz burning sugar and oxygen, releasing growth hormones. Between one and three am, in a normal night, your liver goes into high gear—cleansing you, processing sugar and releasing glycogen to fuel your brain and muscles. Cortisol is released to metabolize hormones, build muscles, repair cells, fight infection, and energize.
Good quality sleep enhances healthy blood pressure and your heart.
Scientists say that sleep needs vary throughout your life and the right way to sleep is different for each of us. Babies sleep a lot… hopefully. Most adults need seven to eight hours a day. In 1910, an adult in the United States slept an average of nine hours a night. Today it’s seven hours. Old Polish wisdom says, “Sleep faster; we need the pillows.”
So, why do you sleep? What’s your fantasy? Your guess is as good as any.
Great Sleep Habits
Good sleepers take less than 30 minutes to fall asleep and occasionally take longer to get to sleep; so, don’t expect to fall asleep immediately. Most folks wake up once or twice a night and sometimes awaken at night and find it’s difficult to get back to sleep.
You can easily optimize your sleep no matter what is going on in your life. The more natural light you receive during the day, the more your body attunes to regular day-night rhythms and as light fades your body releases more relaxing melatonin.
Dr. Shelley’s Tips for Healthy Slumber:
- Adhere to a regular sleep schedule and ritual.
- Relax before bed—take a hot bath and drink warm milk.
- Create a good sleep environment. Get rid of noises, bright lights, an uncomfortable bed, and turn off a TV or computer in the bedroom an hour before sleep (and leave problems in another room).
- Avoid drugs, caffeine, nicotine and sleep medications.
- Don’t exercise late in the day or do yoga stretching later.
- Have a light dinner at least two hours before sleep and avoid large, heavy meals and sugar. (Protein, fiber and healthy fats correct blood sugar spiking in the night.) Don’t nap after three pm.
- Get hypnotized. Scientific studies prove that hypnosis helps you rest, relax and eliminate disruptive sleep behaviors (such as nightmares, snoring, bedwetting and sleepwalking).
NOW AFFIRM: “My bedtime routine is relaxing. I prepare a comfortable, temperate, quiet place to sleep—the darker, the better. I turn off electronics. I go to sleep easily and awaken on a regular schedule. When ready to sleep, I settle into a comfortable position, close my eyes and relax my mind and body with each easy breath. Deep and rhythmical breathing lull me into peaceful slumber. My bed is my haven for glorious sleep and peaceful dreams.”
Shelley Stockwell-Nicholas, PhD is the President of the International Hypnosis Federation and the author of 23 books including “WIN: Coaching Guide For Yourself and Others” and “Thrive: Medical Hypnosis For Yourself and Others” she invites you to join her Facebook page “free hypnosis- IHF.”