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Inside Out

Don’t upset the balance

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We are all guilty of challenging the delicate balance of our nervous and endocrine systems.

Translation: Working 10-12 hours a day, drinking copious amounts of coffee or caffeine-rich drinks, possibly smoking, overeating and bingeing on alcohol, sugar and cigarettes, plus worrying, cramming or complaining.

The result: burnout and sleeplessness.  This is the short-term consequence.  But the long-term dangers of a lifestyle driven by pure adrenaline keeps your cortisol levels high.  And the effect on the immune system can be devastating.

Sleepless

To go without sleep affects our mood and stress levels.  Adequate sleep (six to eight hours nightly) is crucial to proper brain health and function.  It is just as important as air, water and food for survival.

Ill effects:

Less sensitivity to insulin thus increasing the risk for diabetes and high blood pressure

Depressed immune system

May lead to depression or aggressive behavior (A study by Northwestern University of 500 preschoolers found that children with less than 10 hours of sleep daily were 25 percent more likely to misbehave)

Speeds up the aging process because cells regenerate during sleep time.

Verbal, learning and creative skills are compromised.

This, because the frontal lobe of the brains (responsible for judgement, creative thinking and imagination) is most affected by sleep deprivation.

Hallucinations—The neurons of the brain are taxed and unable to perform optimally.  Brain function decreases by 11 percent after missed sleep of 24 hours.

Death—A possible side effect of continued lack of sleep is death.  A weakened immune system comes with a decrease in white blood cells and growth hormones, and the body’s inability to metabolize sugar.  The conditions are ripe for developing life-threatening sickness.

The notion that a little sleep is better than none at all is a myth.  The brain needs a break.  And different parts of the brain rest at different times of one’s sleep.

How much sleep do we need?

While newborn babies can sleep almost all day and night (unless they are hungry), teenagers require as much sleep as small children (approximately 10 hours), while people age 65 and up can survive on six  hours or less.  But on the average, for adults age 25-55, eight hours of sleep is considered optimal.

Feel refreshed and ready to seize the day by mastering the art of good sleep.

Counting backwards is a form of slowing down the brain to a point of relaxation.  In this case, no sheep required.

The pop-culture idea of identical sheep is a mental exercise offering repetition and rhythm, although Oxford University researchers say it is an inferior means of inducing sleep.  What was more effective for sleep subjects was invoking images of a waterfall or beach.

Embrace a wellness lifestyle, one that includes the following regimen:

Daily 30- to 45-minute light exercise.  Ideal time is morning to early afternoon—not two hours before bedtime.

Establish a regular sleep routine.  Don’t make your bedtime erratic.

Avoid watching violent movies or tragic news that will stimulate you.

Keep your feet warm, not cold when in bed.  Wear socks if you have cold feet.

Have a hot bath.

Turn off the lights.  Any kind of light will stimulate your brain and keep you awake.

Avoid stimulants like  caffeine, alcohol, sugar, spicy high-fat or salty food, especially in early evening.

Eat “sleep” foods—Do not eat two hours before bedtime unless you have an attack of low blood sugar.  In this case, eat a light protein snack like tuna, eggs, sardines or turkey sandwich. High in tryptophan, these foods can stimulate more serotonin production for good sleep.

Think peaceful thoughts—A calm mind is the antidote to anxiety, the main cause of insomnia.

Listen to relaxing music.

Drink calming tea like chamomile—it’s a 1,000-year-old practice! Hops, passion flower and St. John’s Wort have a sedating effect on the body and induce longer sleep.

Call center syndrome

The human body is regulated by an internal circadian clock which works on a 24-hour cycle.

Our built-in clock takes its cue from nature’s cycle of light and darkness.  Sleepiness automatically hits us as late night approaches.  This is most felt from midnight to 6 a.m.  However, in this day and age of call centers, a new sleep culture emerges.

People who sleep during these hours are disrupting the body’s normal sleep cycle.

Tips for day-sleepers:

Wear sunglasses on your way home.

Turn off your mobile phones.

Darken your bedroom.

Wear an eye mask if you have to.

Use earplugs.

Insulate yourself from noise and noisy people/places.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine.

One of the best ways to ensure better quality sleep is to study the science of good sleep.  This is possible when you have two things:

1) Melatonin in your brain

2) The perfect bed

Meet my must-have sleep aid: melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.

Melatonin supplements are popular as natural plant-based sleep helpers for the following disorders:

Jet lag—Travel across time zones disrupts sleep patterns.  A tablet of 3mg melatonin taken just before bedtime while in flight will guarantee a refreshing sleep.

Shift work—Night shift workers can easily fall sleep even during daytime when this natural supplement is taken.

Insomnia in older adults—When taken one to two hours before bedtime, melatonin supplements are helpful in easing insomnia.

What is the perfect bed?  These days a mattress isn’t just another mattress.  The choices are many.  But do you know that there is a higher technology designed to determine the right bed for you?  Seriously.  It’s called the X-Sensor, a pressure imaging device made in the US and used extensively by Uratex. By reading the pressure created by the user’s body on the mattresses, you can choose the perfect mattress in terms of the least pressure on the neck, spine and sides of the body.

Perfect sleep tonic

One chamomile tea bag, one lavender or rose tea bag

3 fresh mint leaves

½ tsp of coconut nectar/honey

Steep all ingredients in a small pot of hot water.

Allow to cool.  Inhale the sweet aroma while sipping slowly.

Affirm today: “I sleep in perfect tranquillity.”

Love and light!

References: “The Brain” by Richard Restak, MD

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu


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