Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stress Reduction, Pt. 2 - SLEEP

In my previous post I began a four-part series on reducing stress and its harmful effects on your body.  Remember, doctors and researchers believe that 80% of all illnesses diagnosed today are somehow connected to stress.  The first step I highlighted involved learning how to purposefully relax and creating strategies to incorporate those techniques into your daily life.

The second step I want to focus on is that of getting adequate sleep.

We should be getting approximately 7-8 hours of sleep each night.  Some people actually need more, but none of us need less.  Sleep deprivation increases stress hormones such as cortisol – which kills brain cells in the hippocampus (our memory and mood center).  Sleep is not a nuisance or a luxury, but a NECESSITY!

To launch yourself into a night of adequate sleep, begin to develop a bedtime routine:
  • Get off of the computer 1-2 hours BEFORE going to bed.  The light emitted from your computer actually mimics daylight, tricking your brain into thinking it’s the middle of the day.  Many people have no idea that their insomnia is a direct effect of nighttime computer use.
  • Turn the TV off BEFORE you fall asleep.  You’d be surprised how much interference television provides for preventing us from relaxing and turning off our brains.
  • Make sure you bedroom is a cooler temperature than it is during the day, making it more conducive to sleeping.
  • Avoid highly salty foods, especially in the evenings.  These can be stimulating, preventing deep sleep.
  • If winding down is difficult for you to do at the end of the day, take a warm bath to help raise your body temperature an hour before bed. 
  • Read a boring book (or at least one that is not a “page turner”) when you get in bed to allow yourself to gently wind down without the added stimulation of the lights and sounds from your television set.
  • Get into and out of bed at the same time every night and every morning.  We can actually set our internal clocks by this type of regularity.

By giving your body enough time and the proper setting for adequate sleep each night, you are helping to ensure the necessary clean-up and detoxifying functions are accomplished.  These cleaning “chores” get rid of the toxins that we are exposed to through environmental factors, the foods we eat and the stress-hormones we produce each and every day, and THE optimal time for this is when we are doing absolutely nothing else.  Fortification through ample sleep is an inexpensive, side-effect-free way to help combat the damaging effects of stress on our entire bodies.

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