March is National Sleep Awareness Month!
Content courtesy of Madhavi Rao, Owner & Chief Motivating Officer for Prana Health Yoga & Wellness
Until just a few years ago I never paid attention to how much sleep is important for my health and wellness. I was feeling fatigued and not able to keep up with my business/work and family responsibilities. I was irritable and no one really wanted to even be around me. I discovered that when I went to bed earlier, I could shed the extra unwanted weight, feel lighter in my body and mind, make better nutritional choices, and even have the energy to exercise. It was mind-blowing to me that by making one simple change (going to bed earlier) could shift my entire life practice!
In a fast-paced society we tend to overstimulate ourselves thus creating overwhelm and fatigue. Fatigue is ingrained into our physiology and can slowly depress our immune system. Our immune system is responsible for keeping us healthy, strong, alert and disease at bay. When our immune system starts to weaken it becomes more susceptible to one or more of over eighty known autoimmune diseases. In fact, you, or someone you know may suffer from one or more of them. Some of these diseases include Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Grave’s Disease, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Psoriasis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and much more. Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between sleep deprivation and obesity. In the second half of the 20th Century the obesity incidence has nearly doubled. Would you believe that just changing your normal bedtime to 1 hour earlier than you normally do you can lose weight?
Sleep is one of the 3 pillars of Health and Wellness. The other two pillars being Nutrition and Exercise or Movement. When one or more these pillars are either neglected or out of balance it causes many malfunctions in our minds and bodies. Some of these side effects which are more common than not are Weight Gain, Obesity, High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, Pre-Diabetes and Diabetes type 2. All of which can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and more. The imbalance can also lead to mental health problems such as anxiety, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), depression and bipolar disorder.
Most kids and teens are tired, and adults are just exhausted. Did you know that the lack of sleep when driving is worse than drunk driving itself? The CDC (Center for Disease Control) reports that insufficient sleep is now an epidemic. This is scary knowing that most individuals are walking and driving around feeling half asleep!
The sleep cycle is synchronized with the day and night or light and dark cycles. Our circadian rhythm governs our health and wellness in body, mind, and spirit. Back in the caveman era, man used to go to sleep when it got dark and wake when the sun rose. Today in the 21st Century we have access to electricity to keep the lights on when day turns into night and blue light at our fingertips thus giving us an excuse to continue to stay awake into the late hours of the night when our body needs to be resting. In fact, when we don’t get enough sleep and rest, our bodies are at risk for becoming a host for cancer! Auyrveda Medicine explains that our dominant energy pitta or fire energy is active from 10 PM – 2 AM. During this time is when our body is digesting, detoxing, metabolizing, and repairing. Our minds are clearing the thoughts of the day preparing itself for another day of collecting more thoughts and decoding them throughout the day.
When you stay up past 10 PM you aggravate your bodily systems and weaken your immune system opening itself up to diseases and distress.
With the start of Spring Forward Daylight Savings Time, most Americans lose an hour of sleep. Would you believe that more than 114 million adults in the U.S. aren't getting the sleep they need?
Many Americans either can't fall asleep, stay asleep, or even get quality sleep. One of the primary reasons for these problems is daily stress and anxiety. As we continue to sleep late and wake up early the next day to work and play, we slowly chip away at our health and wellness. Trying to get to bed earlier than normal can be hard for most. We think we need to burn the midnight oil to get in just a few more tasks to be a successful and high-performing business owner, boss, employee, and family member. However, little do many of us know that we are only stealing good productive energy that we need for tomorrow from the next day.
The good news is we can do simple things to get better sleep.
To set the stage for better sleep:
- No electronic devices starting 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Try to establish a new wind down routine by taking a nice warm bath, reading a non-digital book, journal the days events that made you happy, have a caffeine-free cup of tea, or even have an undivided connection with a family member.
- Listen to one of my Yoga Nidra recordings on my podcast
or join one of my monthly live on zoom
- Lastly, try to move your bedtime up by going to bed 15 minutes earlier than you are normally used to and slowly increase that time a little each week until you get to where you are getting about 7-8 hours of actual sleep.
I will share the tools I use to improve my sleep and revisit regularly to ensure I get a better night's sleep.