"Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast."
William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Sleep is an important component of our mind and body health. However our ability to sleep is always under attack from many quarters such as:
- Stress at work
- Financial problems
- Shift work
- Death in the family
- fighting with your partner
When we experience any of the above problems, we pay through lack of sleep. Eve Van Cauter, MD, professor at the University of Chicago performed a study on a group of healthy young men in their 20's. The study group was allowed four hours of sleep at night while they continued performing their routine chores.
After one week of this experiment, the group's ability to process carbohydrates and metabolic levels was similar to a 65-year-old man. Hence lack of sleep causes major changes in our body such as abnormalities in glucose tolerance similar to prediabetic state. Additionally, the study group had increased evening cortisol similar to people with major depression. In addition to the increased cortisol, leptin ( a hormone that makes you feel full) levels changed, making the study group feeling underfed by 1,000 calories per day. This can make you feel hungry resulting in overeating to cause weight gain.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that has effects on your tissues. It can make you gain weight and cause you to age prematurely and damage your brain cells. Hence, we cannot take adequate sleep lightly. We have to make time to sleep as it's important for our mind and body health. The following are some suggestions to help you sleep better:
- Don't go to bed angry. Anger raises your stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol that can keep you up, deny you of a healthy sleep and raise your blood pressure if the stressful situation continues.
- Don't fill your stomach with food and go to bed as it may cause indigestion and acid reflux.
- Don't drink caffeinated beverages before your bedtime.
- Have a routine of winding down to calm your mind so you can sleep. What I have found helpful is reading inspirational passages in the bible (or any inspirational passages of your choice) followed by meditation. Meditation by deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can enhance your chances of sleeping within a short time. In addition to calming your mind, meditation also decreases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. The deep breathing supplies your body with nitric oxide that opens your blood vessels, lower your blood pressure and keep you younger.
- Watching your thoughts has to be your mantra as it will enhance your ability to quickly switch gears to calm your mind to go to sleep.
- Find time to exercise, because it lowers your stress hormones and improve your quality of sleep.
"And if tonight my soul may find her peace
in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created."