Caroline Wallace combines two of her passions—science writing and complementary and alternative medicine, along with her knowledge of DoTERRA Essential Oils.

The Hidden Power of Sleep

Sleep, that magical state of rest and restoration, is more than just a daily break from your life. It is an essential component of a healthy and fulfilling life. Sleep is often the first thing sacrificed to meet demands and deadlines in this fast-paced world, but its value cannot be overstated. From repairing our bodies to boosting cognitive function, let’s dive into the profound significance of sleep and explore how understanding its rhythms can enhance our well-being.

Why is Sleep Important?

Sleep is like the essential behind-the-scenes crew that helps a show go off without a hitch. While sleeping, our bodies engage in a symphony of activities that repair, regenerate, and revitalize. Sleep is crucial for:

  • Physical Restoration: During sleep, our bodies repair and rebuild tissues, strengthen the immune system, and regulate hormone levels, ensuring optimal health.
  • Mental Rejuvenation: Sleep plays a pivotal role in consolidating memories, enhancing learning, and improving cognitive abilities, making us sharper and more focused when we wake.

Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep, just like there isn’t a one-size-fits-all diet. The amount of sleep you need depends on your age, overall health, and your body’s own unique needs.

How Do We Fall Asleep?

The process of falling asleep is regulated by our sleep/wake cycle (circadian rhythm), which is our body’s internal clock. This internal clock is mainly influenced by exposure to natural light and darkness, which is detected by a cluster of nerve cells – the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) – inside the tiny hypothalamus deep in your brain. The signals from the SCN are sent to other brain regions, including the pineal gland, which regulates melatonin production, and the amygdala, which is very active during rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep.

The sleep cycle has five stages, and the average person has four or five cycles a night. Non-REM sleep is stages 1 – 4, with each stage moving into progressively deeper sleep. The fifth stage in the sleep cycle is REM sleep, which occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. REM sleep is called such because a person’s eyes move rapidly behind closed eyelids, and breathing speeds up and becomes more irregular. Most dreams occur during REM sleep; thankfully, our body is temporarily paralyzed so we don’t act out our dreams!

Sleep = Healing

We know that getting enough sleep is important, yet we push the need aside. Sleep is often treated as an optional luxury, leading to potentially harmful sleep deprivation. Has there ever been a time when you’ve gotten sick soon after a period of sleep deprivation?

I believe that getting enough sleep is the most accessible form of preventative health care since sleep is an integral part of the body’s natural healing process.

Long-term or chronic sleep deprivation can lead to the following problems:

What Lifestyle Habits Affect Sleep?

Everyone has the occasional bad night of sleep. However, consistent nights with poor sleep can be caused by certain habits. Here are some habits that may be disrupting your sleep:

  • Drinking caffeine in the afternoon or evening
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Not sticking with a regular sleep schedule
  • Poor sleeping environment (too much light in the warm and/or keeping the room too warm)
  • Too much time on electronic devices, leading to too much artificial light at night (ALAN), near bedtime
  • Eating right before going to bed
  • Taking certain prescription drugs, such as diuretics
  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle

How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

According to the Sleep Foundation, an estimated 50 – 70 million people in the U.S. have ongoing issues with sleep. If you find that a good night’s sleep is elusive, you may have tried pharmaceuticals, natural products, or mental techniques to improve your sleep. Remember – there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to sleep disturbances. Over the next four weeks, I’m going to dive into different methods that you can try to improve your sleep.

Challenge of the week:

If you get under 6 hours of sleep a night or feel too exhausted during the day, I challenge you to make an effort to get into bed 15 minutes earlier than usual for the next three nights. Setting a “bedtime” alarm may help you remember. Then, get into bed another 15 minutes earlier for the next four nights. See how that feels after a week! Little changes like that are easier to manage, and getting into a routine makes sticking with the change easier. Rekindle a positive relationship with sleep; allow it to heal and invigorate you. Sweet dreams!

Disclaimer: This article should not replace individual clinical judgment or professional medical advice.

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