Sleep is one of the most important components of a healthy lifestyle, but is unfortunately often overlooked. In this month’s installment, we’ll explore sleep, its benefits, and some of the natural ways to aid this process.
Sleep is a vital part of one’s routine, and aids many different processes. Those who suffer from sleep deprivation can experience irritability, cognitive impairment, impaired immune system, and are at an increased risk for heart disease and type II diabetes.
The graphic below, developed by Jan Diehm of the Huffington Post, shows the stages of sleep and the important processes the body undergoes during each stage.
If you are experiencing poor sleep or do not feel well rested in the morning, there are several possibilities your doctor may explore with you. To begin with, a physician will listen to your history to determine a possible explanation for your symptoms. Several questions you may be asked include the following : How many hours of sleep do you get a night? Do you have issues falling asleep, staying asleep or both? How many times do you awaken during the night? Do you suffer from any night terrors ? Do you snore? Do you fall asleep while driving?
In addition to answering these questions, your physician will discuss sleep hygiene with you to ensure that you are optimizing your body’s natural sleep process. For example, the best sleep is achieved in a dark, cool environment. Prior to sleeping, do not use anything with a screen (TV, IPad, laptop, etc) for at least half an hour in order to avoid overstimulation. Try sleeping at the same time every night in order establish a routine. Take note of your caffeine intake. Some individuals are especially sensitive to caffeine, and even an afternoon beverage may be the source of poor sleep.
After the initial interview and the discussion of sleep hygiene, , your physician may want to screen you for additional conditions with a sleep study. Some conditions your physician may want to rule out include sleep apnea, narcolepsy and restless leg syndrome.
In addition to sleep disorders, there are several other causes for poor sleep, including (but not limited to) adrenal fatigue, thyroid dysfunction and depression. Blood work and saliva testing can help elucidate a reason.
While sleep medications were popularly prescribed in the past, research over the last decade has shown an increased risk of falls with certain prescription sleep aids. Several natural remedies, including melatonin and sleepy-time tea (usually containing chamomile) have been shown to help with sleep, without causing any serious side effects. If a cortisol imbalance is the cause of poor sleep, adaptogens such as Ashwiganda can help regulate cortisol and restore a sense of wellness.
Sleep is an imperative part of one’s routine and shouldn’t be overlooked! It is surprising how much better one can feel with restorative sleep. Join us at the Center for Natural and Integrative Medicine on August 20th, 6 pm, where Dr. Romie will expand on sleep disorders and mindful medicine.