Sleep and circadian rhythms
“Get your 8 hours of sleep in every night” seems to be the only advice most people are aware of when it comes to sleep. They assume that if they get 8 hours in, they’ve met the requirement for healthy sleep. However, the body is highly complex. Simply labeling a legalistic 8 hour textbook minimum requirement doesn’t fully capture what it needs. 8 hours of sleep is a good place to start the discussion about sleep patterns and requirements, but it goes far beyond that. In addition to quantity of sleep, quality of sleep matters. Not only that, but the hours in which you sleep matter as well.
Have you ever had a night of poor sleep and felt like the entire effort was a waste? Conversely, have you ever found that a 20 minute catnap can provide you with uncanny energy to carry you through your day? Quality sleep matters. Volumes have been written on REM sleep, non REM sleep, and the various stages of sleep, which is too much to cover in a single blog post. What the experts all agree about though, is that cycling through the various stages is important for total body and mental health.
In addition, the hours in which you sleep matter a great deal, and many people do not discuss this enough. In our modern society, we’ve lost the natural circadian rhythms that our bodies are designed to synchronize with. Circadian rhythm is defined as: “A daily cycle of biological activity based on a 24-hour period and influenced by regular variations in the environment, such as the alternation of night and day. Circadian rhythms include sleeping and waking in animals.”
In real life, it means that our bodies were designed to be in sync with nature. With relation to sleep schedules, it means that we should be awake when it’s daytime and we should be sleeping when it is dark. It really is that simple. The invention of electricity has made our brains fall well out of sync with a natural circadian rhythm, as we are regularly exposing our brains to light and stimulation for many hours after we are meant to, particularly in the wintertime.
The adrenals in particular are the essential organ that is governed primarily by sleep. No supplement, food, or vitamin can support the adrenals like sleep can. The adrenals affect all other systems of the body, so supporting them is essential. If you work a night job, it’s likely that even if you get 8 hours of sleep in during the day, your adrenals are stretched very thin. Similarly, women who are caring for small babies during the night have tired adrenals. The adrenals need support - and biologically appropriate hours of sleep - to function. The body cannot be used in a way it was not biologically designed to without repercussions.
Here are a few tips for getting the most out of sleep:
- Sleep when it’s dark. Go to bed early and wake up late.
- Have a sleep routine. It only takes 21 days to create a routine. Deliberate effort will make this an easy transition. For instance: read a book, wash your face and brush your teeth, drink some tea, lay down and take 5 deep breaths.
- Take Magnesium. Magnesium has a natural calming effect and it’s wonderful for those who have a hard time falling asleep at night.
- Get adjusted. You may find that a single adjustment can do wonders for your sleep.
- Consider homeopathics. Supplements like “Rescue Remedy Sleep” are very safe and effective.
- Cut out sugar. Sugar is terrible for your body in every way, and too much sugar can interfere with your brain function.
- Lavendar essential oil has a very calming effect.
“Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” was a phrased coined by Benjamin Franklin, and it was rather spot on. Take care of yourself in every way, including the way you sleep.