Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

The way you feel while you’re awake depends, in part, on what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.

The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (a car accident or leaving the stove on), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

Sleeping when your body is ready to sleep also is very important. Sleep deficiency can affect people even when they sleep the total number of hours recommended for their age group. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, “sleep when the sun goes down, rise when the sun comes up”, follows the laws of nature. Although many of us can’t go to bed at 8pm in the winter, we can recognize our body telling us to. The best sleep happens before midnight.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?
The amount of sleep you need each day will change over the course of your life. Although sleep needs vary from person to person, the chart below shows general recommendations for different age groups.

AGE RECOMMENDED
AMOUNT OF SLEEP
Newborns 16-18 hours a day
Preschool-aged children 11-12 hours a day
School-aged children At least 10 hours a day
Teens 9-10 hours a day
Adults
(including the elderly)
7-8 hours a day

Healthy Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule. Same time to bed, same time to rise. Even on the weekends. Helps your body stay in rhythm.
  2. Avoid naps. Trouble falling asleep? Stick to the sleep schedule.
  3. Avoid caffeine, especially after lunch and later.
  4. Exercise daily. This decreases stress and inflammation in the body and promotes deeper well being and relaxation.
  5. Don’t eat too close to bed. A full stomach needs time to digest. But don’t go to bed hungry either. Blood sugar needs regulation.
  6. Update your pillows and mattress so that they work well for your body.
  7. Clean your room of unwanted clutter. A clean and clear space leads to better sleep.
  8. Make sure it’s dark enough. Black out shades can do wonders.
  9. Consider white noise. There are great app’s for this now but you can also get a noise reduction machine to kick on when you’re settling down.
  10. Avoid screens and internet click bait 60 minutes before bedtime!
  11. Go easy on the alcohol. Heat rises. Alcohol is heating. It’s hard to sleep when you’re in flames.
  12. Ban the kids and the pets. Sleep is all yours. Spread out and enjoy your space.
  13. Breathe deeply before bed and throughout the day. Helps regulate cortisol.
  14. Use aromatherapy like lavender or spikenard essential oil in an infuser or on skin. Take a hot bath using Epsom salts for magnesium which also settles.
  15. Get sunlight first thing in the morning. This tells your brain to regulate melatonin.
  16. Write in a journal if your thoughts are spinning before bed.

For herbal supplementation consult your practitioner for what is best for your constitution and particular sleep issue.

By Angela Coon, L.Ac.

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