Sleep is vital for good health. Good sleep may play as big a role in cleaning our bodies of free radicals as eating foods high in antioxidants. During deep sleep we release growth hormones as children and young adults. Many of our cells show increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins during deep sleep. These proteins are the building blocks needed for cell growth and for repair of damage from factors like stress and ultraviolet rays during the previous day.
Activity in the parts of our brain that control decision making, emotions and social interactions are greatly reduced during our deep sleep, suggesting deep sleep helps us enjoy optimal emotional and social functioning the next day.
The neurons that control our sleep interact with our immune system. It is thought that good sleep helps our immune system function fully and that we are more prone to illness after periods of poor sleep.
Many hormones, which trigger or regulate various body functions, are released during sleep or right before sleep.
Our pineal gland produces melatonin during our deep sleep phases. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that also regulates our immune system and is thought to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Our production of melatonin can be disrupted by a lack of sleep or interrupted sleep. Light and the presence of alternating electro magnetic fields are both thought to decrease melatonin production. As we age our pineal gland slowly calcifies and reduces its production of melatonin. It therefore becomes more important, as we get older, to sleep in a way that maximizes our production of melatonin.
Sigmund Freud, considered the father of psychology, believed dreaming was a safety valve for unconscious desires. It may be that during the night we realign our energetic body and in the process throw off emotions. Our dreams may be the associated images that go with the departing emotions. Dreams can reflect our excess emotional energy and if a regular theme can be an indication of what kind of daytime thoughts and emotions are disturbing us.
intuition and sub conscious
During the night our intuition and sub conscious continue to work and without the distraction of running our active body and mind can dedicate more attention to other issues. For this reason you may find it helps to consider any problems you are seeking an answer to, before you go to sleep. This will allow you to continue seeking a solution whilst asleep. You might find an interesting answer pops into your head when you wake.
I find it is works best if I run through the issue a few times in my head as I go to sleep. It helps to keep some paper and a pen next to your bed just in case you wake with a wonderful new insight or revelation. If nothing happens after the first night persevere for a few nights.
Caffeine from coffee, chocolate and some soft drinks can interfere with our sleep. This may compromise our health and lead to poor alertness during the following day, prompting the desire for more caffeine.
If you want to drink coffee it would make sense to drink it during the morning to give your body the maximum time to get rid of the caffeine before you sleep.
suggestions for good sleep
What would help us enjoy and healthy nights sleep and prepare us for the next day?
To make the most of our melatonin production it would help to be in a deep sleep between the hours of 12pm and 3pm. This would mean going to bed by 11pm to allow time to fall asleep and get into our deep sleep.
As alternating electro magnetic fields can inhibit the production of melatonin it is helpful to ensure you are free from these fields. Keep all electrical items connected to the home electrical supply well away from your bed. This would include radios, alarm clocks, televisions, computers, DVD players, night lights, cell phones, hands free phone base stations, chargers and answer machines. I would suggest you keep any electrical equipment at least one yard or meter from your bed. It would be general good practice to keep your bedroom as free from electrical equipment as possible. Battery operated clocks do not create a harmful field.
Synthetic materials create electrostatic fields and these can interfere with the electrical signals running through our body. This can disturb the electrical impulses flowing between the heart, mind and body. It is possible that any disturbance will impair the bodies ability to heal its energetic body and release emotions. Examples of materials that could be made from synthetic fibers and affect your sleep are sheets, mattresses, duvets, blankets, pillows and pajamas. I would suggest using pure cotton sheets, pajamas, duvet covers and pillow covers. Pure wool carpets and blankets would be ideal. Finding mattresses made from natural fibers can be more of a challenge. You could use a pure cotton futon but you could look for a mattress made from layers of horsehair, wool and cotton or natural latex. Try natural feathers or silk for the filling for duvets and pillows. A wooden bed frame will be neutral and not upset the earth?s magnetic field around you.
In feng shui thinking it would help to create a relaxing, comfortable atmosphere for good sleep. Try to fill your bedroom with soft surfaces. Carpets, rugs, long curtains, big cushions and bedding can all make a room feel more soft and secure for good sleep. Reduce hard sharp surfaces such as sharp edges, large mirrors or stone flooring to create a warmer feel. Think about colors that will be calming and help you drop into a peaceful mood before falling asleep.
To improve your melatonin production, make sure your bedroom is dark at night. Use black out curtains if necessary and avoid sleeping in the glow of nightlights, candles or electrical equipment.
You may find you sleep better in different parts of your room or even with the top of your head pointing in different directions. Many herding animals naturally sleep so their spine is aligned the earth?s magnetic field. This means they sleep north, south. In a human this would suggest sleeping with the top of our head pointing north. There is some speculation that we then interact with the earth?s magnetic field in a way that promotes better sleep and healing over night. However you might find that through your own experimentation, that another direction suits you better. If so it would make sense to set up your bedroom in whatever way creates the best sleeping environment for you.
Generally eating about three hours before you go to sleep will help you sleep well and allow your body to go through its healing cycles without the distraction of trying to simultaneously digest and absorb food. Similarly it would make sense to adjust your drinking habits so that you do not have to get up during the night to urinate and disturb your deep sleep and delta sleep parts of your sleeping cycle.
Camomile tea is a favourite for calming at night. A drink made from kuzu and apple juice can help. Alternatively soaking your feet in hot salty water, and or a foot massage can settle us for a good sleep. Meditation helps calm the mind and encourages us to drift off.
Simon is available for online and in person macrobiotic consultations to help you enjoy foods that will help you experience the best health.