At a wellness conference a couple of years ago I attended a session on sleep, and it was one of the most impactful messages I heard and still remember to this day. Since we’re a couple of weeks past moving our clocks back an hour, I hope it’s not too late for you to consider using that “extra” hour to focus on getting more sleep.
The presenter at the conference was Dr. Param Dedhia, formerly of Johns Hopkins and now director of sleep medicine at the Canyon Ranch Wellness Center in Tucson, AZ. Dr. Dedhia went into great detail about what happens in our brain and body during the various stages of sleep and how important it is for us to get 7-9 hours of good, quality sleep each night.
According to Dr. Dedhia, during the first few hours of sleep, when your sleep is deepest, your body is focused on physical repair. Growth hormones and proteins are released to repair and regenerate muscles. Inflammation is reduced and the lymphatic systems clears damaging substances. This is also when your brain transfers memory from short term storage to long term storage.
During the latter hours of sleep is when you experience dreaming. Dream sleep rules your emotions and this is when your brain clears negative thoughts like fear and anxiety. This may also be the time when creativity and problem solving are enhanced.
Getting enough of both deep and dream sleep keeps us feeling great physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you have trouble sleeping enough, or don’t get good quality sleep the first thing you might try it to improve your “sleep hygiene”. Good sleep habits include:
- Going to bed at the same time each night, and getting up at the same time each morning.
- Making sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature.
- Removing electronic devices (television, phone, computer) from the bedroom.
- Avoiding large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
- Being physically active during the day.
If none of these seem to help it may be worthwhile to visit with your doctor and see if a sleep study is in order.
I’ve heard people say jokingly that they can sleep when they’re dead. According to Dr. Dedhia sleep deprivation will kill you sooner that food deprivation. For that reason, it might be more important than you think to focus on your sleep.