We all know the feeling of waking up well-rested. Collectively, we also have all experienced disruptions to our sleep cycles that have left us feeling exhausted and irritable.
Sleep is essential to every process in the body and getting adequate or inadequate sleep does affect our physical and mental functioning.
While the Body Sleeps
The link between sleep and memory processing is well established. Sleep serves as an opportunity for the mind to process all the stimuli that we have taken in while we are awake; and triggers changes in the brain that strengthen neural connections helping us to form memories.
Sleep is also vital to memory consolidation—the process of stabilizing our memories. Memory consolidation is important for learning new information.
Our brain and body are very active during sleep, carrying out many important functions. While you sleep, you allow your body to repair and rebuild. During this time, the body is able to clear toxins from the lymphatic system, which boosts the immune system.
While you sleep, there are many important processes that happen, including:
- Muscle repair
- Protein synthesis
- Tissue growth
- Hormone release
When the Body Doesn’t Get Enough Sleep
Poor quality sleep or a lack of sleep altogether raises our cortisol levels. High cortisol levels are important in the short term, stimulating alertness and vigilance, and raising heart rate and blood pressure, but over time elevated cortisol can cause systemic inflammation and disrupt our hormonal balance.
Too little sleep impacts the rapid eye movement stage of sleep (REM) which governs our processing of emotions and memories. Losing out on the restorative benefits of REM sleep directly impacts our mood, making us more irritable and more stressed out. Researchers have found that daily sleep quality and a person’s mood are closely related.
Lack of sleep makes you more prone to illness because your immune system isn’t performing at its peak. A study found that people who averaged less than 7 hours of sleep were nearly three times more likely to develop a cold than their colleagues who were well-rested.
How to Improve Your Sleep
Given the importance of sleep to our health, there is no time better than now to make some lifestyle changes that will get you the 7 or more hours you need. Small changes to your nighttime routine can result in a huge health benefit. These include the following:
1. Establish a realistic bedtime and stick to it every night, even on the weekends. If your cycle is consistent and you wake up and go to bed around the same time every day, your sleep quality will be better for it. Fluctuating bedtime and wake times can throw your sleep cycles into a tizzy. Maintaining consistency is vital to keeping the hormones that regulate sleep cycles in check.
2. Maintain comfortable temperature settings and low light levels in your bedroom.
3. Consider limiting “screen time” in the hours prior to bedtime. Phone usage and television viewing can affect your body’s natural cues to prepare for sleep.
4. Abstain from caffeine, alcohol, and large meals in the hours leading up to bedtime.
5. Exercise during the day; this can help you wind down in the evening and prepare for sleep.
6. Monitor your diet, reducing heavy foods/meals to earlier in the day. An overload on your GI system requires energy to process which doesn’t lend itself to the type of sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed in the morning.
7. Naps are a great self-care activity, however, avoid taking long naps late in the afternoon. 15-20 minute early afternoon naps won’t affect your natural sleep rhythms but anything longer may throw off your sleep cycle.
How Chiropractic Care Can Help Patients with Getting More Restorative Sleep
Getting regular chiropractic adjustments directly optimizes your nervous system which then promotes higher-quality sleep. Our patients at Vaida continue to report they sleep better the night of their adjustment. Medical professionals also support this outcome.
The benefits of regular chiropractic care for patients with sleep issues include:
- Easing muscle tension that causes restlessness,
- Relaxing the body,
- Relieving pain and discomfort,
- Stimulating circulation and blood flow
- Improving central nervous system function.
So if you are struggling with establishing solid sleep patterns, schedule a visit with Dr. Lydia or Dr. Emily for chiropractic care which can assist you in increasing your amount of Zzzzs.