Sleep is essential for all animals. In a 1999 study, healthy rats treated well in every way, provided food and water but denied sleep, died within two weeks, though rats deprived of food actually lived longer.
Sleep is necessary for humans to regenerate cells, remove toxins from the body, build brain energy and consolidate memories from the day before. Without deep, restful sleep, the brain begins to wither and the body starts dying.
Sleep deprivation is such a serious risk that the Guinness Book of World Records will not sanction an attempt on a new record.
To achieve restful, regenerative sleep, a human adult requires a minimum of four full sleep cycles of roughly 90 minutes each, which is known as REM Sleep, a part of each sleep cycle. When sleep is interrupted mid-cycle, the result is grogginess and disorientation.
So how do we ensure that we achieve, deep, restful sleep that re-nourishes our brain and eliminate lethargy?
There are four interrelated components to good sleep:
- Sleep Hygiene – creating a welcoming environment in which to sleep and maintaining habit throughout the day and evening that prepare the mind for a peaceful night of sleep/
- Fulfilling emotional needs – removing stressors during the day that interfere with the ability to fall asleep
- Oral structural balancing – keeping the airway open to facilitate the flow of air into the trachea and down into the lungs. This is the primary inhibiter to restful sleep, affecting millions of people who don’t know it.
- Nutrition – eating real food, grown or raised rather than manufactured, and avoiding sleep-interfering foods before bedtime.
Sleep hygiene and emotional needs
To create an environment that facilitates good sleep, make sure you have a comfortable mattress, not so firm that it presses on bones or so soft that you sink into it. Establish a regular routine in which you go to bed each night and get up each morning around the same times all week.
Exercise at least 30 minutes three times each week, and then unwind for 30 minutes before going to sleep, by engaging in restful activities that don’t stimulate your eyes or brain. That means turning off the computer, phone and television.
Reduce outside stimulation by removing or unplugging as many electronic devices as possible, particularly your cell phone. Consider purchasing blue blocking glasses to wear in the evening.
Keeping the airway open
Airway impairment can be corrected by visiting a health care professional, like a dentist or ENT, who specializes in sleep disorders. The physician or dentist can diagnose how your airway narrows and suggest an appliance or CPAP machine to facilitate continuous breathing throughout the night.
Poor nutrition causes a host of hormone imbalances that interfere with sleep, and cause people to become overweight and obese. Excess fat and skin in the neck further narrow the airway. You already know how to improve nutrition – eat a balanced diet heavy on plants, grains and nuts, and light on processed food. Banish soda, donuts, fried foods and processed snacks.
Sleep is essential to life. Make sure you’re getting all the sleep – and the right kind of sleep – that you need.
There are also certain foods to avoid before going to bed, in addition to not eating too late at night.