Fall is my very favorite season. Taking those brisk morning walks, enjoying the brilliant colors on the trees. Soon they will all be on the ground, giving it a covering of protection and nourishment for the coming growing season. The ground has been given a great task of bringing forth wholesome food and other foliage. If not cared for (which is our job) it will be void to do this great work. This is the Creator’s design. The leaves that fall and cover the ground are full of both the ability to insulate the ground from the brutal effects of winter and the vital nourishment to replenish the soil of needed minerals as well as the micro biotical world within the soil to feed the plants. It’s a cycle that works brilliantly!
So the gardener in me says; “gather those leaves and mulch everything, deep, deep, deep”. In the spring they will all be turned back into rich, nourishing soil and your gardens will be amazing. The world tells us to take them to the dump but that is not God’s economy. He gave us everything we need for a flourishing life and that includes an awesome way to feed ourselves both body and soul while we tend the earth. So how does this fit into an article about Sleep and Rest? Well, let’s see!
We too need to be nourished in order to do the work that is assigned us. It is no small feat to realize the need of rest and sleep, a chance to be replenished and restored to the state we perform best at. While we often think of food as our nourishment, this is a chance to look at the benefits from another sort of nourishment. Our culture is very impressed with those that push and push, those that never take the time to rest and obtain health building sleep. We are rewarded for this driving of ourselves, often time with great riches and fame but is that really satisfying and how long will it last before we have a total crash? I present to you that by taking in a good night’s sleep we will be much better suited for the abundant work the Lord has assigned to us. So let’s look at this a little deeper and see what you think.
So many of us remember well our mothers telling us that we needed our sleep so we could grow big and strong. This was no happenstance, the body does much of its growing and repair work while we are sleeping sound. Without the other demands placed upon the body and mind, we are free to do the work of sleep. Now if you knew you were at work while sleeping, would that make it easier to head to bed without guilt? What if you knew that just adding 1 to 2 hours to our sleep schedule could greatly increase our productivity and creativity, making us able to concentrate better and thus be much more successful in our awake hours? Many feel they are being lazy by taking in an eight hour nights worth of sleep but did you know it is easier to stay active the other sixteen hours of the day by giving into sleep?
While we sleep growth hormones secretions are heightened and this is important to even those of us who are no longer growing. Why? Well those hormones are the ones known as our ‘anti-aging’ hormones so now you can see why sleep is important – more sleep equals more anti-aging activity and more free-radical scavenging of our brains which also leads to younger, healthier and more active brains! These same growth hormones also stimulate tissue and liver regeneration. We will also see better normalization of blood sugar levels.
In the reverse, just one hour lost in our sleeping or low quality sleep can vastly impair our cognition and immune systems. Because unhealthy immune systems lead to more frequent illness you should be able to quickly see that neglecting the ‘indulgence’ of extra sleep is actually counterproductive. Autoimmune diseases are also increased as are their effects on our health. Heart and blood pressure issues are increased as are hormonal imbalances.
Some estimates as high as 50% of all people with sleep issues also have psychological factors at play. This can be like living on a non-stop merry-go-round, the more you lack sleep, the more your emotional/mental issues are increased and the more your emotional/mental factors increase the harder it is to obtain restful sleep! Many with rollercoaster emotional issues find a great improvement with some high quality sleep and those with moderate to severe depression are almost always seen to be sleep deprived. By making some serious changes in your life this merry-go-round can be halted and we shall soon explore some of those changes.
Weight gain is a common side effect of sleep deprivation! The natural process of muscle building and the breakdown and flushing of fat stores is heightened during our sound sleep hours. There are those that will tell you ‘sleep is a better workout then jogging’ and there is a healthy dose of truth in that. Hormonal balance is critical for our over all health, yet sleep deprivation can send our hormone levels into a crazy frenzy, leading to any number of disease/illness issues. In children with ADHD issues we often see an extreme level of hyperactivity with a lower level of sleep as any parent will testify to.
Let’s look at what a good night’s sleep is and then think a bit about how to obtain that quality sleep. After that we will take a peek into some other forms of rest and how they help us go forward.
Good quality sleep, by my own definition would be that which allows us to drift off into a deep slumber with ease and stay sleeping for a full night and finally waking up with equal ease, feeling fully refreshed and ready for our work. Now, how in the world can that happen? Well, as always, it is best to start at the beginning and work our way through. First things first!
Let’s look into our environmental issues first. Our bedrooms should be such as to allow for the most peaceful and restful place in our homes. So, obviously let’s make sure they are clean and uncluttered. When I say clean I mean free from dust, molds, spills, etc. Have you ever smelled dust, it stinks and that’s because it is in total, a lot of unhealthy components – so get rid of it! Mold and mildew are present in a surprising number of homes and often times cannot be seen or smelled but non-the-less are very dangerous. Keep your sleeping area in a tidy, clean state and you are well on your way to a peaceful night’s sleep. Clutter in your room and storage of non-essential bedroom items can make it hard to keep the room clean but more important is the chaos they create for us mentally and emotionally. When this happens we have a very hard time getting into the right frame for sound sleep. So clear out the room and create a restful, beautiful paradise to slumber in.
Next on the list is the removal of all chemical, plastic and otherwise toxic substances that may be hiding there. Air fresheners are at the top of the list. Cleaning items should be carefully selected or homemade to contain only health promoting ingredients. Include in this consideration your laundry cleaning agents. Be watching for some homemade recipes to appear here soon! If you burn candles in your room please make sure they are beeswax or other natural substances from a good supplier, or make your own, it’s easier than you think. Also consider your sleepwear. I am probable OSD about this but our sleepwear is ONLY organic, natural fiber clothing, never ever synthetic, your skin needs to breath! Keeping in mind that you spend about one third of your life in bed wearing those clothes, it only makes sense to select the most health promoting clothing you can find. And while we are at it, consider your bed sheets and blankets – we use the same rule here. I know that these items can cost a pretty penny but sometimes, they are an almost one time purchase. I purchased an organic mattress pad many years ago and honestly I still cannot see any wear on it. This step is especially important if you have a conventional mattress as they are full of chemicals you don’t want to be breathing. I still do not have enough pennies saved for an organic mattress (it is on my wish list) so I pile a thick feather bed and several nice wool blankets between the mattress and the pad to buffer the effects of a poor mattress and say my prayers each night.
What’s next on the environment list? Those electronics, they must go! Unplug and remove every single thing you can, they don’t belong in your health picture. If they cannot be removed then make sure they are not just turned off but unplugged during your sleep hours. Also make sure your room is a comfortable temperature, cooler rather than too warm. Add extra coverings before you turn up the heat. Make sure you have a plentiful supply of fresh air to the room. A perfectly dark room is the best as any light is registered by our brains and can keep deep sleep away. There are those that say it is very healthy to sleep in the natural light of the moon and stars with their monthly cycles of ebb and flow. This would be a wonderful truth if you had a way to block out all other light sources but few of us live in a place without street lights or cars, neighbor’s homes, etc. So the next best thing is to make your room dark to keep the damaging light sources from entering. And it should go without saying that absolute quiet is also best!
So here are some foundational issues for a great night’s sleep. Next article we will be looking at some herbs that may prove very helpful in our efforts to get a good night’s sleep, until then – sleep tight!