“Sleep is the best meditation”
We all rely on a good quality sleep, to keep functioning optimally. Sleep is the time to heal at night and helps us rejuvenate to a brand new day. It has been observed and proved scientifically, that people who sleep well have less risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and cancer.
Studies show that reading from a screen of your phone or iPad before going to bed makes it harder to fall asleep and also affects the quality of the sleep. Research done at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts shows that the alertness, the next day can be impacted by the use of laptop, smartphone and certain TV’s before bed. Using filter for blue light at night (can be adjusted in the setting of your device) can help with the sleep quality. Also the content of what we read and think at night impacts the sleep. As Walter Reisch has said “Tired minds don’t plan well. Sleep first, plan later”.
Number of hours of sleep we need to freshen up is controversial. It is the number of effective and good hours of sleep which is more important. Adults need anywhere from 6-8 hours of restful sleep to maintain their normal homeostasis. Taking power naps during the day, and catching up on sleep over the weekends, add to our ‘sleep bank’.
Melatonin is the hormone produced in the pineal gland which regulates sleep and wakefulness. It starts increasing in amount at sunset and peaks at night when we start feeling sleepy. It helps us fall asleep and to stay asleep. One way to increase the melatonin is to let our brain know that night is coming. Just this awareness with few mindful breaths in the evening has been shown to increase the melatonin level naturally. Sleep mediation or Yoga Nidra can be performed for 20-30 minutes in the evening. It has been scientifically shown that 20 minutes of sleep meditation gives more benefit to us than 1 hour of restful sleep. Try investing your time to learn some of these techniques. Melatonin also acts as a natural antioxidant and helps run the cleanse cycle in our body at night. Any new mutated cells which could possibly change to cancer years down the road, are cleansed and flushed out during restful sleep phase. If the pineal gland is calcified because of prolonged stress or long history of insomnia, over the counter Melatonin can be taken as a supplement. A very low dose, 3-4 hours before sleep, taken for a 2-4 week duration, can be used to help reset the sleep-wake cycle.
Sleep apnea can affect the overall quality of sleep. Being overweight, snoring, episodes of disrupted breathing while sleeping, daytime fatigue and daytime sleepiness can be some of the signs of sleep apnea. Lowering weight, reducing alcohol intake, sedative, and drug use at night will help improve the apneic disruptions during the sleep. A sleep study can be used to diagnose, and a CPAP machine can be used to control the sleep apnea medically.
In this day and age of performance driven success, your body, and your mind is keeping a log of your good-sleep time. A day, or two, a week or a month can be forgiven, but, in the long run, make sure to get some good restful zzzzz.