NW Calgary Naturopath

The importance of adequate sleep

My blog today is going to be on the importance of adequate sleep, and this is something I address in the majority of the patients I see in my NW Calgary Naturopathic Medicine practice.

I consider optimal sleep to be an important pillar of health, meaning that it is important to overall health and vitality. While sleeping, your body is repairing and regenerating. Without optimal sleep, energy, mood, focus and concentration, and overall quality of life will be impacted over time.

I would say approximately 85% of new patients that I see in my clinic tell me they have difficulty sleeping: either difficulty falling asleep, or staying asleep, or waking rested. With our incredibly busy schedules and our minds occupied with an endless list of tasks to complete, prioritizing 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night takes a back seat, and even if we decide to go to bed early, things like an active mind, noise, pain, and/or hot flashes can keep us awake for hours.

As a Naturopathic Doctor, it is important to determine the root cause of poor sleep and address that.
As I said above, many things can affect sleep quality. Most people do well with 7 to 9 hours of sleep (with the exception of children, who of course need more hours). If you need more than 9 hours of sleep consistently to feel rested, then underlying causes must be investigated. Consistently getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night can also cause problems in the long run. In addition to number of hours of sleep, we also want to look at the quality of the sleep, and how deep you are sleeping.
What are some benefits of optimal sleep?
  • increased energy
  • improved mood
  • better focus and concentration
  • decreased weight gain
  • consumption of less calories, especially from sweet foods, high sugar and high fat foods
  • improved athletic performance and exercise recovery
  • stronger immune system
  • decreased risk of heart disease (including high blood pressure)

 

As you can see, optimal sleep has a significant impact on quality of life, both in the day to day but also in the long run.
There are so many ways to improve your sleep!
  • Try to stick to a sleep schedule. This means trying to fall asleep and wake up within 15 minutes of the same time every day (yes even on weekends!). Our bodies follow a circadian rhythm, and following this rhythm play a large role in cardiovascular health, weight gain/loss/maintenance, and overall health.
  • Exercise daily, but not too close to bedtime. Fresh air, sunlight, and physical exertion all play a role in quality of sleep.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages later in the day. Some people are ok to avoid these in the evening, some people are more sensitive and need to avoid them after 3 pm, even after 1 pm for some people. Listen to your body.
  • Avoid eating large meals close to bed time. If your digestive system has to process and digest food this will affect your quality of sleep
  • Avoid drinking large amounts of fluid before bed time to avoid waking to urinate. Be vigilant to drink your water during the day so you’re not playing “catch up” in the evening.
  • Manage your stress: exercise, meditation, yoga, social support….these are things that can calm your active mind so you can rest at night!
  • Journal before bed. This is a great tool for all the night time thinkers….its been shown that getting things out of your head and onto a piece of paper helps your brain process a little bit better so you can catch your zzzzzz’s.
  • Have a night time routine, such as dimming the lights, changing into your pajamas, brushing your teeth….winding down. This signals to your body that it’s time to slow down and prepare for bed.
  • Avoid stimulating activities such as watching the news, tv shows that make you alert, social media….you know your triggers!
  • Supplements: talk to me about these…there are so many herbs, supplements, minerals, etc that can help with sleep depending on what type of sleep issue you have.
  • Balance hormones: talk to me about this too….hormone testing could be an option if hormones could be playing a role in your sleep issues
  • Acupuncture is huge with sleep quality! The heart energetically is linked to sleep from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective and so I do lots of heart points, calming and grounding points, and points specific to sleep as well as any other causes of insomnia (hot flashes, active mind etc). You can read more about acupuncture here.
  • Eat a small protein and carb snack an hour before bed. This could be half an apple with some peanut butter, or a few almonds with a bit of cheese. If blood sugar fluctuations are waking you up (this doesn’t necessarily mean you wake up hungry) then a small bed time snack could regulate your blood sugar and help you sleep more deeply. If this tip helps you with sleep, you will also need to regulate your blood sugar during the day, so talk to me about this at your next visit.

 

As you can see, there are so many ways to optimize your sleep! Feel free to discuss any of these tips with me at your next visit if you have any questions. Improving your sleep improves one huge pillar of optimal health and gets you that much closer to a great quality of life and achieving all of your goals!

 

 

Dr. Ramona Charikar BScH, ND

Naturopathic Vitality Clinic

205-5403 Crowchild Trail NW

Calgary, AB

(403) 719-2594

 

 

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