Adequate good quality sleep is essential for optimal health and presents the perfect opportunity for the body to repair itself from the rigours of our daily lives.
Conversely, depriving your body of good quality sleep can result in hormonal, metabolic and immune system imbalances, which in turn will affect your ability to maintain a healthy weight, to stabilise blood pressure, to keep your mind functioning well and to fight off disease. In short, the cumulative effects of a lack of sleep will shorten your life!
Recent studies have shown that over 40% of people suffer from insomnia or a difficulty in sleeping although, what many of us don’t realise is that we are often the architects of our own downfall.
For many thousands of years our ancestor’s activities were governed by the light and dark cycles of day and night but in today’s world we are bombarded by artificial light 24 hours a day and have become out of touch with our natural circadian rhythms.
Whenever light stimulates your eyes or skin, your brain assumes that morning has arrived and the stress hormone cortisol is released to make you alert and awake. This is why it is so important to sleep in total darkness and turn off all electrical devices, which also deliver electromagnetic stress to the body.
Cortisol levels naturally decline in the afternoon and this promotes the release of melatonin, which helps us to sleep. As darkness falls, various other growth and repair hormones are also released and our bodies are designed to do most of our physical repair between 10pm and 2am, when we are asleep. Therefore, going to bed after midnight means that you have already missed two hours of this cycle!
If you have difficulty getting to sleep I have found the following methods to be particularly useful:
Alternate Nostril Breathing:
This was mentioned in one of my previous posts and is an excellent exercise for calming the mind and relieving anxiety.
Use a finger to close one nostril. Take a slow relaxed breath in for 4 seconds and then out for 4 seconds through the open nostril. Alternate nostrils after each complete breath for a total of at least 3 minutes.
On the outside of the foot, immediately below the ankle bone is the “calm sleep” point which is on the bladder meridian and will relax the muscles of the lower back and legs.
On the inside of the foot, also immediately below the ankle bone is the “joyful sleep” point which is on the kidney meridian and will relax the mind from anxious thoughts.
If you use your index finger and thumb to press both points simultaneously for a couple of minutes on each foot, whilst taking long slow deep breaths you will be sleeping peacefully in no time at all!