Of all the “miracle drugs” available to us, it’s amazing to see so many people missing out on the one that’s free to us all: sleep.
Doctors all over the world are searching for the causes of diseases. However, anything that deprives the body of what it needs or contributes to what it does not need will lead to disease. With all we prescribe, and all that patients do to treat themselves, we overlook the importance of sleep.
Do you know that when people are sleep-deprived they develop the same symptoms and pain patterns as patients with fibromyalgia? That’s because sleep is an essential process. Without it, we develop disease. Just a lack of sleep alone decreases nutrient absorption, alters hormone balance, confuses your thoughts, and increases tension in your muscles.
Even if you eat the healthiest foods available, workout at the gym daily, and use the best medications, you still age faster, increase your pain levels, gain weight, and increase your cancer risk when you fail to get the required amount of sleep.
Why do we tend to skimp on sleep? The number one reason my patients give me is time. “I don’t have enough time to get 8-9 hours of sleep a night.” Although they’re trying to increase productivity and fit more in, these patients dramatically reduce their productivity. It takes them twice as long to get things done. They also spend valuable time traveling to physical therapy or chiropractic appointments, and spend money on supplements and health foods trying to get more energy. These increased costs of self-care translate into less money in their pockets.
My first prescription to end pain, reverse depression/anxiety, and lose weight? Add more sleep! Just this one simple change can add years to your life, double your productivity, lift your mood (enhancing your success and relationships), increase your fitness, decrease your weight, and improve your overall quality of life. (Think of getting the effect of an hour-long workout at your gym just by lying in bed!)
So how do you carve out those extra hours?
The first thing is focusing on sleep quality.
Here are 5 strategies for making the change:
1. Go down at 9.
You probably think all sleep hours are equal. Not so. Any sleep you get before 10 p.m. has double the value for your body’s restorative process. That means for every one hour you go to bed before 10 p.m. it’s like sleeping in an extra two hours in the morning! This dramatically enhances your productivity level during the day, so you get twice as much done in half the time. (What would that be worth to you?!)
2. Turn off the tube.
The thoughts you have just before dozing off are food for your mind to churn over throughout the night. Do you watch violent TV, worry about your day, or chat online before tuning out? These all fire up your sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight response) and trigger hormones that make it difficult to sleep.
Instead, read an inspiring book in the hour before sleep to relax your body and enhance the quality of your thoughts and dreams.
3. Talk yourself to sleep.
Your own words are immediately accepted by your mind as true. Take advantage of this to benefit your health and sleep.
After my shifts at Grady Hospital (a busy trauma center in Atlanta’s inner city) I would stay up at night worrying about my patients, ordering chest x-rays and checking EKGs in my sleep. I learned to let my mind know I was done with work and turn it off so I could sleep calmly. I would exit the ER at night saying, “I’m finished and can let my patients go. There is nothing I need to do. Everything is taken care of for me and I can completely relax.” Once I started practicing this very short routine, I immediately slept in peace.
Choose affirmations that bring you peace, such as, “I am whole and complete. I rest deeply as my body restores itself. I wake up rested, energized, and excited about my day!”
If you have troubling thoughts before you lay down, write them down and get them out of your head! This act literally re-patterns your brain activity so your mind lets those thoughts go. If there are things you need to do or take care of, write those down, too! When you get it onto paper, it is out of your mind. Therefore, you will sleep in peace.
5. Reach out for support.
If you sleep poorly, understand the implications and take care of it now. Impaired sleep makes you age faster and develop diseases. Every month you let this go is like years of life you throw away. Find resources now to improve this vital process so your body rejuvenates, your mind functions smoothly, and you live a life of prosperity and health!