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Pillow talk, overnight success, slumber party, rooster rants, or finding endarkenment — I couldn’t decide which title to use for this post. A couple of spicy ones also came to mind, but to spare myself a flood of weirdo spam comments, I decided to play it safe and go with dream on.

As in sleep.

Uninterrupted, consistent, rejuvenating, high-quality sleep — that’s my number one bedtime fantasy and it should be yours, too. Okay, so that’s not a very exciting fantasy, but it should at least be second on your list. Or in the top five.

In some ways, I wish I didn’t have to sleep at all as I find awake time much more fun. I don’t want to miss anything, but I know how important nighttime rejuvenation is to overall health, so I’m consistently working on ways to improve my sleep habits. I’m not the only one. According to the Centers for Disease Control, millions of Americans suffer from insomnia and various sleep disorders. A National Sleep Foundation survey reports that well over 50% of us complain of insomnia at least a few nights a week. More than 53 million prescriptions for sleep aids are filled annually. That’s a lot of sleeping pills! And a lot of people tossing and turning.

Here’s a run-down of why quality sleep is important and what you can do naturally to improve your odds of getting a good night’s worth.

Chronic lack of sleep causes the following
• elevated blood sugar levels
• boosts levels of the stress hormone cortisol
• blood pressure can become elevated
• increased cardiac risk
• weight gain (long story on that, worthy of its own post)
• thyroid function is interrupted
• immune system degeneration occurs
• increased toxic burden
• strength, vitality, balance, coordination and endurance are diminished
• memory, judgement and mood are affected; depression is more common
• lack of purpose

Good things that occur during sleep
• human growth hormone (good, good stuff) is released
• important brain chemicals are released
• regeneration of tissues occurs
• the brain has a chance to organize and archive memories (funky dreams?)
• replacement of aging cells
• energy needs fall, giving the body a chance to repair and restore function

Why we don’t sleep well
• bad nutrition habits (caffeine, alcohol, sugar, processed foods, tobacco)
• energy drinks can impact sleep 12 hours after you drink them
• stress (financial worries, toxic relationships, poor health or lifestyle habits)
• lack of exercise
• medication side effects
• not putting the time and effort into sleeping well

What we can do to sleep well and awaken refreshed
• find your own natural circadian rhythm and stick with the schedule
• try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day (allowing 8 hours for sleep)
• caffeine interrupts our natural sleep signals, avoid all caffeine 6-8 hours before bed
• exercise daily, giving yourself 4 to 5 hours between your workout and sleep
• yoga and meditation are wonderful sleep promoters
• alcohol can help you fall asleep, but it stimulates a wake-up call soon after
• clear your mind, don’t watch the news before bed
• create a sleep sanctuary in your bedroom; clean, comfortable, dark and cool *
• take a hot bath before bed
• avoid having your LED light face you, turn it away so you don’t see it
• eat a light, healthy meal at night; let your body focus on regeneration, not digestion
• drink plenty of water throughout the day, but slow down in late afternoon and evening
• tryptophan-containing foods can help induce sleep (turkey, cheese, milk, nuts, eggs)
• pillows *

* I’ll clean my messy room as soon as I publish this post. I promise. Since I’m advocating a clean and organized sleep sanctuary, I better pick up all the books, magazines and fuzzy socks off the floor. It’s a mess, I admit it.

* Oh my gosh, get yourself a couple of high-quality pillows and cuddly, soft pillow cases. There’s a reason little kids have their blankies and teddy bears. My version of that is my pillow. I’m a total nutbar when it comes to my pillow, I even travel with it. Seriously, I have issues.

Go forth and get some ZZzzzs!
Melissa

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15 Responses to “dream on”

  1. greedydave says:

    Melissa,

    Similarly, I think I resent sleep too, but then when I have to start work (very) early I find that the pressure of getting sufficient sleep actually keeps me awake. GRRR! Plus there’s a lot of things on your ‘Don’ts’ list that I’m quite guilty of. Me and sleep just aint never been friends but I look forward to putting your advice into action.

    GDave

  2. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    I’m another one who hangs on to the day until exhaustion finally wins and I drag myself off to sleep. Of course my cardboard cut out of Daniel Craig doesn’t help :)

    Wonder if GDave has a cardboard cut out of Fuschia? :)

    Cid

  3. Melissa says:

    GDave,

    I know, it (sleeping) seems like a total waste of time, but good things happen while we’re off in na-na land. Especially if we sleep soundly.

    Sweet dreams!

  4. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    Is it life-sized? The Daniel Graig cutout? Hmmm, I’m thinking we need to come up with someone who isn’t scowling. Maybe a good smile might send you off to sleep a little quicker. Let me think on that one.

    Gosh, now I have to figure out who this Fuschia is. If she’s going to be GDave’s wife, I suppose I better know who she is. She may be a regular feature on his blog soon.

    Night, night (and yes, my goal is to be asleep by 8:30 PM my time). Hopefully it will be dark by then.

    :-)

  5. I used to have a LOT of insomnia before I was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity. My doctor says it’s a common side effect of gluten issues because of the malabsorption of certain vitamins and minerals. Some of those symptoms/problems of not enough sleep could also be related to gluten issues and malabsorption, like depression another common gluten symptom. Even though I am obviously gluten free now and I rarely have insomnia any more, my calcium supplement (which also contains D, magnesium, zinc, and boron) definitely helps me sleep. I take it at bedtime per her directions even though traditional guidance is to take it with food. It’s working for the bone density issues too though, since I went from osteopenia to normal bone density. Anyway, I ran out of it a week ago and have been having trouble sleeping again. :-( Will get some tomorrow! But, one point I want to make is that BEFORE I went gluten free, I seemed to have no control over the amount of sleep I actually got. I purposely stayed up late because I knew if I went to bed, I wouldn’t make it through the whole night. BUT, you present some outstanding points here Melissa, of other valid causes of not being able to sleep and the health issues lack of sleep causes. Oh, one more thing, I’ve read that at the first point you feel like you need to go to sleep you should go ahead and retire for the night because the next point won’t come for hours if you fight it. I’ve found that to be true, too.

    Thanks for the excellent post, Melissa!

    Shirley

  6. Miles says:

    Melissa,
    I started drinking Valerian tea instead of alcohol, I actually felt more drowsy and ‘hungover’ than I did with the wine!
    A very interesting post.

    Miles

  7. I am guilty of sleep deprivation. My diet is balanced, I exercise regularly. All my healthy challenges come these days from not getting enough sleep. Great informative post and the reminder I needed.

  8. Melissa says:

    Miles,

    Valerian totally messes me up, that’s partly why I didn’t include “natural” remedies for sleep problems. I’m not a fan of any of those — I think you need to adjust your lifestyle behaviors rather than count on sleeping pills or supplements. I don’t like valerian either and I totally agree with your comment about feeling drowsy and “hungover” when you take it.

  9. Melissa says:

    Meghan,

    I’m with you on this. Lack of sleep is my downfall and something I work on all the time. It’s my weak link to good health as well. All the other stuff is fairly easy for me to keep up with (diet, exercise, stress reduction), but getting enough sleep isn’t. Yawn…

  10. CoconutGal says:

    I second what you and Meghan are saying!! I am so glad you posted this– we don’t only need reminders and info on good nutrition but of all things to keep our bodies healthy. I wish I was better at getting proper sleep as I know it’s soooo important for healing.
    Thanks for this post!
    Oh and please share your pillow recommendation? I have been searching for a comfy pillow since we were in a car accident and I cannot find anything decent (right now we are using old pillows from my parents house and they are terrible!)

  11. This is great Melissa, you hit all of the points and more! Now for me, I have not had a night’s sleep in over 1.5 yrs. My boys don’t sleep through the night yet – or if one does, the other wakes up. You can’t win!

    I should go to bed when they do, but then how would I ever accomplish anything?

    -Ali :)

  12. Great info! So many people underestimate the restorative powers of sleep. I love to go to bed early and wake early so I still feel like I have a long day ahead of me to enjoy.

  13. Kay says:

    Hi Melissa,

    LOVE the chicken photo! Now that mine are here, I’m giving myself a couple of weeks off from hard labor, just mowing and gardening.

    I was awake in the middle of the night a couple of times this week, worrying about the chickens. They’re fine. They adjust better than I do. Maybe we can all relax and enjoy our “new normal.”

    Seeing the chickens in your photo in high grass is funny now. My new chickens ate every blade of grass in their run in two days. The turken and one little Rhode Island Red follow me around like pups. They’re so cute! No eggs from the first flock since I moved in the second flock. Three eggs (including one GIANT beauty – a double yolker!) from the new girls. Time for us all to relax and adjust. I gave the girls some shade cover, and I’m heading to the pool.

  14. Melissa says:

    Hi all — I’ve gotten behind in my responses and have been out of town recently. Sorry about that.

    Coco — I have a hypo-allergenic “down alternative” pillow. Now I’m not sure where I got it. I don’t like big, fluffy pillows. I like those soft, lightly filled ones. Picky, picky.

    :-)

    Ali,

    I remember those days. Vaguely though, as I was always tired. You’re right, you can’t win, so you just muddle through it all. Yawning along the way. My heart goes out to you.

    Susan,

    Restorative is right! I’m with you on early to bed and early to rise.

    Kay,

    I hope you’re going to keep us up to date on what’s going on at Leaning Tree Farm. I need to go check things out. I’m always so impressed with what you’re doing.

    Sleep well everyone!
    Melissa

  15. Melissa says:

    Shirley,

    Good point about the “second wind” we can get at night. I’ve experienced that as well. This is a tough one for me, I say as I type this out at 4:45 AM. I like getting up REAL early, but have to “curb my enthusiasm” so to speak or I’d be getting up at 3 in the morning. I try very hard to NOT get up before 4 as that’s just plain weird. Oh well, we all have our eccentricities (a nice way to say weirdnesses). But as I’ve said, sleeping enough is a weakness I work on all the time.

    Melissa

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