HEALING YOUR BODY THROUGH SLEEP
“Sleep is closing your eyes and trusting you will heal” – Danielle Baron
What is it about society that teaches us sleeping long hours or napping during the day is somehow a bad thing? Why do people feel guilty about taking that little nap in the afternoon or having a lie in at the weekends, as if we are somehow not supposed to do it? Overtime, we have been made to believe that if we sleep too long or take multiple naps, we are lazy and living unproductive lives.
Nothing could be further from the truth, especially when you have a major or even a minor health issue to overcome. When your body needs to heal at a cellular level, rest is one of the best things you can give your body and nobody should ever be made to feel guilty about it. Instead, a person should have a relaxed attitude and a happy feeling that they are giving their body exactly what it needs, when it needs it, because when you are resting or in a deep sleep, your body is doing amazing things to heal you and most people don’t even realise it.
Although you may feel like your body is shutting down when you crawl into bed or lay down on the sofa for a nap, sleep is actually a time when your body gets busy restoring and repairing different functions. Sleep is also the prime time for your body to get its hormones back to a healthy level. It is not surprising therefore to understand that getting proper sleep following surgery or during the reversal stages of a disease, can be a very important part of the healing process.
Let’s take a look at four benefits of sleep and how getting as much sleep as possible can help during your recovery period from a hospital stay or a chronic illness;
Sleep Promotes Healing
When you close your eyes and fall asleep, your brain can attend to other issues within the body. If there are areas that need to heal, the brain can trigger the release of hormones that encourage tissue growth to repair blood vessels. This helps wounds to heal faster but also restores sore or damaged muscles. While you sleep, your body can make more white blood cells that can attack viruses and bacteria, which can hinder the healing process. Your immune system relies on sleep to be able to fight harmful substances. When you don't get enough sleep, your immune system is not able to properly protect the body from infection.
Sleep Gives The Body A Break
When you sleep, there are fewer demands made on your heart. Your blood pressure will drop, and your heart will be able to take a break. Sleep also causes the body to release hormones that can slow breathing, and relax other muscles in the body. This process can reduce inflammation and assist with healing.
Sleep Provides An Energy Boost
Recovery takes work and you need energy to work. When you sleep, the demand for calories is decreased so your body is able to replenish and be ready for action when you awake. Interestingly, when you sleep, the level of the hormones that make you feel hungry or full fluctuates. If you don't get enough sleep, your hunger hormone levels known as ghrelin go up and your full hormones or leptin go down. So poor sleep patterns can lead to overeating and eventual obesity. It is best to let your body keep everything in proper alignment with a good night's rest and if you need an extra nap during the day, go ahead and take it.
Sleep Helps With A Positive Attitude
When you are awake, there are many demands on your body and your brain, especially through periods of high stress or inflammation. These demands decrease dramatically when you go to sleep. Your body and mind can focus on restorative tasks and get a break. When you awake after a good night's sleep or nap, hormone levels, energy levels and stress levels have all been adjusted for a more positive start or continuation of the day. Depression can slow the recovery process and is more common in people who sleep less than seven hours a night. During sleep, the body is refreshed and more prepared to face the challenges of a new day instead of feeling defeated and stressed. This positive mood can boost recovery outcomes. Trying starting off your day by saying “good morning world” or “thank you for my healing”, you will be surprised how good this can make you feel and how different your day can be.
The Search For A Good Night's Sleep or Afternoon Nap
There are many factors that go into falling and staying asleep. There are several environmental issues from the amount of light to the temperature of the room and even the EMF’s (electromagnetic frequencies) that surround you. There are also emotional barriers like pain, anxiety and stress. Other factors include comfort level, noise and life schedules. Unfortunately, many people either can’t sleep or don’t get enough sleep, which is where natural sleep aids come in. Let’s take a look at sleep aids that may help you;
1. Sleep-Promoting Foods
It’s a well-known fact that having a heavy meal just before bed can cause you to have a poor night of rest, but did you know that there are some foods that could help you sleep better? Probably the most commonly known characteristic that can help through food is tryptophan — this is an amino acid that can help the brain get into a relaxed state, similar to serotonin and melatonin. You can obtain tryptophan and serotonin from carbohydrates, particularly 100 percent whole grain oats, bread, brown rice, corn, quinoa or honey and some forms of protein, especially those that contain serotonin-producing tryptophan like turkey, nuts and seeds, help to promote restorative sleep. Even tryptophan-filled tart cherry juice, which also contains healing properties like antioxidants, could be a great option.
2. Calcium for Relaxation
Did you know that calcium has an effect on our sleep cycle? Calcium levels are at their highest during our deep rapid eye movement (REM) sleep periods. What this means is that if you never get to the REM sleep phase or if it’s limited, it could be related to a calcium deficiency. Researchers indicate that the calcium is important because it helps the cells in the brain use the tryptophan to create melatonin — a natural body-producing sleep aid. A glass of warm goat’s milk kefir could do the trick by providing calcium and magnesium, both of which work best when consumed together. Or you can simply take high-quality supplements.
3. Magnesium May Help You Get the Slumber You Need
Now let’s delve into more about magnesium and how it can help with your sleep state. If you have trouble sleeping, it could be due to a magnesium deficiency. Higher magnesium levels can help induce a deeper sleep, and this is especially true when taken together with calcium for better absorption. In addition to the goat’s milk kefir, foods like spinach, pumpkin seeds and even dark chocolate 70% and above can help since they’re loaded with magnesium.
Here are a few snacks to consume for getting a good night’s sleep:
- Half a banana with a few almonds
- Crackers with almond butter
- Gluten-free oatmeal with organic honey and dark cherries
- Small Ezekiel wrap with turkey and cranberries
- Small glass of warm goat’s milk kefir with turmeric and a dash of cinnamon
- Chamomile, passion flower and valerian tea
- Small glass of tart cherry juice
4. Essential Oils for Sleep
It’s no secret that essential oils are a natural method for just about anything you can think of, and sleep is no different. Prescription medications can cause numerous side effects and make you feel jet-lagged upon waking, among other negative side effects. Essential oils, on the other hand, don’t cause these adverse reactions. Bergamot oil and Lavender oil, in addition to sandalwood, Frankincense and mandarin, combined together create a useful sleep-inducing blend.
5. Passion Flower for Calming and Restful Sleep
Passion flower can provide the calming effect needed to help stop that vicious circle of thought. Clinical trials have shown that passion flower can reduce anxiety as effectively as the prescribed drug known as benzodiazepine oxazepam. A four-week, double-blind study of patients with generalised anxiety disorder compared passion flower to the common anti-anxiety drug. While the oxazepam worked a little faster, both were the same in terms of effectiveness — however, the passion flower did not cause problems with job performance, such drowsiness while on the job, unlike the oxazepam. This shows that passion flower is one of the most powerful anti-anxiety natural sleep aids that doesn’t cause lingering tiredness the next day.
6. Valerian Root To Induce Sleep
Valerian root is a plant with roots that contain many healing properties, in particular for a relaxation and sedative effects. It’s often found in combination with chamomile in a tea. This helps calm the nerve cells in the brain, resulting in a calming effect, by blocking brain signals that cause anxiety and that ongoing trickle effect that can come from it. If you’re not fond of the tea, you can go with a capsule form that can be found at your local health food store.
7. St. John’s Wort May Help Provide Sleep Through Less Depression
Depression is a common characteristic that can lead to lack of sleep. St. John’s Wort may be able to help, as the National Sleep Foundation reports that insomnia is common among those who are depressed and notes that people with insomnia have a much higher risk of becoming depressed. Therefore, by treating depression using St. John’s Wort, you may be able to find that restful sleep your body and mind longs for.
Sleep is a crucial part of our health and healing. Take it seriously and seek out the help of a functional medicine practitioner if you can’t get your sleep under control. Stay away from synthetics and stimulants and try these suggested natural sleep aids instead. Always make sure you start with small amounts of any new food, herb, supplement or essential oil, as different people have different reactions to certain foods. If you notice anything unusually, stop the treatment immediately. Also, if you have been on prescription medication for sleep or any other medication, please consult your doctor first.
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Remember…YOUR PATH TO HEALTH STARTS HERE…a small change today can mean a big impact tomorrow.
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The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Healthy Options Market. Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author, who retains copyright. They are solely intended to spark discussion and the thought process behind issues pertaining to general health, wellness and are for sharing knowledge and information on research only. They are not medical advice. Always seek the advice of a Professional Healthcare Provider when making any decisions regarding your health.