Sleep is one of the most important things in our life that can be easily overlooked. A lack of sleep can damage the three fundamental pillars of our health: mental-well being, diet, and physical maintenance. If one of those pillars is damaged, the other three can easily fall apart. Let this guide to sleep help keep you from disrupting your fundamental pillars of health.
Sleep and The Balance Of Health
An overall view of your health can be visualized in three fundamental pillars. These are mental well-being, diet, and physical maintenance. Imagine a three-legged table. If any of these posts or “legs” is missing or shorted, the whole thing wobbled, putting additional stress on all the other pillars until everything works itself apart.
That said, you should devote attention to each of these pillars of health as equally as possible. Neglecting one area will create problems for the others and will cause serious health complications as time goes on in many ways. One of the few early warning signs of one or more pillars of health being compromised is sleep.
Why Sleep is Important
Your mind needs rest. Every day, for at least 7 to 9 hours, you need to get some sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to higher levels of stress, decreased mental performance, sluggish reflexes, lack of willpower, a depressed immune system, and reduced creativity – among countless other small disadvantages. In short, to be at your best and make the most of your potential, you need sleep.
How Unbalanced Health Can Disrupt Your Sleep
The top three reasons for broken sleep patterns are poor diet, lack of physical activity and hormone disruption, and stress. While these are still significant categories in and of themselves, they are manageable.
- Stress – Stress can put everything out of balance. Whether it’s from family or work, any pressure can make it harder to fall asleep. Further, not getting enough sleep can lead to a significant increase in stress levels, according to the APA.
- Poor Diet – If you’re not getting the right nutrients (like amino acids), it can be hard for your body to create the neurotransmitters is needs to signal your body when it’s time to go to sleep and when you need to stay asleep.
- Lack of Physical Activity and Hormone Disruption – To sleep better, you need to move more and wear yourself out. It’s not a foolproof strategy, but strong links have been found between a high level of physical activity and the best quality of sleep. If you aren’t getting enough physical activity, the chances are that your body isn’t getting the signals it needs to send out the right rest and wake hormones.
Why Pharmaceuticals are Often Not the Right Answer
Pills can mask symptoms of a more significant problem and make it harder for a health professional to find that cause. Further, consistent use of some sleep medications, including Ambien (or zolpidem) can result in dependency. Though it may be the only means they have to help, many doctors will prescribe Ambien or another sleep medication first, before trying an alternative therapy. Frequently this is because they believe that the health risks of not getting enough sleep outweigh any potential side-effects.
However, once you’ve begun taking a sleep medication regularly, it can be hard to stop even if you’ve made adjustments to get your health back in balance. The withdrawal symptoms from Ambien include insomnia, dizziness, headaches, and several more severe symptoms, depending on your dosage. Just trying to stop taking this medication can reverse months of work in other areas of your life.
How to Sleep Better and Maintain a Strong Balance of Health
The good news is that there are several natural methods of reclaiming your sleep cycle before you try medications and none of them have side effects or withdrawal symptoms. No matter which type of sleep disorder you have, or what it causes is, there are strategies you can try. There is no specific order to use, just pick an approach and try it for a few days. If it works, great. If not, try another. There is no one size fits all. The following are six strategies you can implement immediately:
- For an Overactive Mind – Journaling helps you get your thoughts out on paper, in a safe place, so your mind feels comfortable letting them go. By writing down your goals, to-dos, ideas, and worries, you can think that you have taken the first steps to managing them. You might even realize that some of the things that seemed insurmountable in your mind aren’t that big a deal once you work them out on paper.
- If You Can’t Stay Asleep – Don’t force yourself to stay in bed. Get up and walk around. Stretch, follow a yoga routine, make some herbal tea, knit, practice self-massage. Whatever you need to do, get some light activity in and keep warm but try to stay away from electronics and screens. Once you feel sleepy again, head back to bed.
- Supplementation – Light mineral and amino acid supplements may help you stay asleep and can’t cause harm when taken as directed. Supplying your body with what it needs to do what it should naturally is often a better strategy than trying to force yourself into sleep mode, even if it takes a little longer.
- Wear Yourself Out – As mentioned above, up your physical activity. The harder you work, the more natural sleep should come. Not only that, but you may find it helps build up a few other pillars of health as well.
- Be Bored – The power of boredom is frequently overlooked. While you may have insomnia because you’re focused on stimulating topics, you may find that you can hardly stay awake once your focus has shifted to something more mundane and boring.
- Stick to Your Routine – Having a consistent before-bed routine can help signal to your brain that you’ll be going to sleep soon. Since it takes as long as an hour for your mind to start sending out sleep signals, take as long as you need. The more relaxing activities you can fit in, the better.
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