Sleep is the opportunity for our body to recharge our batteries. We often take it for granted until we have difficulty falling asleep or have a few restless nights, and the days spent following those unfortunate experiences remind us how important restful sleep is!


All too often people resort to drugs to attempt to fall asleep and other drugs to keep them awake, but these frequently lead to dependencies or fail to provide the kind of restful, regenerative sleep that allows the body to restore itself and a kind of perpetual fogginess and lassitude pervades one’s life.


There are several things we can do that will help set the stage for a good night’s sleep. First, some things to avoid. Some people have difficulty with caffeine and caffeinated beverages, so it’s a good rule of thumb to avoid drinking coffee late in the day. Caffeine has an average half-life of between 5 and 6 hours, which means that after drinking a cup of coffee one-half of the caffeine has been metabolized (flushed out of your bloodstream) in 5 or 6 hours for an average person, and then another half in the next 5 or 6 hours, and so forth. So if you are very sensitive to caffeine, if may take 10 or more hours for the effects of that cup of coffee to wear off. If you are that person, you may have to stop drinking coffee by noon or early afternoon at the latest if you want a good night’s sleep!


Another thing we are beginning to understand fully is how important something as simple as turning out the light is. This sounds obvious, but we forget that our bodies have had thousands of years for this circadian rhythm to become part of our natural cycle, and only in the last couple of hundred years have we been able to disrupt this cycle with artificial lighting. Scientists are beginning to understand that hormones in the brain are tied much more closely to the cycles of day and night than we previously thought, and a simple thing like watching television or our electronic devices late into night can send signal to parts of our brain that would normally be preparing us for sleep, but instead are being told to stay alert. This isn’t to say that when the sun goes down we should be getting ready for bed, but there is evidence when it is time for bed we should turn off the TV and our electronic devices, because the wavelength of the light that’s given off by them is uniquely tuned to stimulated activity in our brains that is not suited for rest. Interestingly, reading a book tends to not have the same effect because of the different wavelength of light from reading lights.


Emerging research is showing that specific nutrients can stimulate centers in the brain by acting as precursors to hormones and other chemicals that relax and calm the mind, preparing the body for sleep after a busy day. These natural substances are not opiates nor do they cause chemical dependencies, but instead they help induce a relaxed state of mind that naturally helps you drift into sleep and awaken refreshed and ready for the day.

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