13 Nov Are you Sleeping Well?
Sleep, so elusive for some, and a luxury for others. Getting enough sleep is crucial for the overall functioning of our body and mind. It is as important to our health as diet, nutrition and exercise. Without it, or the continuous lack of it, it has consequences associated with a host of negative health outcomes, not to mention a shortened lifespan. But have no fear, because, in this month’s blog, we are all about helping you build a better sleep regime and get that much-needed restful slumber.
Well, Giovanna, it’s no surprise to learn that getting the right amount of hours of shut-eye each night is vital for our physical and mental health. What is disturbing is that most of us are not sleeping great, and who would be as we live through these stressful times. Feeling tired all the time has become the new normal. Stress and anxieties are definite obstacles to sleep. Experts have been preaching that we need to aim for at least seven to eight hours of sleep, but what does that really do for you?
GD: Forgive me, Wendy, as I cover up my yawn, not at you, but at the truth, which is yes -we are all exhausted! And dealing with everyday challenges certainly makes sleeping through the night an almost impossible feat to master. But we have tools and proven methods that can go a long way to help us conquer this growing insomnia epidemic! As you mentioned, the inevitable health implications of insomnia and chronic sleep deprivation are extremely vast. When we catch the right amount of quality sleep, we are improving our attention and focus. Sleep regulates our mood, improves memory, and helps our body maintain weight and energy levels, and regulates many vital functions.
Giovanna, what exactly is insomnia and does it affect women more than men?
GD: Well, the short answer is that “insomnia” is best described as difficulty going to sleep, falling, or staying asleep, or a sensation of unrefreshing sleep, and as we noted, it is a growing common problem and yes even more so for women.
Why is that?
GD: Something we know all too well about – women are more likely to have bouts of insomnia and sleep issues because women experience unique hormonal changes that can cause insomnia-related symptoms. Women go through various life cycles that can disrupt their hormones. The major culprits are the rise and fall of hormonal and estrogen levels that occur during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and in older women perimenopause and menopause when hot flashes and night sweats can disturb sleep. There are also some additional health problems that can contribute to insomnia, which are found to be more common in women than in men, and these include depression and anxiety. Not getting enough sleep may make mental health conditions worse. Overall, when looking at insomnia, it’s a little like the chicken or egg dilemma. Is it the physical and mental health issues causing insomnia, or does insomnia lead to these negative conditions? Several factors are at play here, which may lead to sleep deprivation and alterations in sleep patterns, and a reduction in melatonin production, leading to insomnia.
This brings us to what is melatonin and the pineal gland and what role does it play in our sleep?
GD: The pineal gland is a small gland in the brain. It is part of the endocrine system and it plays an important role in regulating hormones and almost every function in your body, including sleep. The pineal gland secretes the hormone melatonin, and it is this hormone that helps regulate sleeping patterns. Melatonin’s job is to control the circadian rhythms, to either wake or keep you asleep.
What is amazing is that some studies have found that reflexology can have measurable benefits for sleep. Could you expand on this?
GD: Absolutely! As we know, built-up tension in our body could contribute to sleeping problems and, with reflexology, the goal is to help relax the body and mind, ease anxiety, stress and reduce pain. When we put all those objectives together and demonstrate this in our foot routine practice, combined with the deep relaxation already achieved by reflexology, the result is that it can have a direct impact on improving sleep.
In reflexology, certain parts of the feet are known as reflex points, and a few of these correspond to sleep. By stimulating them with reflexology, we are sending a signal to those inner organs and glands. Which reflex points and areas would you pay some extra attention to for improving sleep?
GD: After we have worked the entire body through the feet, I would go back and work the Big Toe, which contains a few significant reflex points. All the toes, which represent the head/brain, would be stimulated. Working these points will help calm the mind and applying pressure on the Pineal Gland will stimulate melatonin production. We work the Lung reflex point to encourage deeper breathing and further relaxation. The Diaphragm helps to release tension held in the whole body. And finally, the Solar Plexus point, with the deep breaths we do in our foot routine, also facilitates settling the mind and body with a sense of calm.
And again, to experience the full benefit, it’s best to seek a registered practitioner and experience a complete reflexology session. Do you have any advice or sleep hygiene practices we can try outside of reflexology?
GD: Of course, we are fortunate to have many options for improving sleep/insomnia, but the simplest advice is to make your bedroom a paradise mecca! Treat yourself to the best sheets, pillowcases, a good mattress, pillows and curtains or blinds that block out the light. Ensure that your bedroom is the right environment for you. A cool, dark, and quiet room is ideal. A messy or overly cluttered room, to me, makes me anxious, so I surround myself with soft neutral colour and soothing patterns. You need to feel good when you go into your bedroom, and not feel like running out! Some people swear by having a lavender infuser that you can spray on your pillows; experiment and try what works for you. But more than decor, you need to keep a regular bedtime, and do all the other things we know are beneficial to maintaining good health; – eating well, avoiding foods and beverages that can hinder sleep, getting some exercise, walking is great, and whatever you do, avoid taking your electronics in bed with you.
Those are all amazing tips, Giovanna! I like to take a warm bath with Epsom salts, just before I go to bed, and especially as the weather gets colder, I find it immediately eases away my tension, improves my mind frame and I can feel my muscles relax. My cherished mom used to swear by a warm glass of milk and a dollop of honey before going to bed. So, there’s only one thing left to say, “Sweet Dreams” and remember “A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” – Irish Proverb
GD: Sorry Wendy, did you say something? I must have dozed off!
Bruuce HarrisPosted at 19:56h, 13 November
And another great article ladies. Good Work!