Is Sleep Important When You’re on a Healing Journey?

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The Importance of Sleep when You're on a Healing Journey

Most definitely. Since the body does a lot of important work while you sleep, it's vitally important to get enough sleep when you're on a healing journey.

I became interested in sleep at the young age of 16. Up to that point in my life, I'd lived with my family of origin and we slept fairly normally, as far as I could tell. We had a regular schedule for the weekdays and typically slept in on the weekends.

But then my life changed dramatically… basically my mother gave me away but for brevity let's just say I was placed with a foster family.

The foster mother had the strong belief that sleep was a major waste of time. I can't tell you how many times I heard “You're sleeping a third of your life away!

Up to that point in my life, I'd not thought much about sleep but it quickly became a source of contention. She regularly waxed nostalgic with stories of how in her teen years she went to school, then worked part-time after school, came home and cared for her bedridden parents, cooked dinner, cleaned the house and finally started on her homework around midnight. She believed that four hours of sleep was more than enough.

But I digress… is sleep important when you're on a healing journey?

Most definitely.

Giving Your Body the Chance to Recover

Have you ever heard of the term “convalesce”? Here's the meaning from Merriam-Webster:

convalesce: to recover health and strength gradually after sickness or weakness 

Decades ago people actually gave their bodies the chance to get better. They literally went to bed for days or weeks at a time and sometimes they weren't even sick! It was simply accepted that sleep and rest were vital requirements for recovery and good health.

What do we typically do in this day and age? Well, I know I've met my fair share of people who pride themselves on getting by on 5, 6 or even fewer hours of sleep each night. If they get sick, they pop a pill or drink some over-the-counter medication which masks symptoms and they keep going.

As a young person, I discovered that over-the-counter medications rarely worked for me. I often felt worse rather than feeling better. As a result, I avoided them, choosing to use more natural means of assisting my body in healing and sleep has always played a huge part.

Bedridden for One Month

One time I decided I had to keep going, and it resulted in my becoming sicker than I'd ever been in my entire life.

We were moving to a rural area, and it wasn't really an option (or so I thought) to stop everything and stay in bed and get better. I decided to take a cold and flu suppressant which suppressed my symptoms and allowed me to push myself past the point of exhaustion.

The end result was a very bad case of bronchitis (I'd never had a lung infection in my life) which progressed into pneumonia. I ended up having to stay home from work and was literally bedridden for an entire month.

We had managed to move one truckload of things to our new home and ended up staying at the old place three long weeks, mostly because I was so sick that I was terrified of being too far from an Urgent Care or hospital. This from someone who avoids doctors like the plague!

After I was finally able to stay in an upright position for more than a few minutes at a time, it took months for me fully recover my former energy levels. I continued having a hard time breathing and was eventually diagnosed with asthma and put on prescription medications for almost 10 years (I was able to get off these medications within a year of starting on GAPS).

Suffice it to say that I became even more convinced that getting sufficient rest and sleep plays a huge part in maintaining health.

What Happens When We Sleep?

The body goes through several phases while sleeping and is extremely busy in spite of sleep being considered “a waste of time”. Muscles are repaired, skin goes through intense repair and regeneration, memories are consolidated,  hormones are released which manage insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, levels of ghrelin and leptin (all which affect hunger and appetite, and in turn our ability to maintain or lose weight). Recent studies are showing that our immune system fights disease while we sleep and sleep deprivation inhibits that fight.

That's just a few things that our body does when we sleep.

How to Get Better Sleep?

If you are on a healing journey, or even just trying to stay in good health… let's say everyone at work is sick. Now's the time to get more and better sleep. Here are some of the things I do and recommend that you try.

Try to Stay on the Same Schedule

Establish a routine of going to bed and getting up and try to stick to it. I would suggest creating a bedtime routine that may last 1 to 2 hours and then allow yourself 9 hours to sleep, with the goal of sleeping a good solid 8 hours.

As an example, if you have to be at work at 9 am and it takes 15 minutes to get to work and an hour to get ready, that means you need to get up 1 hour and 15 minutes before due at work, so 7:45 at the very latest. It is probably a good idea to give yourself half an hour to get to work, so that would mean waking up by 7:30. Plan to start your 1-hour bedtime routine by 9:30 pm and get into bed by 10:30 pm.

7:30 Wakeup, eat breakfast, make lunch and get ready for work

8:30 Leave for Work

9:30 pm Begin bedtime routine

10:30 pm Get into bed

11:00 Lights out

I know it's sometimes difficult, but nothing will screw up your sleeping routine faster than staying out way past your bedtime. This becomes even more important if you are on a journey to better health. Try not to let anything or anyone get in the way of your regular bedtime.

Your bedtime routine might look something like this:

9:30 Turn on healing music. Brush and floss teeth.

9:35 Pick out clothes you'll wear to bed and tomorrow. Start water in the tub.

9:40 Turn on the salt lamp in the bedroom and turn down the covers.

9:42 Put Epsom salts into tub, undress and get in. Light candles, if desired. Continue listening to healing music.

10:00 Get out of tub, dress. Make sure doors are locked and windows are closed (or open if you live in an area where it's safe and you want to let cool air in the house while you sleep)

10:05 Sit at the table and work on your latest Zentangle Art creation, or snuggle up in your favorite chair and read a real book.

10:30 Get into bed. Continue reading or spend time with your sweetie.

11:00 Lights out.

Reduce Lighting in Preparation for Sleep

Have you ever noticed when camping you start feeling sleepy much sooner than your normal bedtime? Especially when you are in a quiet dark forest with a campfire. The darkness tells your body it's time to go to sleep.

Start your evening bedtime routine by lowering the lights in your bedroom. I love using my salt lamp, it reminds me of campfire light and really helps me to start feeling sleepy.

Limit “Screen” Time or use a Blue Light Filter

I dearly love to watch television in bed, sometimes Netflix on my Kindle Fire or phone. But it's really not a good practice. If you must, use a blue light filter on your device to reduce the effect. Reading – a real book – is ideal for a bedtime routine.

Sleep in the Dark

It is important that we sleep in complete darkness as much as possible. You may want to use heavy curtains to block the light.

If you have any devices plugged in that light the room, unplug or cover the light. I find that the blue power button lights are especially disrupting and seem to light up the whole room.

If you are a woman of childbearing age, some sources sleeping by the light of the moon to improve fertility.

Comfortable Bed and Pillow

Right now I'm testing a new bed from Tomorrow Sleep, they claim to have the best hybrid mattress (click on that link and use coupon code GAPS150 to save $150 on any $500 purchase). It blew my mind how the mattress is vacuum-sealed for shipping.

Tomorrow Sleep Mattress

Use a Sleep Tracking App

I use a sleep tracking app called Sleepbot. It helps me to know where I'm at sleep-wise. I feel a lot better when I'm getting enough sleep but knowing my sleep debt helps me to know that I might be a little more sensitive about things than normal and to be extra nice to myself. I can also make a point to take a nap, or sleep in a little on the weekends.

Listen to a Bedtime Story

Sometimes I just can't get my brain to stop worrying and bringing up every little thing that's upset me throughout the day. When I can't fall asleep within a reasonable amount of time I enlist the help of Scooter to banish the “brain bots”.  Scooter is a great help when it comes to calming my brain. Check him out sometime when you can't sleep: Sleep With Me Podcast.

Listen to Healing Music

I have very recently started to listen to healing music. I purchased the CD which comes with a free MP3 version from Steve Halpern. I started out by listening in my car on the way to work because my job is very often so stressful. I feel like it is helping me to feel more relaxed.

My question for you: What do you think about sleep?

References:

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