When addressing and restoring health in a bioregulatory way, a person's sleep is always investigated. Sleep is an essential need for the body and mind to function optimally. The Mayo Clinic recommends that infants four months to 12 months require up to 16 hours daily, including naps. At one to two years, 11 to 14 hours are recommended. From 13 to 18 years old, 8 to 10 hours; and adults need 7 hours or more.
Nevertheless, at some point, sleep becomes a struggle for many people. A struggle to either fall asleep, stay asleep, or both. Disturbed sleep is the most common symptom in our center that accompanies almost all other complaints. Disturbed sleep is yet another sign of a disturbance in our natural regulation. The sufferer often habituates to it, claiming it is "normal." It may become routine, but it is not natural.
The first stage of sleep is associated with both Alpha and Theta brain waves, with proper sleep occurring when these brain waves become engaged. Non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM sleep), which is also known as “quiescent sleep,” occurs collectively during sleep stages 1-3. NREM is a transitional phase; these brain waves have a relatively low frequency of (8-13 Hz) and high amplitude electrical activity patterns that become synchronized. As one continues through stage 1, there is an increase in Theta wave activity. Theta is at an even lower frequency (4-7Hz). This pattern of brain wave activity resembles that of someone who is very relaxed yet awake. It is relatively easy to wake someone in stage 1, with many people reporting they were “not asleep.”
In stage 2 of sleep, the body becomes very relaxed. Theta waves now dominate the brain's activity with brief bursts of activity known as “sleep spindles.” A sleep spindle is a rapid burst of higher-frequency brain waves that may be important for learning and memory. (Fogel & Smith, 2011:Poe, Walsh, & Bjorness, 2010).
Stage 3 is deep or slow-wave sleep, because these stages are of even lower frequency (less than 3Hz). During this time, both heart respiration rates slow significantly. It is now much more difficult to awaken someone. Individuals who experience increased Alpha brain wave activity (more associated with wakefulness and transition into stage 1 sleep) during Stage 3 report that upon waking, they don't feel rested or refreshed regardless of how long they slept. (Taylor, McCrae, Kalsekar, Lichstein, 2008)
Stage 3 sleep involves a marked decrease in muscle tension and core body temperature. This stage is often referred to as “paradoxical sleep” because of the combination of high brain activity and lack of muscle tone. Stage 4 sleep or Rapid Eye Movements (R.E.M.) sleep see’s brain wave activity that is very similar to those observed when a person is awake. This sleep period is when dreaming occurs. The R.E.M. stage is associated with the paralysis of the muscle systems, excluding those that make circulation and respiration possible. No voluntary muscle movement occurs during R.E.M. sleep in an average individual.
Assisting people in restoring healthy sleep is essential to healing on a bio-regulatory level. Moving through sleep cycles appropriately, depending on age, energy requirements, and body repair must be part of any healing program. Clients are asked to establish a supportive sleep environment without electro-magnetic interference, such as computers, T.V., cell phones, and other ambient light sources that may be in the bedroom. Complete darkness is the goal within the bedroom.
Sound devices are helpful for some people who live in noisy cities or on busy roads, but as close to silence or the actual sounds of nature outside of your window are more conducive to restoring natural Sleep. Next, they can help stimulate a sleep response by catching the last few minutes of the sunset. Seeing the sun set helps put the body and mind into a more parasympathetic state, ready to sleep and heal. Eating should be avoided at least three hours before bed, if not longer. Eating food is for energy and digesting it takes energy, plus, insufficient digestion can lead to putrefaction/fermentation of the food, which can cause dysbiosis. Learning to sleep on an empty stomach benefits our health by resting the digestive tract and other physiological processes associated with nighttime.
Ensuring proper breathing can be a game changer when it comes to sleep! If the body cannot breathe freely, sleeplessness and sympathetic nervous system activation will result. Many sleep issues have their root in snoring and other apnea symptoms. A high dental pallet, a deviated septum, chronically swollen tonsils, and other structural issues, along with food sensitivities also be at play if sleep is a chronic problem. An excellent biological dentist can assist in restoring sleep by addressing such airway issues.
Find that "goldilocks time” of the night to go to bed- not too early and not too late. Remember, "early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." A good guide for a restful night's sleep is to retire before 11:00 PM and awake before eight AM. Following the sessional rising and setting of the sun, even for a short period, can help reset the sleep cycle. Observation of the full and new moon with exposure to full moon moonlight also helps reset the sleep cycle.
Lying awake in bed can also indicate excess energy of mind, body, or emotions. In today's world, there can be an excess of energy in one or more of these dimensions. Sleeping at night may be difficult if the body is sedentary and does not burn some energy during the day. Sleeping at night is effortless if the day is spent in hard physical labor. Many people, however, have sedentary jobs and spend much of the day indoors, compounding the effects of insufficient sun exposure, fresh air, and lack of movement. Purposefully walking, practicing yoga, or simply stretching before bedtime can benefit sleep.
Conversely, if the mind or emotions are overwhelmed with perceived stress, and there is a lack of time or space for mental relaxation and emotional processing, becoming, or staying parasympathetic long enough to move through stages 1-3 of sleep becomes arduous. One could be in for a long night.
Too many people say they want to turn off their brains or shut off their minds. The desire to turn off the mind is a symptom of being overwhelmed with situations or demands that have no solution. It is one thing for a person to overcome daily challenges before them, quite another to have challenges beyond one's control to do anything. The assault of information on the nervous system at breakneck speed can leave a person paralyzed. Avoid evening news programs (there is nothing one can do about what has happened worldwide.)
Avoid bill paying or verbal confrontations before bedtime and shut down using all electronics at least two hours before bed: no cellphone use, Wi-Fi, or computer exposure. Reading books (not on screens), playing board games, and working on puzzles engage the mind in ways that will balance mental energy. Handwriting letters that are never to be delivered, drawing, painting, or making music can help express build up emotional stress and make sleeping easier. Training in breathwork and simple meditation techniques are helpful for some, and others require natural remedies for some time. Ensuring hydration and taking a warm before bed can make a difference in stimulating the parasympathetic system.
Ultimately becoming more in tune with the body's requirements, avoiding the things that disturb a natural sleep cycle, and creating a conducive sleep environment can all assist in restoring natural health and healing sleep.
Sleep Hygiene Tips
The basic concept of sleep hygiene — that your environment and habits can be optimized for better sleep — applies to just about everyone, but what ideal sleep hygiene looks like can vary based on the person. Here are a few tips to help you practice good “sleep hygiene” so you can wind down both your body and mind:
Dim your bedroom lights or turn them off completely. Try to keep away from bright lights because they can hinder the production of melatonin, a hormone that the body creates to facilitate sleep.
Block out light - use heavy curtains or an eye mask to prevent light from interrupting your sleep.
Drown out noise -ear plugs can stop noise from keeping you awake, and if you don’t find them comfortable, you can try a white noise machine or even a fan to drown out bothersome sound.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
Don’t dine late - eating dinner late, especially if it’s a big, heavy, or spicy meal, can mean you’re still digesting when it’s time for bed. In general, any food or snacks before bed should be on the lighter side. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and drinking a lot of fluid for several hours before bedtime.
Be mindful shortly before bedtime; try a relaxation strategy that incorporates mindfulness, deep breathing, or meditation, all of which boost sleep time and quality.
Unplug from electronics - build in a 30–60-minute pre-bed buffer time that is device-free. The blue light emitted by digital devices—including TVs, phones, laptops, and tablets—can throw off your body’s internal clock, so avoid them before bedtime.
Turn off your home Wi-Fi.
Take a hot bath or shower to relax prior to bed. Going from warm water into a cooler bedroom will cause your body temperature to drop, naturally making you feel sleepy.
Exercise regularly. As exercise is a great stress reliever and has been shown to improve the quality of sleep, particularly for people with insomnia. But make sure your more intense workouts aren’t too close to bedtime. Try to get your workouts in at least three hours before you turn in.
Don’t overdo it with naps - naps can be a great way to regain energy during the day, but they can throw off sleep at night. To avoid this, try to keep naps relatively short and limited to the early afternoon.
Click here for a pdf on Sleep Hygiene Tips:
Fogel, Stuart M., and Carlyle T. Smith. "The function of the sleep spindle: a physiological index of intelligence and a mechanism for sleep-dependent memory consolidation." Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 35, no. 5 (2011): 1154-1165. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Carlyle-Smith/publication/49692606_The_function_of_the_sleep_spindle_A_physiological_index_of_intelligence_and_a_mechanism_for_sleep-dependent_memory_consolidation/links/5b60f245aca272a2d678ca1c/The-function-of-the-sleep-spindle-A-physiological-index-of-intelligence-and-a-mechanism-for-sleep-dependent-memory-consolidation.pdf
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Poe, Gina R., Christine M. Walsh, and Theresa E. Bjorness. "Both duration and timing of sleep are important to memory consolidation." Sleep 33, no. 10 (2010): 1277-1278. https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/33/10/1277/2454431
Stone, Kristen C., Daniel J. Taylor, Christina S. McCrae, Anupama Kalsekar, and Kenneth L. Lichstein. "Nonrestorative sleep." Sleep Medicine Reviews 12, no. 4 (2008): 275-288. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1087079207001505