I enjoy a good night’s sleep, waking up refreshed and full of energy the next day. I usually have no problem sleeping because I try to exhaust myself during the day with activities and exercise. When people tell me that they can’t sleep at night, I ask them how they spent their day. What did they do the day before the night they couldn’t sleep? Some say they worried too much. Others say they have chronic pain, and they can’t be as active during the day as they want. I also hear about people eating too late, drinking caffeinated drinks too late and having a poor sleeping environment (TV in the bedroom, computer, and phone lights in their face too late, uncomfortable bed).
I recently had a wellness chat with some of my customers about why we need sleep to be happy. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep daily, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Getting enough sleep each night helps the body to repair and rejuvenate, improve the immune system, clear out neurotoxic waste, and secrete growth hormones for muscle growth and cell building. There are four stages of sleep. Stage one is drowsy; two is light sleep; three is deep sleep; and four is REM or rapid eye movement. When we’re drowsy, our eyes are closed but it’s easy to wake up. When we’re in light sleep, our heart rate and body temperature are decreasing. It’s harder to wake up when in a deep sleep, and this is when the body repairs and restores itself. And during REM sleep, we dream, our brain is more active organizing memories and our brain is improving its cognitive function and reaction time.
As the sun goes down, our body releases the hormone melatonin, which slows our body down and prepares us for sleep. By 9p, we’re in bed drowsy and falling into a light sleep. From 10p – 1a/2a, we’re in a deep sleep. From 2a -6a, we’re in REM sleep. During the day, our body releases the stress hormone, cortisol, which gives us the energy we need for our daily activities. Cortisol can also be released in the evening due to exercising too late, involved in a stressful situation, or working late. It’s important to reduce the stress hormone cortisol when the sun goes down so we can sleep well.
Try to determine in the evening if your mind is full or if you’re being mindful. Being mindful is a buzz word we hear more and more in society. Deep breathing and guided meditation can help improve mindfulness.
Try this guided meditation before sleeping to calm yourself: Take deep breaths and close your eyes. Imagine yourself in a place where you’re calm and peaceful. How do feel in this peaceful, calm place? Notice how your body and mind are feeling more calm, peaceful and focused.
You can also do this guided meditation during the day if you need to calm yourself. Give it a try! Here’s to your good health.
Jonathan Souder is the Fitness Director at Manor House, an Acts Retirement-Life Community in Seaford, Delaware. This column appeared in the February 27, 2020 edition of the Seaford Star.