Ollis Chiropractic - Louisville

Sleep: Importance, Benefits, and how to do it 

Quality sleep is vitally important to our health.  It ought to be viewed as one of the “health basics,” such as consistent physical activity or proper nutrition.  Quality sleep has been associated with many benefits:  Improved immunity, improved cognition and memory, and even protection from diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.  Unfortunately, many people don’t get adequate sleep, or their sleep quality is poor.  Our culture is full of endless late-night entertainment and a 24/7 corporate mentality that inevitably undervalues sleep for the sake of continued production.  Sleep is often viewed as an inconvenient state that you must enter into when your willpower is lost and you can’t work any harder or longer or have any more fun.  But, sleep is far too crucial for our well-being to be viewed this way.  Let’s look at some benefits of sleep, some negatives of poor sleep habits, and some practical ways you can improve your sleep tonight.

Sleep Phases

Sleep comes in two main phases:  Non-rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.  NREM sleep comes first.  During the end part of this phase, you experience deep sleep.  While in NREM sleep, your body builds bone and muscle, repairs tissues, and enhances your immune system.  Approximately 90 minutes after you fall asleep, you transition from NREM sleep to REM sleep.  The first period of REM sleep lasts approximately 10 minutes, but each REM cycle gets longer throughout the night.  Interestingly, during REM sleep your brain activity increases, which means this is probably when you are experiencing dreams.  

Benefits of Sleep

As stated above, sleep has been associated with a plethora of benefits.  Here are a few benefits of sleep that are noteworthy:

  • Enhanced immune function

  • Reduced inflammation

  • Ability to adapt to stress

  • Improved ability to think clearly throughout the day

  • Improved memory

  • Improved attention span

  • Emotional regulation

  • Protection from obesity

  • Protection from diabetes

  • Protection from cardiovascular disease

  • Protection from Alzheimer’s 

What Can Happen Physiologically When We Don’t Sleep Well

Below is a short list of some imbalances that occur with a lack of sleep:

  • Metabolically, you increase your resistance to insulin, which can result in weight gain

  • Reduced thyroid function up to 30%

  • Adrenal glands increase production of cortisol, a stress hormone associated with weight gain

  • Decreased leptin, a hormone that suppresses feelings of hunger (on average, individuals that don’t get enough sleep consume ~380 more calories per day)

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

The general consensus is that we need approximately 7 to 7 ½ hours of sleep.  Sleeping 6 hours or less is considered short sleep and ought to be avoided.  Long sleep is considered 9 hours or more and should be avoided as well.  Both short and long sleep on a consistent basis is associated with increased rates in mortality.  

Sleep Pattern

Sleep is best when it is continuous and not fragmented.  The best hours to sleep between are 10 pm and 6 am.  Since we need ideally 7 ½ hours of sleep, and our NREM and REM cycles last approximately 90 minutes, it is best to plan 7 ½ hours (five 1 ½ hour blocks of time) backward from the time you want to wake up.  For instance, if you want to wake up at 5 am, you should go to bed at 9:30 pm the night before.  Of course, time in bed doesn’t equal time sleeping.  You also want to factor in how long it takes you to fall asleep.  Avoid interrupting your NREM or REM cycles.  It has been suggested that this will contribute to grogginess and systemic inflammation during the day.  So, if you wake up within 90 minutes of your alarm and won’t be able to complete a 90 minute sleep cycle, it may be best to just get up and start your day.

Another important aspect of quality sleep is a routine.  Begin a bedtime routine, wind down, and always go to bed and wake up at the same time, even on the weekends.  Being as consistent as possible is key.  Even if you stay up later than you normally do, still wake up at the same time the next morning.

Some Tips for Better Sleep

We’ve already talked about how to pattern your sleep, which will help a lot.  Here’s a few additional tips that tend to be helpful:

  • Get adjusted on a regular basis

  • Exercise during the day

  • Nutritious diet

  • Eat dinner at least 3 hours before bed

  • Don’t snack late at night

  • Proper pillow

  • Reduce stress

  • Cool, dark room

  • Background noise (ex. Fan or noisemaker)

  • Air purifier 

  • Proper humidity in the room

  • Weighted blanket

  • Bedtime routine

  • Turn off WIFI to reduce EMF radiation while sleeping

For any questions you may have regarding your sleep and how it can be improved, please contact the Ollis Chiropractic team at (502) 412-8580 or [email protected].

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