The Importance Of Sleep

Next to exercise and water, sleep is the most important thing to personal health and well being.  We live in a society where we just don’t seem to have enough time to accomplish everything we want.  Instead of considering our family, our stress level, or our personal health, most of us skimp on the truly important activities that are necessary to keep us healthy and happy.  At the top of that list is getting enough sleep on a regular basis.  Even with the best laid plans, life can throw a wrench and mess them up but too often we find ourselves sacrificing sleep in order to catch up on the day’s busy work, or getting ready for the following one.  What makes it even harder is how difficult it is to unplug at night.  In a world full of technology, how many of us silence our phones, step away from the Internet, or wait to check our email?  Facebook, email, video games, or texting are all seductive mistresses and it can be even more difficult to wind down when work is available from your phone.

Busy tasks take up more of the day leaving less time for the essential which means we spend more time when we should be unwinding or sleeping “catching up”.

Nighttime and sleep time has turned into a slush fund for extra time, leaving us burning our candles at both ends.  If you stay up late to catch up, or enjoy the quiet and alone time, our best laid plans can still be mucked up.  Babies wake up.  Deadlines, bills, and life worries keep us up.  Life happens and there are consequences to all of this.  We end up struggling in the morning; oversleeping and consuming too much caffeine or sugar to jump start our day.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the sleep from sundown until midnight is considered the most restorative.  That is when the body does the majority of its repair.  Sleep after midnight, isn’t as important for the repair of cells and renewal of tissue.  Also, the Chinese believe that we should take our sleep cues from the sun.  We need more sleep going into the winter solstice and less sleep going into the summer solstice as the earth changes its ratios of yin and yang (light to night).

My husband enjoys telling me that he’ll “sleep when he’s dead,” but frequently will yawn his way through the morning.  We seem to forget that sleep is critical for good health, that our bodies are extremely active while we’re sleeping performing healing, repair, and renewing measures.  Here are a few that are especially important:

  • We recently wrote about how regular walking helps memory in aging adults, well sleep does too.  A full night sleep will increase your creative problem solving, as well as your memory.
  • Adequate sleep will help keep you from getting sick.  More sleep equals a stronger immune system.
  • Sleep triggers the release of human growth hormone, an essential component to cellular regeneration.
  • A good night sleep helps us respond to daily stress in a healthier way.
  • Adequate sleep helps with mood disorders
  • Sleep is very good for the skin.  Skin is controlled by the lung and the large intestine.  Chill out helps the circulation go to the gut which helps the digestion and indirectly the skin.

The bottom line is, get regular high quality, consistent sleep and you will feel better, be healthier and feel less stressed.  The first step to good sleep is to develop a relaxation routine to help get you in the right frame of mind.  Do practical things to help relaxation – walk after dinner, shower or take a bath to relax, light movement or stretching, listening to music.  Turn off all that extra technology at a specific time.  If your mind is engaged, your body will have a more difficult time relaxing.  Find a routine that works for you to unwind and stick to it.

If you need an herbal aid to sleep, Benedictine Healing Products has a number of tinctures that can help.  First, you need to consider what your trigger points are for sleep:

  • If you have trouble falling asleep, use our California Poppy tincture.  It is especially effective as a mild sedative and anti-spasmodic.  It does not contain opiates and can be administered to children.
  • Use Chill Out if your problem is due to any tension held specifically in the digestive tract (stomach).  This is a common issue, most people hold tension there.
  • Albizzia & Passion Flower will help lift your mood and relax you enough to go to sleep.  It can help with insomnia and restlessness.
  • Kava helps bring sleep.  Interestingly enough, Kava and St. John’s Wort are reciprocal.  If one tincture works for you the other most likely will not and vice versa.
  • Passion Flower is another excellent sleep aid.
  • For children, Calm for Kids is very effective.  It can be used to calm nervous tension, or relax your child enough to help them fall asleep.

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