The average person will spend about one-third of his or her life sleeping. Why do we need so much sleep? Basically, the quality and length of our sleeping hours affects the quality of our waking hours in a huge way. Without quality sleep, our bodies can’t heal, rest or repair; our energy can’t be replenished; and important hormones aren’t released.
What Happens While You Sleep?
Sleep is broken into four main stages, and something different happens with the body in each stage. The first stage of sleep happens as we fall asleep and transition from being awake to being asleep. We experience light sleep during this first stage, and our bodies become more relaxed. We spend most of our sleeping time in the second stage of sleep. In this stage, our heart rate and breathing become slower and more regular. Restorative sleep, when your body repairs and heals itself, happens in the third stage of sleep and is followed by REM sleep. “REM” stands for Rapid Eye Movement, and in this stage of sleep our brains are active (this is when dreaming happens). The REM stage of sleep happens about 90 minutes after we fall asleep and continues to occur about every 90 minutes thereafter, as our sleep “cycles.”
How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?
Sleep needs change with age. Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night to get all of the benefits a good night’s sleep has to offer. You’ll know you’ve gotten enough sleep if you wake up feeling alert and refreshed. If you need a nap to get through the day, you may need more nighttime sleep. Some people have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep. There can be a number of reasons for these kinds of sleep troubles, and a good place to start working on getting enough sleep is by practicing good sleep hygiene—and we are not talking about the “brushing your teeth before going to bed” kind of hygiene, though that’s not a bad idea!
Sleep hygiene is important to allow our bodies to relax and prepare for a good night’s sleep. A few recommendations for good sleep hygiene include avoiding caffeine, alcohol, disruptive foods (foods that may upset your digestion), nicotine or even bright lights within a few hours of going to bed. Another part of sleep hygiene is setting a regular bedtime and waking time, and sticking to those times even on weekends. Getting in a regular bedtime routine will help signal your body and brain that it is almost time to sleep. Also, make sure the room is cool and dark, without blue light from screens, such as TVs, cell phones and tablets. Studies have suggested that going to bed early (no later than 11 p.m.) improves your sleep quality.
There are a few things we can do during the day to help our sleep patterns at night as well. Regular exercise will help encourage regular sleep patterns. Seeing daylight during the day and darkness at night also helps regulate the sleep/wake cycle.
Chiropractic Care and Sleep Problems
Many patients who have received a chiropractic adjustment say they’ve experienced an immediate improvement in sleep. This may be for a number of reasons: The adjustment removed nerve irritation or pain that was causing poor sleep; the adjustment improved blood flow which improved sleep; and/or the adjustment created relaxation. No matter the reason, a chiropractic adjustment may help relieve some of your sleep problems.
Sleep is very important for functioning in everyday life. Without the quality or quantity of sleep we need, it is nearly impossible to achieve overall wellness, to allow the body to heal and repair, and to re-energize for tomorrow. Ask us for more suggestions to help get a better night’s rest.