Struggling to Get a Good Nights Sleep? Chinese Medicine Can Help
SLEEP PART 1:
The Miracle Treatment For Health, Longevity & Performance
Over the average life span, you’ll spend an incredible 33 years in bed. 26 years of those you’ll be sleeping, while the other 7 will be spent just trying to fall asleep. We don’t spend as much time doing anything else and yet sleep is often the last thing we think about for improving our overall health. We’re more likely to tweak our diet (you’ll only spend about 4 years 6 months eating) or exercising more (typically you’ll only average 1 year 4 months of that), but when we get our sleep right, it can have one of the greatest impacts on our health and happiness than anything else.
In this 3 part sleep series we’ll explore some of the reasons why sleep is so important, how much we should be getting, some tips on how to improve your quality, insomnia and other sleep issues, and look at Chinese medicine for sleep.
Sleep, Health & Performance
Here’s just a few of the reasons why sleep is so important for us and why you should make it a priority to optimise your sleep.
1. Weight Issues
When the body is deprived of sleep you will naturally tend to consume more calories and crave energy rich sources of food (i.e. sweet and fatty). This, combined with the hormonal dysregulation of things like insulin and cortisol, is a key reason why some may find it so hard to lose weight, even when eating right and exercising.
2. Poor Productivity
Think you’re getting more done by burning the candle at both ends to cram more work into the day? Think again. Research shows that you’re actually less productive, effective, creative, social and charismatic when even just mildly sleep deprived. The more deprived you are, the better you think you’re managing, just like someone drunk thinking they’re a better driver. Infact, you’re just as cognitively impaired at 21 hours of wakefulness as someone who is legally drunk.
3. Impaired Athletic Performance & More Injuries
Sleep is actually when you get stronger and fitter. Gym and exercise are positive physical stressors to your body. With the right rest, the initial damage to your tissues caused by exercise trigger adaptations to make you stronger, faster and more resilient. Without the right sleep and recovery, exercise becomes a negative stressor on your body, increasing the likelihood of injury and burnout.
4. No Good For Health Or Longevity
Looking at large population data, short sleep duration was associated with higher rates of death for any reason. It has been linked to obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, depression, impaired immune function, increased pain, impaired performance, increased errors, and greater risk of accidents.
Alright, So How Much Sleep For Me?
Everyone will be a little different in how much sleep they need depending on what life stage you’re in, your activity level, your injuries or illnesses, your life stress, etc. A good guide is the one supplied by the National Sleep Foundation:
Newborns - 0-3 months
14 to 17 hours
Infants - 4-11 months
12 to 15 hours
Toddlers - 1-2 years
11 to 14 hours
Preschoolers - 3-5 years
10 to 13 hours
School-aged Children - 6-13 years
9 to 11 hours
Teenagers - 14-17 years
8 to 10 hours
Young Adults - 18-25 years
7 to 9 hours
Adults - 26-64 years
7 to 9 hours
Older Adults - ≥ 65 years
7 to 8 hours
For those who are under more stress in terms of life events, illness or injury, you may require slightly more sleep than the end range, but for most, a minimum of 7 is important to maintain for optimal health. Start to dip below that on a regular basis and there’s an increased risk of most major health issues.
It is important to remember that time in bed is not the same as time asleep. As seen at the start of this article, you’ll spend quite a bit of time just trying to fall asleep, so make sure your bedtime is longer by at least 30 minutes of your desired sleep time.
How To Tell If You’re Getting Enough Sleep
There are a few simple ways to tell if you’re getting enough sleep (either enough time asleep or enough quality sleep, or both):
Do you need an alarm to wake up? Would you sleep past it if you could?
Do you feel groggy and/or need caffeine to get you going in the morning?
Do you always sleep in on the weekends?
Do you get less than 7 hours per night more than once or twice per week?
If you answered yes to any or all of the above questions, your sleep could do with some improvement. It might be as simple as setting a regular bedtime to ensure you get your minimum dose of sleep, or it may require some work to overcome issues with insomnia or sleep quality difficulties.