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Monday, December 28, 2015

Sleep Strategy

Can't go to sleep?  Can't stay asleep?  Here is a strategy to get a better night sleep:

Part 1 During the Day

From Ch.3 of "Move Your DNA"
by Katy Bowman
A) Do more activity.  Use your body in any way you can and it doesn't need to be exercise.  Movement is key.  Any little thing helps; take the stairs, park further away, manually grind your coffee.  Also, sitting at the computer or in your car all day long, then spending an hour or two exercising - DOES NOT undo the effects of sitting all day.

B) Get into the Sun, often.  The sun is not our enemy, and the human race is designed to be in it.  Sunlight provides vitamin D and a lot more than that as well.  It's still just beyond science's grasp of understanding, but it is known that sunlight has other essential qualities to human health beyond Vit D.  And the more sunlight exposure during the day leads to better sleep.

C) Work with purpose.  When your emotions are satisfied with how you spent your time during the day, your mind will shut up better at night.  Enough said.

D) Oscillate between engagement and disengagement.  Your brain has a "high" and a "low" mode while awake and asleep.  High Awake is when you're alert and going - the way we spend nearly all our waking hours, driving, talking, reading, texting, etc...  Low Awake is day dreaming, chilled out, stillness,, but not bored (if you feel bored you're still in high mode).  High Asleep is when you're sleeping shallow, and possibly dreaming.  Low Asleep is deep sleep, even past the dreaming state, the time of most productive body/brain recovery.

So, here's the problem; your brain is made to make habits, and if you spend all your time in high mode when you're awake, your brain makes a habit of it all the time.  And it's much harder to fall asleep at night, stay asleep, nor get the best recovery from your sleep.

The answer is to give your brain more practice at switching.  A five minute moment, spread here and there through the day, when you are still and quiet.  Breathing slowly and deeply, will act like mini practice sessions for your brain on how to not stay stuck in high mode.  In essence creating a well used neural pathway to reach a state of disengagement, and not be habitually locked into engagement.\

An adjustment is soft and gentle
enough for people of all ages.
E) Try Chiropractic Care.  A chiropractic adjustment to the spine is gentle and often feels good.  It has many positive effects related to sleeping better.  Probably more than anything else the chiropractic adjustment helps a brain relax and overcome the habit of being over engaged (D).  And as mentioned above (A) your brain needs stimulation from activity and the effect a chiropractic adjustment has on the brain helps with that.  Lastly, people hurt less, usually a lot less, when getting chiropractic.  And not hurting certainly helps with sleep.  No surprise there.

Part 2 Pre-Bedtime 

A) No stimulates, sugar, caffeine - obviously.
B) No beverages at least one hour before sleep.  If you are woke during the night because you have to pee, this advice is particularly for you.  Give your kidney's enough time to filter it out so you have better chances of a less full bladder all night.
C) Turn off the electronics.  At least one hour before sleep for adults, two hours for kids, the visual stimulation has been shown to cause more delay in falling asleep, and more tossing and turning - a hint of less restful sleep.

Part 3 In Bed (no, this is not a fortune cookie)

A) Rub your eyes just like a child does.  When you put pressure on your eyes it will slow your heart rate and signal your nervous system to relax.  It's called the occulo-cardiac reflex and it's why children do it innately.

B) Progressively relax.  Bring your attention to your feet.  Notice them, and feel if your are holding them in any particular position.  Notice if you are using any muscle action in your shins and calves.  Keep doing this all the way up your body.  Anywhere where you notice your muscles are working, tune into the area and relax them, slowly melt into the bed.  This will also help if you're mind keeps going and going on tasks, or ruminates on worries.
This will give a useful place to put your minds attention, because sometimes it's far too difficult to think about nothing.

C)  A Dark Environment.  Your brain believes it's time to sleep when it's dark, time to wake when it's light.  TV and other electronic lights will disrupt your brain's patter of activity.  Blue light has the most disruptive effect, and that disruptive effect is worse on women.  In fact the chances of breast cancer increase for women sleeping with light pollution in their sleeping environment, blue light being the worst.  In my own experience with people, it's working at night and altering the natural human sleep cycle that is TERRIBLE on health.  It will slow someone's healing as much as anything else I've seen.

Power of Full Engagement Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz
Move your DNA by Katy Bowman
The Great Courses, Stress and your Body, by Robert Sapolsky PhD
Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor PhD
The Great Courses; Mysteries of Human Behavior by Mark Leary PhD
The Great Courses; How Colors affect you by Professor William Lidwell
Ultralongevity by Mark Liponis
Spark by John Raty MD
Mindfulness by Helen Langer PhD
Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi PhD

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