Learn about the importance of sleep, and how to sleep more soundly, with this blog post from InspireHealth.
We’re posting monthly blog posts from the integrative cancer care centre InspireHealth. This month we learn about the importance of sleep, especially when our bodies are healing.
Why do we need sleep?
Sleep is extremely important for many facets of our functioning. Recent research has revealed what many of us have always known: sleep facilitates the learning process, lessens anxiety, and reduces the risk of depression.
Sleep is even more important during the healing process. Physical healing is maximized during sleep, so adequate sleep promotes optimal healing. Research has shown that sleep interruption, especially working the graveyard shift, can increase the risk of developing cancer by up to 60 percent.
Melatonin and sleep
There are many ways to help create healthy, restful sleep, and almost all of them are very simple to do! One of the easiest ways to promote optimal sleeping is to turn off all bright lights about an hour before bedtime. There is evidence that light in the bedroom during sleep decreases melatonin production, an important hormone that supports optimal immune function.
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced at night by our pineal gland, a gland at the base of our brain. If we work night shifts (or if we go to bed late or sleep in a room that is not dark), our body’s melatonin production is reduced. This can negatively affect our immune system function.
In order to optimize melatonin production, InspireHealth advises that we turn off all the bright lights in the house by 9 pm (use dim lights if necessary) and to be in bed by 10 pm. From an integrative medicine perspective, an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours of sleep after midnight, because it’s thought that sleep before midnight optimizes melatonin production.
Extra tips to help set you up for sleeping success
- Exercise regularly (early in the day is best).
- Skip the daytime nap.
- Avoid caffeine.
- Go to bed by 10 pm.
- Avoid watching TV right before bed.
- Read something calm or peaceful to help you relax.
- Wear socks to bed if your feet get cold.
- Avoid drinking any fluids within 2 hours of going to bed.
- Avoid large meals within 3 hours of bedtime.
- Sleep in complete darkness or as close to it as possible.