The following is an excerpt from the new book by Suhas G. Kshirsagar BAMS, MD—Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life.
In sleep labs all over the world, researchers study the body’s response to rest. They look at the correlation between sleep and mood, weight management, and cognitive function. Groups of people may share similar sleep characteristics. Shift workers, for example, are known to suffer from a host of metabolic disorders, and are at higher risk for heart disease and depression.
Not Enough Sleep
And yet fewer than half of all adults get adequate sleep. Doctors write more than 40 million prescriptions for sleeping aids every year. So many people rely on these medications, no matter what the side effects.
Despite all of this trouble with sleep, very few people understand that sleep is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. If you aren’t sleeping well, no diet will make you thin, no exercise program will make you fit, and there’s almost no way to achieve calm in the face of ordinary stress.
The Sleep Reset
From a chronobiological perspective, sleep is the reset button for the brain and the body. The brain clears away the debris from the day’s activities, and many of the body’s systems repair and rebuild themselves while you rest. This is why a lack of sleep can cause so many health and mood problems. But sleep is also the time when the body restarts its daily circadian rhythm. Your body resets its clock during the night. When you stay up late, you set the clock to the wrong time and your body won’t crave sleep again for another 24 hours. Ideally, you should fall asleep by 10:30 p.m. If that sounds impossible, you may be failing to prepare for sleep.
Ayurveda recognizes that not everyone is exactly alike. People have different physical characteristics, thinking styles, and ways of experiencing the world. Your sleep habits reflect this. In order to find the best solution to get the rest your body needs, consider what type of sleeper you are.
Strong sleepers tend to fall asleep relatively easily but wake up sluggish. You need help getting going in the morning and getting enough physical movement in your daily life to stay alert during the day. You also need to avoid calories later in the day, because you can experience insomnia when you eat too late.
Variable sleepers sleep well until something goes. You tend to be organized and have a regular routine that helps you stay healthy until an emotional upset or work-related stress keeps you awake. You often work at night, because you are driven; you wait for exhaustion to take over. You often exercise too much or too late in the day, and the activity keeps you up when your body wants to be sleeping.
If you’re a light sleeper, your mind races all the time. You have a million ideas and tend to be creative but are also sensitive to anxiety. You struggle to fall asleep most nights and then wake frequently in the night. You need extra help setting a bedtime routine that relaxes your body and calms your mind. For you, it is important to eliminate all electronics in the evening (including TV). You may benefit from meditation and herbal remedies to promote sleep.
Sleep is part of your routine, but it’s easy for you to take it for granted. Be mindful of the type of sleep you get routinely, and follow these tips to make sure you’re getting the rest you need. Sleep tight!
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
Check out the latest book by Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life: How to Harness the Power of Clock Genes to Lose Weight, Optimize Your Workout, and Finally Get a Good Night’s Sleep. Buy the Book!