Sleep is a condition of body and mind that typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended.Sleep, quality sleep, not only has the ability to prolong your life and do amazing things like ward off disease but it also makes you look younger, gives you more energy as it serves as a source for energy conservation but it also serves to remove neurotoxins from the brain. That means it helps us formulate and store memories, it can prevent the onset of dementia and alzheimer’s disease. Sleep is the rock star pillar of the 3, the other 2 of course being nutrition and fitness.
|| Nishica Choudhary
Just like deep sleep, meditation also enables dissolution of memories. In fact, deep sleep and meditation have similar characteristics and it is quite possible that during meditation the flushing of toxins from the brain may also take place. A possible mechanism could be that since meditation results in the relaxation of brain, it may help in opening up the channels for flushing off the chemical debris.
Research shows that poor sleep has immediate negative effects on your hormones, exercise performance, and brain function. It can also cause weight gain and increase disease risk in both adults and children.
How lack of sleep produces ill health has remained a mystery. Now, slowly, scientific investigations are solving this puzzle.
One of the accepted theories so far has been that sleep helps in both consolidation and removal of memories. We perceive the world during the day through our senses and it results in memory formation both shallow and deep. Sleep, it seems, helps in consolidating and removing some of these memories to declutter the brain.
“Later in life there tends to be a decrease in the number of hours slept,” says Dr. Karen Carlson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of Women’s Health Associates at Massachusetts General Hospital. “There are also some changes in the way the body regulates circadian rhythms,” she adds. This internal clock helps your body respond to changes in light and dark. When it undergoes a shift with age, it can be harder to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.
Try these eight tips to help you get a better night’s sleep:
Exercise boosts the effect of natural sleep hormones such as melatonin, Dr. Carlson says. A study in the journal Sleep found that postmenopausal women who exercised for about three-and-a-half hours a week had an easier time falling asleep than women who exercised less often.
Eat—but not too much
Avoid eating a big meal within two to three hours of bedtime. If you’re hungry right before bed, eat a small healthy snack (such as an apple with a slice of cheese or a few whole-wheat crackers) to satisfy you until breakfast.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine
Chocolate contains caffeine, which is a stimulant. Surprisingly, alcohol has a similar effect. “People thinks it makes them a little sleepy, but it’s actually a stimulant and it disrupts sleep during the night,” Dr. Carlson says. Also stay away from anything acidic (such as citrus fruits and juices) or spicy, which can give you heartburn.
Daytime worries can bubble to the surface at night. “Stress is a stimulus. It activates the fight-or-flight hormones that work against sleep,” Dr. Carlson says. Give yourself time to wind down before bed. To relax, try deep breathing exercises. Inhale slowly and deeply, and then exhale.
Be smart about napping
While napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep, if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, napping can make things worse. Limit naps to 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon.
Improve your sleep environment
A peaceful bedtime routine sends a powerful signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and let go of the day’s stresses. Sometimes even small changes to your environment can make a big difference to your quality of sleep.
A good meditation practice to follow for quickly falling asleep is to close the eyes and focus attention onto the centre of forehead. This can be done just before going to sleep and also when one wakes up at night and has difficulty in falling asleep again. Studies world over have shown that long term practice of meditation helps in toning both the mind and body.
“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”