There are a few basic needs of human and animal survival. We need water, food, oxygen and… sleep. Catching ZZZZs, whether you’re getting too much, or not enough is on the minds of many. Hectic schedules and long days can make it seem like sleep is not a priority, but if you want to feel better, relieve pain, lose weight and avoid illness, a healthy slumber plan should be a priority. Sleep doesn’t only make a difference in how you feel, your body functions and how you look. Overtime unhealthy sleep can negatively affect your overall health and well-being. The National Sleep Foundation calls missing out on sleep a “sleep debt”, meaning if you miss out on your nightly snooze you may owe your body some rest.
While we aren’t newborns, infants, toddlers or children (who need up to 17 hours of sleep!) we still need rest to function and remain healthy. Young adults and adults typically need about 7-9 hours each night and seniors over 65 need around 7-8. To find out how much sleep you require it’s helpful to pay close attention to how you feel upon waking. If you wake up feeling like a hungry zombie and need 5 cups of coffee to get through the day, it’s possible that you need to reevaluate at your sleep patterns. Pinpointing your body’s circadian rhythm or natural body clock can provide insight into how much time you need to spend under the covers.
Although sleep experts do provide recommendations it’s essential to do what feels best in your body. For instance, some people look at naps as a necessity while others would prefer a solid 7 hours and nothing more. You do you! While we are talking about individual needs, we do know there are some who rely on sleep aids such as melatonin or a prescription medication. While they may be effective they are not necessarily a long-term solution, just keep that in mind.
Before you start to get drowsy (hey, reading works for some people) let’s talk about ways to improve your sleep and assist you in feeling more rested, productive and happy.
The Sleep Foundation says there a few things you can do to improve your sleeping patterns and feel more rested. We like to call them ‘Sleep Life Hacks’ and they include:
- Exercising or participating in a cardiovascular workout each day.
- Ensuring your bed, mattress and pillows are comfy.
- Picking a sleep schedule (AKA Bedtime) and sticking to it… even on Saturdays 😉
- Making sure your room is a comfortable temperature, cooler is better.
- Minimizing sound and light that enters the room while you’re resting.
- Avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bedtime.
- Turning off electronics at least an hour before getting some shut-eye.
- Practicing a nighttime ritual that promotes relaxation.
Infrared and Sleep
Let’s face it, relaxation or the feeling of being relaxed does contribute to how easily and peacefully we sleep. If you’ve tried the techniques above, but still find yourself waking up after only a few hours or rest or fighting insomnia there may be another culprit. Cortisol. When you are stressed your body produces more cortisol, often called the “stress-hormone”. Because stress is common in our go-go-go society, it’s no wonder we humans have a hard time getting our minds and bodies to rest. How does infrared help? By dropping your cortisol levels quite drastically to lower the heart rate, reduce blood pressure and leave the user with a sense of well-being after just one session.
Infrared can do more to assist with sleep than simply normalize cortisol levels. In 2009 scientists treated 70 inpatients that were experiencing depression and insomnia or trouble sleeping. Prior to their infrared exposure, scientists measured the patient’s serum serotonin levels, a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain that influences our brain cells that are related to mood, sleep and behavior. The serum malondialdehyde (MDA), a naturally occurring organic compound that is a marker for oxidative stress was also measured. Over a four-week period, participants were exposed to infrared twice a week and it was found that the serotonin levels increased and MDA levels decreased after exposure. This allowed the patients to get better sleep and feel more rested, improving their original concerns.
Research and tips such as those listed above clearly point to the fact that relaxation and sleep are closely related. If you notice the second your head hits the pillow your mind is racing and you feel more awake than you did before you got in bed participating in weekly infrared sessions can make a huge difference. Most of us even get a little catnap in during the session! Either way, if you’re struggling with sleep, making some minor changes to your routine can improve your trips to dreamland.
- “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? – National Sleep Foundation”.Sleepfoundation.org. N.p., 2016. Web.
- “Sleep Tips: 7 Steps To Better Sleep – Mayo Clinic”. Mayoclinic.org. N.p., 2016. Web.
- Chang Y, et al. “The Effect On Serotonin And MDA Levels In Depressed Patients With Insomnia When Far-Infrared Rays Are Applied To Acupoints. – Pubmed – NCBI”.Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2016.