Every minute of every day our body is breaking down and rebuilding. On this one fact, there is complete agreement across all scientific, medical and alternative practitioners. Sleep is where a significant portion of the rebuilding occurs. If the ingredients to build you back up are in short supply, you’re not going to feel as great as you did 7 years ago. As apparently, in 7 short years, we are a whole new person!
Please note I am exhibit #1. I have gone through hell and back in 15 months only to emerge a more vibrant, energetic, healthier version of me.
Somehow, somewhere, at some point in my life, I decided subconsciously that sleep was a waste of my time. Perhaps in undergrad when I worked hard to graduate Summa cum laude. Or during my Oracle years when I stayed up nights fixing demo code so I could win the consultant award again. Or when I was dating in grad school and “he” was more fun than sleep. Either way, the outcome was the same. I built up a sleep deficit to rival our national debt by the time I hit 40 years. You know what that does to a body living on sugar and no sun? It creates autoimmune.
The fundamental truth about our health is this: whatever crap we throw at our body, mind, and soul during the day must get exorcised at night.
If we don’t completely clean out and rebuild during the night, we pay the price like a backed up toilet the next day. Yes, that’s not a pretty image but its a pretty accurate analogy. Now imagine your toilet backs up a little each day and its a year later, what do you think will happen? Yes, everything smelly will overflow all over your beautiful tiled bathroom.
And that’s what we call symptoms.
To fix your backed up toilet you can close the bathroom door, ignore and keep using the toilet anyway, spray air fresheners, or call a plumber.
When our body backs up and we start to overflow we take painkillers, steroids, breath mints and call a doctor.
I am convinced from reading all the science as well as from my own experience that sleep is a foundational element to health. If sleep is erratic, minimal, interrupted then the body starts to break down. We see the results in terms of cravings, brain fog, lack of interest in exercising, depression, anxiety and finally the emergence of disease.
Now, why is sleep not strongly emphasized by medical doctors if it’s that important?
Because to become a doctor the first thing they sacrifice is sleep. There are more doctors with horror stories of getting through their residency using stimulants than you can imagine. Ask your doctor next time you go in, “Hey Doc how much sleep did you get in medical school or residency?” and you’ll hear some fascinating tales of survival.
So, I ask you this: if you are being reborn every minute of every day, wouldn’t you want to know how to be reborn better each time? Wouldn’t you be a little bit curious as to how our body dies and then regenerates? That became my big obsession after Valentine’s day in 2016. I felt my body was dying, given all the symptoms, but I couldn’t understand why and the conventional doctors had given up.
What I learned changed the fundamental structure of my day.
Sleep is when our body fights invaders, repairs, and rebuilds. Compromise that and you are neither fighting off nor rebuilding, you’re just dying. It appeared so basic and common sense yet no one had said to me in my entire 6 months of doctor visits, “you should sleep more, sleep better.”
I decided I would be in bed by 9:30 pm and fast asleep by 10 pm, as recommended by Ayurveda. It also meant dinner had to be finished by 6 pm and lunch by 1 pm in order to give my digestion the needed 4-hour break between meals.
That meant no TV after 8 pm, lights out at 9:30 pm even for my husband. For 6 months I also took a hot Epsom or dead sea salt bath each night after doing a 10-minute self-massage. Both of those were part of my new sleep routine or sleep hygiene. Having spent most of my sleep with terrible sleep habits (sleeping around 2 am and waking up at 7 am) my body was thoroughly confused at what to do with lights out at 9:30 pm. I had to cajole and caress it to sleep during the “middle of the day” for us historically.
The point I am trying to make is that when you prioritize sleep you actually end up restructuring your entire day for health. Sleeping better doesn’t just happen. You have to design it, then commit to it and finally live it. But the results are transformational. What else can you call a life without sickness and disease?
I can share with you thousands of studies on the link between sleep and autoimmune disease, sleep and obesity, sleep and depression, sleep and cancer …yet those are just studies and you don’t really care. You just want a formula to test out to reverse your symptoms, lose the weight and get back to living a full life of health and joy. So here are my top tips for prioritizing sleep for the first 90 days, after that, you can skip a few and just focus on one or two that help trigger your body into the sleep zone as I call it:
#1 Take a hot bath or shower each night after a short self-massage.
#2 Take magnesium supplement in some form (I use a cream) at 9 pm to get into a calmer more restful state
#3 Turn off cell phone, TV, social media, laptops and everything else digital by 8:30 pm
#4 Get at least 30 to 45 minutes of sun on the majority of your body during the day
#5 Write in your The Health Journal a word of gratitude and do breath work or listen to a nighttime sleep meditation starting at 9 pm
#6 Don’t touch caffeine (that includes chocolate and green tea) or sugar after 2 pm. You’ll be so ready for bed!
There are also some DON’TS: don’t get discouraged and jump on your cell or put on the TV if you are having a hard time sleeping. Hang in there, imagine sitting in a hammock on a beach on your favorite vacation….fantasize, dream, just please don’t make lists of any type. Stop thinking of tomorrow and the tasks and drama ahead, just visualize all things loving and joyful.
Over time, you’ll wake up looking and feeling younger, without the blaring of a digital alarm.
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