Too many of us take sleep for granted. It’s often the first thing to go when we are crunched for time and some people even see getting by on little sleep as a badge of honor. We are starting to wake up to the fact that sleep is absolutely critical to our health. In fact, scientists have documented that routinely getting less than 6 hours of sleep can increase your odds of dying prematurely by 12%, and your odds of having a heart attack by 200%! And those are just the health effects. If you have ever suffered insomnia, you know how terrible the effects can be on your mood, relationships, and your well-being.
Neuroscientist Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep, recently talked about the importance of sleep like this:
Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory, makes you more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?
10,000 years ago our hunter-gatherer ancestors went to sleep in their cool, dark caves not long after the sun went down and awoke when the sun came up. They were active all day, hunting, gathering, walking and playing with no screens, caffeine or alcohol to throw off their rhythm. That is how we humans were wired then and that is how we are wired now. Our body’s circadian rhythm is essentially a 24-hour internal clock that coincides with the sun’s schedule of day and night. Many of our modern advancements (electricity, tech gadgets, handy bottles of wine, cars and public transportation, city life, etc.) disrupt our natural circadian rhythm and we are left with sleepless nights.
Insomnia is generally defined as poor quality and quantity of sleep. It includes difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep all night or waking up way too early and not falling back to sleep. Many reach for sleeping pills as a quick fix, but they don’t work for everyone and they can come with unwanted side effects, so why not try a more natural approach first?
Here are a few keys to sleep success which are collectively referred to as “sleep hygiene”:
Consistent sleep-wake schedule
No screens (TV, phone, tablet, e-reader) an hour before bed
No caffeine after midafternoon
No alcohol within 3 hours of going to sleep
Be active during the day
Keep bedroom quiet, as dark as comfortable and temperature cool ~68
If you have good sleep hygiene, and are still having trouble with sleep, we have seen some exciting relief using cannabis as a remedy.
Sue Feldmeth, RN
Sue Feldmeth provides educational presentations to groups who want to learn more about the use of medical cannabis as well as one on one consultations and guidance for those who want to use cannabis to treat their particular condition. She is located in Pasadena, California and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.