The Healing Night: How sleep affects our bodies.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

I have BIG news. Yesterday, the play I am staring in opened and it was a big hit! Even though I am so happy that the show went well, I am really sleep deprived. Last week was tech week, which means you have ridiculously long rehearsal hours every single day. Now, I have a show every night which means NO SLEEP FOR ME.

Since sleep is on my brain, but seems to be quite unattainable I figured I should do a Wellness Wednesday about the importance of sleep and why it is so beneficial.

Thanks to my mom, Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, I have an arsenal amount of articles to pull from. I hope you enjoy this one about sleep.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Elizabeth Trattner
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Elizabeth Trattner

The Elusive Sandman

By: Dr. Elizabeth Trattner

One of the chronic problems that most plagues Americans and westerners in general is insomnia. Our society puts a premium on our waking hours and has the tendency to underestimate the importance of a full-night’s sleep. However, in today’s world, millions of people are besieged with insomnia and look for quick fixes instead of exploring the root causes of the problem.  Rather than embrace nighttime we tend to attach a negative stigma through numerous associated evils such as the boogey man, monsters under the bed, dragons, bad guys, scary noises, shadows and other things. We let our minds wander from one element of stress to another keeping us up for hours or perhaps an entire evening.  We are then forced to approach the new day without having benefitted from the regenerative powers that night time could bring.

Sleep hygiene is an afterthought to most people in the west. People stay up to all hours watching mindless television shows as a way of escape or to seek companionship while alone.  We allow TV to distract us from our families, our responsibilities and our emotional dilemmas.  Moreover, television, late night eating and keeping lights on at night, all contribute to restless and sleepless nights.

Not too long ago, there were no light bulbs and the end of the day signaled a time to begin winding down from a long hard day.  People usually ate their evening meals earlier, consistent with the setting sun. This could have been anytime from 4-8pm depending on the time of the year.  Following dinner there would be an hour or so of family time giving the body time to unwind and synch up with the body’s natural rhythm to prepare for sleep –  then off to bed permitting a full nights rest before rising with the sun.

Here are some suggestions for better sleep. Try eating your last meal at least three hours before going to bed.  If you are a hot excess type, you can cool your body down by avoiding hot and spicy food and drink.  Avoid alcohol, coffee, chocolate any other stimulants, especially late in the day.  Help circulate your body’s energy by working out or by gentle exercising.  Build your body’s nutritive aspect by eating marrow based soups and stews, dark pigmented vegetables and fruits.  Avoid overworking or over rumination as well.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine we teach our patients that it is imperative to get to sleep before 11:00 PM.  Any sleep before 11:00 PM counts for double the hours of sleep.  So, if you were to get to bed at 10:00 PM, the hour between 10:00 and 11:00 would actually count as 2 hours of sleep.  The energy of the liver and gall bladder picks up around 11:00 and if you’re note safely ensconced in restful sleep by then, you’re predisposed to experience poor sleep or insomnia until 3:00 AM.

An invaluable tool to help your brain unwind is meditation.  Meditation helps the body create a sense of calm.  Meditation can reduce stress, increase feelings of well-being, and improve overall health.  It is of specific use to help one increase alertness, relaxation and reflection even in “waking” states.  Meditation is best practiced during the day to help ease your sleep patterns at night.

Brain waves in meditation shift through various stages.  The most common brain waves in meditation are alpha waves.  These alpha brain waves in meditation basically promote changes in the autonomic nervous system that calm it.  Regular contemplative practice of this type reverses the roles of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.  This lowers blood pressure and heart rate and lowers the amount of stress hormones in the body, as well as calming the mind.  In experienced meditation practitioners it was particularly noted that gamma brain waves during meditation were especially high in the left prefrontal cortex of the brain.  This area is often associated with decreased anxiety and fear, positive emotions, and a decrease in depressive feelings or symptoms.  Theta brainwaves in meditation also invoke a deep sense of relaxation and also encourage creativity and make problem solving and memorization easier.  Finally, delta brain waves in meditation are the slowest of all. Everyone experiences delta waves in deep sleep, but delta brain waves in meditation are said to help experienced practitioners access the unconscious mind.


Here are a few suggestions for instituting better sleep hygiene practices.

  • Reduce nicotine, caffeine and alcohol use which can all interfere with sleep cycles.
  • Avoid rigorous exercise 3-5 hours prior to bedtime.
  • Avoid any heavy meals near bedtime.
  • Maintain a routine sleep and wake schedule.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
  • Position clock away from the bed; some clock watching is impossible.
  • Establish a sense of psychological safety with your surroundings.
  • Keep your bedroom free of television. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary.
  • If you must watch television, try watching it in the early evening. This goes the same for the computer.  Even a stimulating book can keep you up at night.

Practicing good sleep hygiene and keeping your body in sync with the rhythm of day and night  can help your body cope with the ravages of CSS and give it an opportunity to get stronger and heal.  By implementing just a few of the suggestions you should notice a great improvement in your sleep and how you function in the daylight hours.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Elizabeth Trattner
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Elizabeth Trattner


The Sleep Advisor, a program for insomnia:

Have a great night’s sleep everyone!

Char ❤


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