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Posted on 04-05-2017

Sleep is a lot like kale. It’s good for you and you probably should eat it, but you just have better things to do. And honestly, you really just don’t want to. Sleep can seem like a burden when there are things to do, or even just random Wikipedia articles to read, but neglecting sleep has a bigger impact on health than we often give it credit for.    

Being sleep deprived does a lot more than make you groggy and irritable. When the body lacks sleep it alters the functioning of the brain, both temporarily and possibly permanently. Sleep deprivation over long periods of time can cause hallucinations, psychosis, long term memory impairment, and potentially even chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension.

But even not getting the recommended seven to nine hours (and the average adult only gets around six) can have drastic consequences. When the brain is not well rested it overestimates rewards and underestimates consequences, leading to consistently poor choices. Studies have also found that willpower is in many ways a renewable resource that replenishes itself as you sleep. This means that lack of sleep not only weakens your willpower and makes you more impulsive, but also makes you more prone to and dependent on addictive behaviors.

Chiropractors have seen sleep loss be a predictor of anxiety and depression and shrinks our emotional IQ. When we sleep our body heals itself physically and emotionally. As part of this process, the chemicals that help to control mood and behavior are regulated. Without this regulation, our ability to properly interpret and respond to emotions is compromised. This can cause reactions that mimic minor episodes of depressive, manic, or bipolar behavior.

Sleep is also the time when skills and information are processed from short term to long term memory. Memories are strengthened and the mind “practices” new skills that it has learned, from exam study guides to learning a new language to exercises for back relief, sleeping helps reinforce and strengthen the performance and skill in your mind.

So how are you supposed to sleep better? While chiropractic care can certainly help, it all comes down to practicing good sleep habits. The best sleeping practice is to have and keep a regular bedtime and consistent routine. The human body is highly habit forming and a regular routine cues your body and mind that it is time for bed. Similarly, going to sleep and waking up at the same time helps to form a rhythm, teaching your body to become tired and alert at the right times. Good sleep habits also include avoiding stimulants, alcohol, bright lights, and meals three hours before bed. Although, some research has suggested that having a small carb related snack before bed may help if you have trouble sleeping. Regular exercise is also key in being well rested.

If you have trouble actually falling asleep, try keeping the room cool and dark. The presence of white noise, such as a fan can also be soothing and relaxing to the mind, helping it to unwind. If you are unable to sleep after about 20 minutes, don’t stay in bed frustrated. Get up, go to another room, and do something relaxing in low light like reading until you become tired.   

The most important thing to remember when it comes to getting more sleep is really just to start where you can. As chiropractors in Boise, we can help you choose one or two habits to change that are sustainable with your lifestyle and needs. As they become ingrained, choose a few more until you have achieved healthy sleep habits.  

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