SLEEP. It is essential. We could all do with more of it or at least better-quality sleep.
The increasing dependence on stimulants such as coffee and energy drinks is somewhat telling that many of us are running low on energy and need a boost.
Interrupted or inadequate sleep on a regular basis not only leaves you tired through the day but also increases the risk of health ailments including fatigue, depression, heart disease and stroke.
There are seasons in life that demand more, causing us to sacrifice sleep. Although understandable, this could be counter-productive as your ability to perform and focus is greatly reduced without adequate rest.
Hormones such as insulin and ghrelin that are responsible for sugar metabolism and appetite are negatively affected in those who average less than eight hours sleep a night, increasing the risk of diabetes, obesity and making it harder to maintain a healthy weight. Your immunity is also decreased, making it harder for your body to fight off infections.
Your body is a complex machine, designed to live in cycles of night and day, dark and light. Your autonomic nervous system responds to the level of light triggering the release of various hormones that wake you up in the morning and other hormones that help you fall asleep at nightfall.
In short, if you want to be happier and healthier, sleep more. Here are four things you can do to get more sleep.
Prioritise quality sleep
Your time during the day is limited, so consider creating structure in your day to allow for a better sleep regimen.
Watch your caffeine intake
I have mentioned the need for stimulants as a symptom of poor sleep but they may also be one of the causes. As a rule, avoid caffeine after 1-2pm.
Limit the use of screens at night
The light emitted from devices tricks your brain into thinking it is daytime, limiting the release of your natural, sleep-inducing chemicals.
Have your spine and nervous system checked by your local chiropractor
Recent research demonstrates the impact of chiropractic adjustments on the part of the brain that controls the autonomic nervous system, which plays a large role in sleep.
This may explain in part why some who receive regular chiropractic care find their sleep improves.
Another reason may be that as areas of pain improve, sleep comes more easily.
No large-scale studies have been done on chiropractic and sleep so bear in mind that results may differ.
However the role of the nervous system in sleep is evident and chiropractic works to improve the nervous system function. Consider seeing your chiropractor to see how you can improve your sleep.
Dr James MacKay is a chiropractor at HealthGuard Wellness, Toowoomba, and a member of the Chiropractors' Association of Australia.