Shakespeare described sleep as “Nature’s soft nurse.” Sleep is as essential to our well-being as the food we eat. It is while we sleep that complex biochemical processes replenish our energy reserves and repair damaged cells and tissues throughout the body.

Adults need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep during every 24-hour period. When we don’t get enough rest, we not only jeopardize our mental and physical performance, but we also increase our risk of weakened immune function, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

In children, even mild sleep disruption can seriously interfere with cognitive development and learning ability.

Sleep deprivation is emotionally taxing. We are more prone to stress, anxiety, anger and sadness when we don’t get enough sleep. With all the demands and temptations of our wired world, most of us are struggling not to build up a large sleep debt.

What can we do to safeguard our sleep? We can benefit from some common sense self-care.

  • Keep regular hours as much as possible. Go to bed at the same time every night; wake up at the same time every morning.

  • Help prepare your mind and body for sleep. Take a hot bath - drink a cup of herbal, decaffeinated tea - do a relaxation practice.

  • If you choose to read in bed, choose material that is calming.

  • Eat your evening meal at least 3 hours before retiring for the night, and avoid stimulants after 5:00 p.m.

  • Create an inviting sleep environment . . . make sure the room temperature, mattress and covers are comfortable for you.

  • Move your TV and computer to another room. Use your bedroom for sleep.

Adapted from The Rhodiola Revolution
Richard P. Brown, MD, Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD
Rodale Press, 2004

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Breathing for Sleep Time

Stress, anxiety and thinking too much can interfere with sleep. In addition to its calming effect, coherent breathing also turns off the worry centers of the brain.

Adapted from:

The Healing Power of the Breath
Simple Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety,
Enhance Concentration and Balance Your Emotions

Richard P. Brown, MD Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD
Shambhala 2012

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Using Breath & Herbs to Enhance Sleep

Dr. Patricia Gerbarg discusses sleep hygiene, and how to use one’s breath and certain herbs to for a restful night’s sleep.