How Regular Sleep Promotes a Healthy Mind

active and healthy lifestyle in Athens

The cognitive skills we depend on in our daily lives are affected when we fail to get good sleep. Our abilities to focus, concentrate, reason, remember and make good judgment calls all suffer from lack of sleep. Our Foot Palace health team uncovered ongoing research that suggests our brains depend on a nightly bath, of sorts, to keep them functioning at their best. Not getting enough sleep or not sleeping deeply enough, hinders your brain’s ability to perform this nightly flush, possibly leading to a less productive day.

For the average person, a lack of sleep could translate to the inability to focus on what’s being said at a meeting, to gather information assemble it into an important report, or to engage with co-workers in a collegial and collaborative manner.

How Much Sleep is Enough Sleep

The gold standard for sleep is six to eight hours nightly, and evidence suggests the average American adult is getting at least that much. But just depriving yourself of an hour a night adds up and can have cumulative effects on your mental status throughout the week.

“Fortunately, recovery sleep works,” says A. Thomas Perkins, a sleep expert and director of the Sleep Medicine Program at Raleigh Neurology in Raleigh, North Carolina. “So you can be chronically sleep deprived for weeks in a row, and have a few long nights’ sleep and a nap and sort of boom, you’re caught up. In other words, you don’t have to make up what you miss in a 1:1 ratio.”

Going to bed early and staring at the ceiling does not make for more efficient sleep, and taking a hot bath raises your core body temperature, when your body actually requires a half-degree drop in temperature to trigger its nightly shut down.

And what about those people who say they just function better on less than the recommended hours of sleep?

“They’re full of it,” Perkins says. “It’s like saying, ‘I don’t need eyeglasses,’ but you didn’t realize you needed them until you had corrective lenses to compare what you’re currently seeing to what you ought to be seeing. They don’t have a reference point for normal sleep and refreshment.”

So the next time you’re tempted to work late and burn the midnight oil, remember: sacrificing sleep could actually put you at a disadvantage. Putting in regular hours with a clear mind is more beneficial than overtime on limited sleep, and you’ll feel healthier for it.

Natural Ways to Fall Asleep Faster

Give yourself acupressure

• Here are some acupressure techniques to alleviate sleeplessness:
Between your eyebrows, there is a small depression on the level of your brows, right above the nose. Apply gentle pressure to that point for a minute.

• Between your first and second toes, on top of the foot, there is a depression. Press that area for a few minutes until you feel a dull ache.

• Imagine that your foot has three sections, beginning at the tips of your toes and ending at the back of your heel. Find the distance one-third back from the tips of your toes and press on the sole of your foot for a few minutes.

• Massage both of your ears for a minute.

Use the “4-7-8” method

Championed by best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil, the “4-7-8” breathing technique will help you fall asleep in under a minute. The method relaxes you by increasing the amount of oxygen in your blood stream, slowing your heart rate, and releasing more carbon dioxide from the lungs. 

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.
  2. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  3. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  4. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  5. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.

Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

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